Let’s Chat About Depression
If you're subscribed to my newsletter OR follow on Insta, I have been seeking a good cause (philanthropic or donation) in regards to depression. Last week was rough. Normally celebrity deaths don't phase me, but Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain in the same week? Both icons that were a big part of my life in some way. Kate Spade, as a fashion icon, was a big part of my fashion game. I had several of her bags and I loved her style. Quirky, colorful and so fun. Anthony Bourdain is the king of food and travel. Given I love both of those things, I watched his show and looked to him for inspiration on trips we had coming up over the past five years. I have to dive into this topic and to gain more awareness to it, because this is an issue we need to discuss.
First off, I have had my own battle with depression. Most people don't know this about me, but I moved out before I went to college. I wanted to live life on my own and just see what it was like before I decided to go to Arizona for college. This was a pretty dark time in my life, and I was always groggy. I remember feeling uncomfortable in my own skin; overweight and didn't want to work out. I gained so much weight that summer, and tried to start running when I got to Arizona for my freshman year at University of Arizona. Unfortunately it was hot AF. I remember trying to run just 3 miles and I thought I was dying, because for some reason I thought running at noon in the middle of summer was a good idea.
After getting to Arizona, I realized I didn't really like the mountains. I was sad that I no longer had an ocean 5 minutes away from me. I was sad I didn't know a single person. I was hot all the time, and I was still overweight from my depression. I remember that because I lived in a college apartment complex my freshman year, all my neighbors were older than me. Most freshmen lived in the dorms, but by the time I made my decision to go to The University of Arizona, there were no more dorms so I had to go the apartment route. From my neighbors, I found a niche. There was a group of people who I hung out with during the day (tanning, sipping on wine, eating beer dip and so forth) but I also had that crew to party with at night. Over time I met my boyfriend at the time from this group of friends.
Long story short, I ended up at one of my neighbors' parties one evening. There was a lot of jungle juice (basically a sugary liquid with 3+ types of liquor and a lot of soda and sugar.) The problem with this jungle juice was that the hosts decided it was a good idea to put the jungle juice (liquid) in a cooler so everyone had to dip their red cups INTO the cooler. Reflecting back on that now, I am disgusted because I was such a germaphobe for most of my life. However, that night I had no problem dipping my red cup into the cooler. Imagine sharing all those germs with a hundred strangers. I'm lucky mono was the only thing I got from that jungle juice. After mono hit me, I hit a low. It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life and it lasted over a month. I lost 12 pounds, I couldn't eat much, and I barely drank water. Did I mention I had strep AND mono at the same time?
At this point, I'm not only super sick but I am missing home (California) and the heat is not my friend. I definitely felt low and unhappy in terms of where I was at mentally, but it was because I'd been beaten down physically first. To add on top of it, my sorority sisters thought it was a good idea to sleep with my boyfriend at the time. So now I just think the universe is out to get me, and nothing good ever happens when your head is filled with those thoughts. I called my friend and I told her I need to take a lot of ibuprofen and probably a shot or two because I just wanted to sleep off the sickness and hope it would go away. She took this as a cry for a help and came to my house with the police to make sure I didn't do anything. I'm lucky to have had a friend like her.
I wasn't planning anything, but I was such a sobby little baby for almost two months. Depression had set in and it was so hard to shake it off.
If you or anyone you know is struggling, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If the depression really settles in, and you're considering hurting yourself, my main point is that there is no shame in needing help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. After watching 13 Reasons Why, not everyone in your life is going to be the most helpful individual when it comes to saving your life. If a close friend cannot do this for you, call the lifeline. We all need help sometimes, and it's important to ask for it. Your life is valuable, and no matter what you're going through, time will heal it. While in the moment, everything seems to be crashing down on you, it is not the end. Fight through it, and tell a friend. Tell a family member. You are more valuable than you can even imagine. My main message here is that we all deserve to life, and seeking help to change your depression and ultimate low days, is not shameful.
