What was said

What she said: You have to look inward to find a way to fill the holes in your life, to find your strength, your connection.

What I heard: Yeah, nobody’s going to be there, nobody’s going to help you, nobody’s ever going to care enough to help meet your needs. Handle it yourself.

I hear often that depression is a liar. Sometimes my brain, my rational side, will interpret what someone says to me and I can understand fully what the speaker intended. I can see what the person means and take it in. When depression hits, there is something other than that rational brain that is doing my thinking and taking absolute control of my essence. (I originally wrote that part in third person – how about that for deflecting?) I remember that she said I was strong, intelligent, ready to save everyone and take on the problems of my friends and the world (a sometime strength but also a hurdle and a weakness at other times). But what I dwell on is the part about people not being there—not stepping up, not meeting expectations—and me being let down. That rings truer that anything else said because I am thoroughly controlled by emotion on these days. These days when it all crumbles it might not be one thing. It’s the proverbial straw – I was hit by too many shit storms over days and can’t cope. Or as one friend tells me often, I care too much.

These are the days when I relive over and over the things that people have said to me that hurt. The things they have accused me of that are 100% false. The times they didn’t show up. The words said that cast me aside as of no importance at all in their lives. You know the ones where they are being “brutally honest” which is also known as rude, where they can’t think about the impact of their words, the ones when they were angry at the world or just someone else and made you the target of the anger instead of directing it where it belongs.

There are too many days that I look back on and relive the hurt from. I don’t want to do it. It isn’t a fun pastime. It’s a compulsion. Sometimes it was a day of celebration like a holiday or a day where I felt I had truly accomplished something only to have someone stick a pin in my balloon. The joy of that day is gone forever. Sometimes it was a day where I was already down, a day where it was made easier for people to kick because they didn’t even have to lift a foot. Sometimes it was a day where I didn’t have the courage or strength to tell someone I was hurting and needed them, and they couldn’t see it or didn’t care enough so they turned away.

I know it’s more my reaction to the incidents than the incidents themselves that cause the long term pain. It’s my own fault that I am hurt because I can’t let go of and forget the things I keep bringing into my mind and turning over and over and over. I don’t know how to make them disappear. I go back unwittingly. I go back because there was never any resolution. I know there are people who just didn’t care that I was hurt. Some people were unaware of the hurt they caused because I didn’t say anything. Sometimes, even when someone gave me an attempt at an apology, I couldn’t express how they had made me feel and so I continue to carry the burden. And often the anger is at myself because I didn’t stand up for myself, because I internalized it. Like I said, my fault.

The whole time I was growing up I was taught to care about everyone else but me. “What will the neighbors think?” “I was embarrassed by…” (insert what you were wearing, your weight, your make-up, your words and ideas, who you choose to hang out with, the career path chosen, not making enough money, etc.). I was taught that I don’t get to take the last piece of pie. Just because I really like and want something, if someone else wants it I should give it to them. If I want to go somewhere or do something, I should think about my son, my parents, my friends, and others who will think I’m weird. Think about those people because I owe it to them to be there constantly for them and what they want and need. I shouldn’t do anything that would embarrass or inconvenience someone. What I need or want had to be secondary at all times. I bought into this and have trouble shedding the sense of self that comes with it all.

The irony is that I love doing things for others. I enjoy giving someone the thing they want even if I would have liked it too. I want to see others happy. I enjoy being the one that helps out or makes someone feel special. I love seeing people’s faces light up, watch the burden lifted, or see the surprise of an action or gift they weren’t expecting.

Getting help, getting counseling, and doing the work is hard. My friend René and I talked about this because I watched as she blossomed under the care of a good counselor. She told me that there are days it rips your heart out but leaves you better and more aware. It was with her encouragement that I tried again and found a counselor who really is a good fit. I know that she is helping me a great deal. But there are days I leave a session feeling altogether furious (in fairness, I was that way going in when this conversation happened), sad, lonely, and then I have myself a cry or write about what is happening. (Not all of that writing ends up here – it would be beyond ugly.) Writing helps me sort through the ideas, makes me acknowledge all of the things that were said if I’m able to be honest, and allows me to find and work through the insights.

If you have thought of counseling but haven’t done it, do it. I know that it drags up things about myself and my relationships that I don’t really want to acknowledge. It makes me face reality – and reality bites. It’s hard and it’s messy. But while there are days it leaves me feeling this way, it also leaves me better equipped to deal with the days where I feel the depression setting in. I have been given the tools to try to head it off or to cope. Sometimes I am really successful at using those tools. The number of days steeped in depression are less severe, happen less often, and come on after longer intervals. And some days still just suck.

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