Mailbag: Do I Suffer From Depression, Or Am I Just a Miserable Bastard?
I'm writing this post in hopes of starting a weekly "mailbag" question to answer on this here bloggy blog. I'm clearly not a professional, but I feel like I know a thing or two about a thing or two. As I've said many, many times before, I only speak for myself regarding these delicate matters. So, if you'd like some advice and words of wisdom, and don't mind anonymously sharing a question for me to answer, I'd be happy to. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's are some samples:
First time long time. I was just wondering - I've been told that I'm a detached, lazy, intolerable, and moody asshole. If I tell people I have depression, will I get a pass? I'll hang up and listen.
Ralph, Newport, Rhode Island.
Um. No. But... you know... Like, it's more nuanced than that. Okay? You can't just... You have to, like... you have to TRY. Yeah, I know, depression is difficult and can be a lot for your loved ones to handle. And it's valid, yes... but... like... also don't be a dick? Go for a walk and get some therapy. And if that doesn't work, try other stuff. Never be a dick and say "I'm a dick because I'm depressed." Being depressed is valid, but you just can't be a dick while depressed and blame it on depression.
Sometimes depression comes with being a dick by proxy, but you should always try and work on it. And take accountability. Does that make sense?
I sometimes get super annoyed at people and I snap. Does that mean I'm bipolar?
Amanada, Dallas, Texas
Okay...maybe? I don't want to assume what you sound like, but I'm getting "she's, like, so bipolar" vibes. I'm sorry if I'm wrong, but that's just what is radiating through the screen. And I don't mean anything mean by that. I swear. But, you know, being bipolar is a lot more complicated than that. Yes, you can get irritable and there may be mood swings. But also, some people are fucking annoying and it's sometimes valid to clap back. I don't feel like my own personal bipolar disorder has been the driving force behind every time I've snapped at a belligerent guest at a party I was bartending. Drunk people fucking suck.
Amanda, but please don't throw the word bipolar around till you get a formal diagnosis. It's damaging to hear people say "oh my god she yelled at me, she's, like, so bipolar." And I'm not saying that in the voice that I think you sound like as I type that. I swear. Maybe I am. But seriously, carelessly calling someone or yourself bipolar because you have a temper or can be moody is ignorant and only feeds the stigma.
Okay, now I feel like an asshole. I'm sorry. You may be bipolar but how about a little more context? Are there members of your family who also live with it? Do you experience mania or big bursts of energy, followed by depressive crashes? And I don't mean "I had, like, 5 cups of coffee and was up till-" Oh, fuck... sorry, I did it again. Fuck. I'm not usually this judgemental. Maybe go for a walk and talk to a therapist?
You were great on FBI. When are they bringing your character back?
Casey, Motto Penekeku, Illinois.
Awe, Shucks. Hopefully next season!
If my elderly neighbor uses a buzzsaw outside my window for eight hours a day, am I allowed to go outside and beat the shit out of him? Even if he's elderly? And if I get arrested, can I just say that I'm bipolar?
Hank, Floral Park, New York
What the fuck. No.
I don't want to dignify this, but I feel like this may be a teachable moment, Hank. First and foremost, you may need help for your anger. Like today, before it's too late. And no, you can't fucking use having bipolar disorder as a get out of jail free card.
Okay. Timeout. I need to reiterate that depression and mania are two very real, valid things. Sometimes, as a result of being affected by these conditions, you may display harmful behavior to yourself and those around you. It's YOUR responsibility to address and work on these things to avoid it in the future.
Here's what has helped me:
- Weekly talk therapy.
- Daily journaling, or "morning pages".
- The Artist's Way.
- Exercise (lol, Chris).
- Taking acting classes.
- Getting eight hours of sleep at night.
- Talking to friends/family about what's troubling you. (yeah, Chris, okay.)
- Limiting alcohol (::cough:: bullshit, two in a row, Chris.)
- Writing a blog, where I argue with myself.
- Taking myself on dates.
- Eating healthy (bahahahaha)
- SHUT THE FUCK UP.
- Taking long walks in the park.
I know it's hard to muster up the strength do to most of these things while you're depressed. And, while manic, it may all of a sudden feel very easy to do these things... then some more. But what's important here is that using our disorders as a crutch to excuse poor behavior is not only damaging to those around you, but damaging to the bigger-picture progress being made to de-stigmatize mental illness.
As for your neighbor... he sounds like an inconsiderate prick. That is true. Have you tried going outside and reasoning with him? Calling the building management or the police?
Here's something I learned in therapy, which is going to sound like it sucks. And it kind of does, but...
This practice has helped me deal with bullshit like that. I live in Washington Heights, and I am forever dealing with loud music, people honking their horns and yelling outside my window, sirens, etc. If I respond to every angry impulse that comes up when these things trigger me, then I would probably be in jail.
So I got a noise machine. And headphones. I turn fans on. Yes, it SUCKS that I have to compromise and adjust what should be my safe space because of some other inconsiderate asshole outside my window, but my life is so much better when I simply switch on the white noise that drowns out the music. I am still angry, but I am minimizing my suffering in the moment, instead of fixating and letting it boil over.
Okay, fuck. I don't know if I'm explaining this properly. Here's a god damn link to an expert article:
Well, folks, I hope this was mildly helpful. Now, excuse me while I beat myself up and second guess everything I wrote on here, as I usually do!
If you are struggling with your mental health, there is no shame in getting help:
If you are in crisis, get immediate help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish
Crisis Text Line: Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling
Disaster Distress Helpline: CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
Black Mental Health Alliance – (410) 338-2642
Therapy For Black Girls: https://therapyforblackgirls.com/
National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association: https://www.naapimha.org/
Inclusive Therapists: https://www.inclusivetherapists.com/
Indian Health Services: https://www.ihs.gov/communityhealth/behavioralhealth/
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
The Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline: 1-866-488-7386
The Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116 – TTY
Alzheimer’s Association Helpline: 1-800-272-3900
Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)), then select 1, or Crisis Chat text: 8388255