I was recently asked about one of my posts about depression. The question was basically asking how I felt about my post. I answered that I didn’t think it was great. It takes a lot of energy to write, even the short posts, and, as a result, I feel like many of my posts are underdeveloped. That lead to the question of why I publish my posts. That could be taken at least a couple of ways. And in my present mood, I’m a little surprised I didn’t go with the insulting interpretation. But I think it came from a good place. I think it was questioning why, while I’m struggling, do I use what little energy I have to publish these little posts. Since I have at least one confirmed reader, I thought it would be worthwhile to try to answer her questions.
It’s something that I’d like to talk about sometime, but depression has a nasty way of destroying a person’s confidence. So, the short answer to how I feel about my posts is lousy. I feel like I’m having a hard time getting my points across, and when they do come across, they do so sloppily. This isn’t to say that I always love what I write when I’m in a better frame of mind. It’s just that in a better frame of mind, I trust my own assessments. Now, I do not. That makes revising and editing next to impossible and the writing suffers.
A more nuanced answer to how I feel about my posts includes exposed. No one has ever accused me of oversharing, at least not before now. I’m usually quite reserved. I believe very strongly that private things should not be shared. It makes me uncomfortable if someone shares something with me which I think should be private, even if the person for whom it should be private doesn’t. I’m fantastic at keeping secrets (but please don’t tell me your secrets) and a lousy gossip. I’m super hesitant about publishing all of my posts. Sometimes I’m surprised when I click the button.
I also feel drained by my posts. It takes lots of energy to write. This is probably hard for non-writers to understand, but it’s a little like playing a sport or performing. In order to do it well, it requires focus. Focusing for any extended period is tiring, even under good conditions. Depression just amplifies the effect. Right now, I have trouble concentrating long enough to watch a sitcom.
Given that I am not thrilled with the quality of my work and I feel exposed and tired, it makes sense to wonder why I bother. A truthful, and easy, answer is that I care about what Jamil thinks of me. When I agreed to work on this site with him, I made a commitment and I’ll do what I can to fulfill my commitment. Although, that only answers the question of why I’m posting anything at all. I could toss off 500 words on any number of subjects without feeling nearly as exposed or drained. So, why am I posting about my divorce and depression? That answer is more complicated.
Some of the reasons are selfish, or at least self serving. I don’t enjoy being depressed. It makes me a worse father and it affects all of my other relationships, from work to family. I don’t take pleasure in things I normally would. I don’t sleep. I’m lonely. It’s a pretty terrible illness. So, I use these posts therapeutically to try to get better. Also, since it affects my relationships no matter what, I want to be open about it. If people know why I’m acting different, they can be understanding, maybe even sympathetic. If I keep it a secret, they’ll just think I’m a lazy jerk or they’ll think I’m crazy. If I were a politician, I’d describe it as trying to keep in front of a story.
In one of my prior posts, I mentioned not wanting to be a hypocrite. I don’t know where that falls on the selfish to altruistic spectrum, but it does motivate me. In situations where I’ve dealt with other people who are depressed, I always wanted them to talk about it more. It would have been better for them. Now that I’m the one who is depressed, I’m trying to act like I wanted others to act.
Then, there are some selfless reasons for my posts. Depression is very solipsistic. Posting about it is a way to combat that. It’s one thing to have a doctor or therapist tell you that you’re not the only one. It’s better to find another person going through it. If I can be proof for fellow sufferers that they are not alone, then it is worth posting, even if what I post isn’t any good.
There is also a stigma around depression. Keeping it quiet when it occurs only makes things worse. No one should be embarrassed by a medical condition. If I demonstrate that I’m not embarrassed, maybe it will go a small way towards showing that the condition is not embarrassing. Anything to diminish the stigma, even a little bit, is worth a shot.
Along the same lines, there is a desire to show how common depression is. It is like many other common ailments, like strep throat or the flu. Most people just have to deal with it at some point in their lives. And if they don’t, they know someone who does. Yet, because we don’t talk about it, many people don’t realize how common it is. In most of the ways that matter, I’m a perfectly normal person. I’m hoping that by putting these posts out there, they can help to show how common depression is.
Finally, I want to set an example. I’m not the praying type, but if I were, I would pray that my daughter never has to deal with depression. However, I know that there is a decent chance that she will. If she does, I want to be able to talk about it. I want to be able to show her how I handled it, what worked and what didn’t. And most importantly, even though I’m not there yet, I want to be able to show her that returning to normal is possible. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that last message is front and center. Hopefully, my daughter will never need that example. And, even if she doesn’t, maybe someone else can benefit from it.
That’s basically how I make sense of these posts. I don’t know if they are successful in any of the ways I want them to be, but I am trying. And the fact that someone read one of them and cared enough to ask a question has encouraged me to keep it up.