Late last year I wrote a blog about Allie, the author of Hyperbole and a Half. She had posted on depression and several people had sent it to me because they felt it was uplifting. Allie herself had described many of the reactions to her depression as a form of liberation from her depression.
I did not see it that way. I identified some of the signs of worse depression and said that I worried for her. After that post, Allie disappeared from the internet. Her depression post, made last October, remains her most recent.
Allie recently went onto reddit to explain her absence.
Before I get into what’s been going on, I wanted to let you know that I truly appreciate the amount of kindness in your comments. It’s wonderful and strange and humbling to know that so many people on the internet care about me (I am also relieved that my lack of updates hasn’t caused most of you to hate me yet).
The last few months (and I suppose also the few months before those few months) have been very difficult for me. As you know, I’ve been struggling with depression. I made a small breakthrough at the time of my last post, but even though I was feeling a bit better, I was still depressed and I knew I probably wasn’t out of the woods yet.
As many of you have guessed, the woods turned out to be much deeper than I had anticipated. And they are full of things that make me cry on the floor for no good reason. However, during a recent bout of floor-crying, I noticed that I was failing horribly at fixing myself and that I should probably seek the help of someone who knew what the fuck they were doing.
I have since sought the help of several such individuals, and they unanimously agreed that I am horribly, horribly depressed and should absolutely not keep being that way. To that end, I have started taking an antidepressant and talking about my feelings a lot. My feelings have turned out to mostly be “Oh no, I’m probably going to mess everything up and everyone who likes me is going to not like me” and worthlessness-not-otherwise-specified. There are also tinges of “fuck it, what’s the point?”
I have good days and horrible days, but the good days have been gradually increasing in frequency, and the horrible days have been gradually decreasing in severity. It might take a long time to feel normal again, but in the meantime, I’m in great hands. Everyone around me has been nothing but supportive (including my wonderful editor); my mom calls me every day to see how things are going and to try to make me laugh, my fiance Duncan has been doing a wonderful job of making sure I eat and shower and get out of the house every now and again, and my friends have been great about distracting me with all the things I love.
Anyway, I apologize for all the hiding. I tend to do that when I feel bad (I do it in real life too). I think it’s because when I feel weird about myself, my automatic defense mechanism is to go into sloth-mode and pretend I don’t exist.
I bring this up because it points to the responsibility many of you have as friends to those with mental illness. Even though the victims of mental illness may be completely rational people otherwise, on whatever subject plagues us, such as with me and my body/inability to eat, we are separated from reality – and we do not know it initially. We can’t realize that what we’re seeing is not real. Often, we’re even so self-trusting that we’re sure everybody around us are the ones seeing things wrong. In lots of cases, including mine and Allie’s, we would still be unaware we were sick if not for people around us convincing us of it.
Even after we’re made aware that our brains are malfunctioning, it only makes us aware that something’s wrong. Sometimes we still can’t see reality for what it is. Though I am in treatment and on medication that helps me to manage my condition, when I’m at a low point I still have hallucinations with mirrors. I am now thankfully aware they’re not real, but I still see them.
What’s more, clinical depression is a lifelong condition (at least with our current knowledge). It’s something that will try to get at us for the rest of our lives and it’s very, very difficult for us to tell when we’re backsliding. Our brains are feeding us false information, so we must trust those around us to tell us when we are showing signs of regression.
But people must first acquaint themselves with those signs. For me it was trivially easy to identify the worrisome portions of Allie’s depression post. It may not be so simple for those who haven’t lived it, but the information is out there. It’s the best thing you can do for people like us.
We need you.