Hyberbole And A Half And Invincibility

Allie, the author of Hyberbole and Half (probably my favorite non-atheism-based blog), posted on depression today.

First, I’m always happy when high-functioning, high-profile loons represent. It reaches out to people who feel trapped by mental illness and lets them know they’re not alone. It also helps to normalize mental illness and remove the stigma.

Her piece was beautiful. It captures a lot of what it means to live with clinical depression. For me, one of the hardest initial parts was trying to understand how I could be depressed when my life was so good. I would later learn why that was the case, and that I was not the only one. Allie paints those feelings perfectly.

Some people have a legitimate reason to feel depressed, but not me. I just woke up one day feeling sad and helpless for absolutely no reason.

She also does a spectacular job describing the phases we go through. We so often hear from people who know nothing of the subject that we just need to try to be happy, as though we aren’t.

…trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back. A fundamental component of the plan is missing and it isn’t going to work.

You can no more will additional serotonin into your brain than you can will more white blood cells into your system.

Anyway, it’s all there: the self-loathing, the inability to leave the house, the feeling that you’re weak because you are depressed over nothing while people in the world are experiencing real hardships. In my case, it’s also the inability to eat, the distortions in the mirror, the paranoia that no matter how good a person I am/become that people will only see that I’m fat. It’s not just being sad, it’s a separation from reality that you cannot navigate despite the commitment of your full-scale efforts and desires.

The only part that made me truly sad was the end of the piece, and it made me sad because it was painted as a victory, but I saw it as sinking deeper into depression.

I’ve always wanted to not give a fuck. While crying helplessly into my pillow for no good reason, I would often fantasize that maybe someday I could be one of those stoic badasses whose emotions are mostly comprised of rock music and not being afraid of things. And finally – finally – after a lifetime of feelings and anxiety and more feelings, I didn’t have any feelings left. I had spent my last feeling being disappointed that I couldn’t rent Jumanji.

I felt invincible.

I’ve been there. That’s when you decide to binge eat, because fuck it, you don’t care. It’s when you decide to cut yourself, because don’t feel and it’s time to explore that. It’s when you initially don’t mind being isolated in your room, because fuck it, you don’t need other people. The problem is that the not caring is mixed up with the self-loathing so that it’s become a homogenous ball of lack of self-concern. She even describes it as a rebellion, which is definitely how it feels. You take all these things that plague you and you run in the opposite direction. The bad part is that it doesn’t last forever, and you always go back to caring, and then your situation is worse and even harder to climb out of. This is where lives get ruined by mental illness.

After months of living with depression, of living every day without being able to get it out of your mind, I can understand where emotional insensitivity would feel like deliverance. That’s a large part of why the cycle is so hard to break out of. The answer to clinical depression is not emancipation from feelings. The answer is getting treatment just like any other disease. There’s a reason morphine, though often administered, is never prescribed as a cure. Numbness, both in your extremities and your synaptic cleft can make physical pain and emotional pain go away for a time, but it does not fix the injury. There is a beautiful world and the chance for genuine happiness that is kept from those with a malfunctioning brain, and we can do better than just being numb – we can get the treatment that helps us to lead a life as close to normalcy as possible.

That is why Allie’s ending didn’t make me cheer for her, it made me sympathize and worry for her.

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MENTAL ILLNESS: Today's session.
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Michaelyn on Godless rEvolution talking about mental health.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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