Welcome to !Hola Papi!, the advice column where John Paul Brammer helps people work through their anxieties, fears, and life's queerest questions. If you need advice, send him a question at email@example.com.
I don't know how else to say this. I'm afraid that no matter how hard I try to have a happy life, depression will just end up ruining it or even cutting it short. It's a fear I'm trying to live with, but some days it's difficult. Do you know what that's like or how to manage?
Signed, Just Getting By
Hi there, JGB!
I should open by saying I'm not a mental health professional, and I do believe you should seek one out if you haven't already.
I know it's not on the table for many, but it would be irresponsible of me not to put a disclaimer here: I am not a therapist or psychiatrist. I am a Latino homosexual with mismanaged mental illnesses -- some of which I've yet to identify -- sitting in a Starbucks with very little by way of professional training in any useful capacity. In writing school, I was given a diagram of a horse, just in case I ever needed to write about horses, and that's about all the information I've retained from my formal education. The part where the tail connects to the rear is called a "dock," by the way.
But if all you're looking for is to chat about how much depression sucks with your friendly neighborhood Papi, then I do think you've come to the right place. Nothing annoys me quite like advice on depression from people who can actually get out of bed in the morning without staring at the ceiling for a solid thirty minutes. And reader, let me assure you, I feel like shit!
It's not that I think everyone's depression shares the same topography -- that it has the same peaks and valleys for everyone, or, as is more likely the case, the same big empty desert. But I do think there's something to be said about feeling like you're in the same boat with someone. Are you feeling seasick, JGB? That's us, together on this boat, thinking about vomiting.
If there were some combination of words I could say to make you feel better and pull you out of the feeling you're in right now, then I would put them right here and we'd be good. But the reality is, at least in my experience, that there's not much anyone can say to change my mind when I find myself in this state. And I've seen a lot of good, decent people try. It always feels like watching someone throw beautiful bouquets directly into a canyon. What a waste of flowers.
Can I confess something to you, JGB? Sometimes watching people try so hard makes me feel even worse. It just reminds me of the dull uselessness everything around me has taken on -- words, touch, sound, any kind of pleasure, all ineffective, the nutrients sapped right out of them by some parasite with a mosquito beak, leaving the shell. It's hard to even imagine what anything once held for me, how I ever found something to enjoy in them. Once, in a particularly bad spell, I stopped reading a book, frustrated by everything it wasn't giving me, and threw it across the room just to hear it clatter against the wall. I wanted to surprise myself so badly, to feel something so badly, and I thought a sudden, unexpected movement might do it. But, nothing. Nada.
When I feel this way, JGB, I start to wonder how I'm supposed to make it through all the years I have left, assuming that is indeed what I have in the gas tank and we don't nosedive as a species in the near future, also a distinct possibility. I think of all the maintenance I'll have to do every single day just to keep this Judas of a body up and running -- all the showers, all those orange bottles of my various pills that I'll have to call for and pick up and order again and again, all the daily bumps and bruises that come with moving through life. I think, dear JGB, "How?" How, when right now I can barely stand up. I can barely send an email. I'm humiliated by this utter lack of gumption. I'm making excuses for being late to work. I'm telling my friends I feel sick and can't go out. I feel I ought to want something. Want propels us, after all, be it of the primal or esoteric sort. But I don't want anything. I know where want should be, how it ought to feel, but it's not there.
It might sound hypocritical coming from an advice columnist, JGB, but sometimes, when I get like this, I don't even think I want to get better. Sometimes I want to stamp my feet and throw a fit, threaten to run away from home, announce that, no, I'm not dragging myself to therapy. I'm not going to bed on time. I'm not giving up caffeine and I'm not going to socialize and I'm not going back out to face the world because it doesn't hold anything for me. I've been out there several times and I always end up back here, watching YouTube videos at 3 am in my bed because depression doesn't even offer the mercy of sleep, so what's the point? Why should I?
I can't tell your future, JGB. But I hold a similar fear as you. I've had some close calls. I've thought to myself, in the midst of one of my episodes, "Is this it? Is this the one?" And even though it feels like a large part of me almost wants that to be the case, there's always some other part stronger, or at least smarter, that battens down the hatches, clings for dear life, and rides it out. That part has won every time so far. And I do have to say I'm grateful for that.
I desperately want you to not feel this way. I don't want you to go anywhere. I hold to my first bit of advice, that you should seek professional help if you don't have it. As much as I groan and put it off at times, it's helped me. I also think that talking about it, just putting it out there, connecting yourself with other people who know what you're going through is important. You also hold the power to make someone feel less alone in that way. These are bonds that can be life-saving, in my personal experience.
I won't pretend to hold some sort of rarified knowledge that will fix everything, JGB. I've tiptoed up to the void before, and I've seen it, and I know what that feels like. Advice tends to melt away in those moments. But some things in life, some times, are for surviving. All you can do is survive them, do your best, and wait to come out the other side. And the thing is, most times and despite what depression might have you believe, you do come out the other side.
I've come out the other side before. I know that I will again. There is a rhythm to life, a rise and fall to everything. We are always in motion, even if we can't feel it. I hold that knowledge close to me when everything goes quiet and it feels like everything has gone still. I think to myself, "I want to see what my other days hold for me."
I've linked to some resources below, JGB. I hope you know that you aren't alone, that help is possible, and that this feeling won't be forever. Depression can make us feel that way. It likes to make a nest for itself in our minds, doesn't it? But I sincerely hope you make it through, and that a better day, a good day, even, is on the horizon for you.