I’m not the kind of person to post “how to” blogs because I’m not very good at imparting useful wisdom. However, here’s one thing where I’ve had some recent breakthroughs and months later I’m still doing pretty okay.
In my last post, I pointed out how I’m worried I might be going through manic depression again, and that’s why I’ve generally been in such a good mood. But there’s more to it than that. I do have depression, there’s no denying it. But my language around it has been all wrong.
Hell, I even linked to an example of me doing this in that last post. The first line of How My Dog Kept Me Alive has “I suffer from depression” in the opening paragraph.
Well, language is important, and verbs are probably the most important part of language.
So that brings up the first big change I made. I’ve wiped that expression from my vocabulary. I no longer suffer from depression. Instead, I live with depression.
There is some wisdom behind this, although some of it is a little bit pseudoscience that has been discounted, but I think it still holds merit. It just doesn’t quite have the hypnotic effect some people have reported.
When I tried quitting video games (in a forum that ultimately felt very dogmatic and gave the vibe that abstinence was a panacea and allowed for no moderation) the word “intention” came up a lot. I really enjoy that term, because it’s basically the ultimate “to-do.” Like, if you have an intention—to write a novel, to learn to play an instrument, to get in shape—you have to come up with an intention. And that means doing something every day. Sometimes that means you have to think about it at every moment it comes up throughout the day.
We get these words “Suffer From Depression” shoved at us so often that it just becomes normal. “Suffer” becomes the verb attached to “Depression” and it’s hard to divorce the two. It’s hard to think of it any other way. Depression is such a pitiable state, and when you feel like shit, you just want people to feel sorry for you, so you accept the verb.
But then you look around and wonder how everyone else can just go about their days like nothing’s wrong while you’re just lying in bed.
So I changed my vocabulary. I no longer suffer from depression. Now I live with depression. And the verb makes all the difference.
I’m not suffering now; I’m living.
It really bothers me, too, when people try to romanticize depression. People make jokes about how depressed they are and it comes off as either annoying or tasteless. People tweet about how depressed they are because they want someone to look at them and feel sorry. These are not effective ways to live with depression.
Picture this: Your life is a story, and you are the protagonist. Is your story plot-driven or character-driven? I think most writers reading this will get what I mean right off the bat, but I can illuminate what I’m talking about briefly.
In a plot-driven story, things happen to or around the main character. They have little to no agency. They’re just sitting around waiting for it to hit the fan so they can do their job and clean it up. Check out Mainspring by Jay Lake for an extreme example of this.
However, in a character-driven story, the main character has agency. This means they get to decide what they’re doing, even when things are happening to or around them. They see something wrong and without anyone telling them to do anything, they get up off the couch and head out to make a difference, because they want to.
I used to be like the plot-driven character. I would sit on the couch or lie in bed feeling sorry about myself, waiting for this depression to end. Like it was something I had absolutely no control over, and I just had to wait it out, and in the meantime, I had to blow off all my friends because I felt anxious about being around people, and even the things I normally enjoyed felt like a chore.
Then I realized I had the power to choose to get up off the couch and do something. I got a gym membership. I started writing again, just a little a day. I went for runs when I wasn’t feeling well. I did some little things to help keep up my mental health.
And I’m better for it.
I know that sounds overly simple and some might even be upset by how easy I’ve made this seem. Hell, I would have been upset too. But now I just get annoyed when I see people in a place I’m familiar with who are doing nothing to help it and everything to exacerbate the problem. I admit it’s unfair that I get annoyed, but it’s not really that I’m irritated. I just wish others could understand how some little things would help their situations immensely.
I hit a pretty low point this December. I was lying on the couch watching YouTube, knowing with each new video that I was digging a hole. And I didn’t want to watch the new videos from YouTubers I follow that I would normally be excited about. It felt like a chore to watch a seven minute video from one of my favorite people.
So I quit watching mid-video and cleaned my room then got some groceries. It took so little effort and I felt better in the end. The hardest part was just getting up and doing something—literally anything—to help me feel like I was in control of my own story again.
Because I refuse to suffer, and I choose to live.