The biggest misconception about suicide in particular is that there are some who believe those that commit suicide, are selfish or are weak. At the end of the day, it is a chemical imbalance. For some of us, it is a choice but most of us cannot control it. I wanted to share the realest analogy I've ever read to explain depression. The individual who shared this on her Facebook actually found this elsewhere, so I am not aware of the origin but I wanted to share this.
When you have depression it’s like it snows every day.
Some days it’s only a couple of inches. It’s a pain in the ass, but you still make it to work, the grocery store. Sure, maybe you skip the gym or your friend’s birthday party, but it IS still snowing and who knows how bad it might get tonight. Probably better to just head home. Your friend notices, but probably just thinks you are flaky now, or kind of an asshole.
Some days it snows a foot. You spend an hour shoveling out your driveway and are late to work. Your back and hands hurt from shoveling. You leave early because it’s really coming down out there. Your boss notices.
Some days it snows four feet. You shovel all morning but your street never gets plowed. You are not making it to work, or anywhere else for that matter. You are so sore and tired you just get back in the bed. By the time you wake up, all your shoveling has filled back in with snow. Looks like your phone rang; people are wondering where you are. You don’t feel like calling them back, too tired from all the shoveling. Plus they don’t get this much snow at their house so they don’t understand why you’re still stuck at home. They just think you’re lazy or weak, although they rarely come out and say it.
Some weeks it’s a full-blown blizzard. When you open your door, it’s to a wall of snow. The power flickers, then goes out. It’s too cold to sit in the living room anymore, so you get back into bed with all your clothes on. The stove and microwave won’t work so you eat a cold Pop Tart and call that dinner. You haven’t taken a shower in three days, but how could you at this point? You’re too cold to do anything except sleep.
Sometimes people get snowed in for the winter. The cold seeps in. No communication in or out. The food runs out. What can you even do, tunnel out of a forty foot snow bank with your hands? How far away is help? Can you even get there in a blizzard? If you do, can they even help you at this point? Maybe it’s death to stay here, but it’s death to go out there too.
The thing is, when it snows all the time, you get worn all the way down. You get tired of being cold. You get tired of hurting all the time from shoveling, but if you don’t shovel on the light days, it builds up to something unmanageable on the heavy days. You resent the hell out of the snow, but it doesn’t care, it’s just a blind chemistry, an act of nature. It carries on regardless, unconcerned and unaware if it buries you or the whole world.
Also, the snow builds up in other areas, places you can’t shovel, sometimes places you can’t even see. Maybe it’s on the roof. Maybe it’s on the mountain behind the house. Sometimes, there’s an avalanche that blows the house right off its foundation and takes you with it. A veritable Act of God, nothing can be done. The neighbors say it’s a shame and they can’t understand it; he was doing so well with his shoveling.
I don’t know how it went down for Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade. It seems like they got hit by the avalanche, but it could’ve been the long, slow winter. Maybe they were keeping up with their shoveling. Maybe they weren’t. Sometimes, shoveling isn’t enough anyway. It’s hard to tell from the outside, but it’s important to understand what it’s like from the inside.
I firmly believe that understanding and compassion have to be the base of effective action. It’s important to understand what depression is, how it feels, what it’s like to live with it, so you can help people both on an individual basis and a policy basis. I’m not putting heavy shit out here to make your Friday morning suck. I know it feels gross to read it, and realistically it can be unpleasant to be around it, that’s why people pull away.
I don’t have a message for people with depression like “keep shoveling”. It’s asinine. Of course you’re going to keep shoveling the best you can, until you physically can’t, because who wants to freeze to death inside their own house? We know what the stakes are. My message is to everyone else. Grab a fucking shovel and help your neighbor. Slap a mini snow plow on the front of your truck and plow your neighborhood. Petition the city council to buy more salt trucks, so to speak.
Depression is blind chemistry and physics, like snow. And like the weather, it is a mindless process, powerful and unpredictable with great potential for harm. But like climate change, that doesn’t mean we are helpless. If we want to stop losing so many people to this disease, it will require action at every level.