Walsh’s Wonderings — The Elusive Bright Side
I smiled when I first saw those memes about how easily those with depression were handling this time of Covid-19 lockdown while those who didn’t struggled to cope. “Just another day for us” they seemed to say, as if the depressives among us were somehow inoculated to the changes we’ve all had to endure. It was easier to smile when we thought this craziness was temporary.
I don’t smile at those memes anymore. In fact, I’m smiling less and less these days as we enter the sixth week of social distancing.
I was diagnosed with depression about 10 years ago. It was oddly reaffirming to have a medical professional explain my crippling pattern of thinking as something other than mere self indulgence. I’d been raised to believe that the world doesn’t care about my problems, so shake ‘em off, rub some dirt on ‘em; don’t indulge in self pity. Better to suffer in silence than broadcast my weakness.
As a result, my inner dialogue has never been my friend. I need other voices to drown it out or I start to listen, to believe what it’s saying. That I’m worthless, unworthy of love. Boring. Beige in a sea of fluorescent colors.
Like many of us who suffer from depression, I was forced to learn how to fight it off, distract myself from that invisible vacuum that threatens to pull me under. I wondered why other people never seemed as exhausted as I was. Why were they so strong, or their demons so weak, that they could focus on life without the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads? Many years of therapy and cycling through various medications kept the walls from caving in without ever granting me peace from that possibility.
If you want to understand why some people can’t look on the “bright side” at this time of home confinement, understand that this isolation validates the fears many of us have spent our lives trying to minimize. It’s surviving the plane crash only to be stuck in a lifeboat with an enemy intent on your destruction.
There are many like me who are fighting this isolation with everything we have. I’m fighting to supress how much I miss interacting with my students and that feeling when my head hit the pillow at night that I’d made a difference in someone’s life. I’m fighting how much I loved sitting on an empty beach at dawn or dusk, the peace I’d find in the lullabye of the waves. I’m fighting that feeling that the walls are once again closing in, that I’m not getting enough done or doing things well enough. I’m fighting off the urge to bury all these feelings by heading back to the refrigerator to numb myself for long enough to make it through the day.
It’s true that my social anxieties often kept me from going out and interacting with the world, but at least I knew that possibility existed. This lockdown has made those imaginary walls real, even for those (like me) lucky enough to have an amazing partner with which to wait this out. It’s not that I don’t want to see the positives or grow from this experience. It’s just that for some, the “bright side” is the headlight of a train racing toward us while we’re tied to the tracks. Like the coronavirus itself, we’re just looking to survive.
For those of you fighting your way through this with the anchor of depression around your neck, I wish you all the strength and peace I can muster. For those of you free from this particular burden, I wish you patience and understanding if you’re quarantined with someone who is.