I’ve been thinking about Anthony Bourdain all weekend.
I’ve been thinking about slurping noodles on plastic stools in Vietnam and standing on the Charles Bridge in Prague at dawn; about what it means to love and live fully. His death has affected me unexpectedly deeply, and I’m so sad that he’s gone.
On the surface, we had very little in common, he and I. But as a fast-talking East Coaster with a love of travel and a skepticism of anything mainstream or authoritarian, I felt like we’d be kindred spirits. His writings and shows have influenced my travel for more than a decade. He dared me to go beyond my comfort zone and imagination.
I have also, for a good chunk of my life, struggled with depression.
I don’t say this for sympathy, but to bring the truth into the light. My hope is that my experience will help you feel less alone.
I want to talk about this today, even though it is uncomfortable and even though there may be an avalanche of unsubscribes.
Here’s what I want you to know:
- I have depression. My life doesn’t suck. I’m not sad because something specifically sad happened. I seemingly have everything and I still have depression.
- It is my actual job to teach people about self-care and healing and spiritual practice and I still have depression. This is my life’s work, and I still struggle.
Depression has nothing to do with not trying hard enough.
- It’s not a matter of needing to meditate or to do yoga or to eat right or get more fresh air. It has nothing to do with trying hard – especially not based on other people’s standards of “trying hard”. It’s a matter of what is happening in the brain.
- External circumstances or “knowing better” won’t necessarily fix depression. Yes, getting a good night sleep helps. But my depression doesn’t vanish just because things are going well in my external life.
- I feel angry sometimes because I know that my depression is robbing me of joy and my ability to be present for moments of exquisite awesomeness because my brain is lying to me. Knowing that I’m not able to fully appreciate things makes me sad and it makes me angry. Knowing that I self-sabotage or push people away hurts.
- I also feel afraid sometimes because mental healthy is so stigmatized, still. There are more open conversations than ever. But I am still afraid because I worry that people will judge me or that they will think that I’m an unfit parent or that they’ll think I’m a fraud.
- This is what depression does. It creates elaborate illusions of isolation and separation.
Because depression is an evil fucking liar.
- Going to my general practitioner to ask for anti-depressants was one of the weirdest, bravest, scariest things I’ve ever done.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Hi. I have been depressed for a long time. I see a therapist, I meditate, I do great self-care, and I’ve tried everything and nothing is helping. I want to pursue anti-depressants as an additional method of treating this.”
My doctor: “Okay. Let’s take a look at what your options are.”
- Just like that. She helped. And the Zoloft has helped. It’s not perfect, but it’s better.
- It was totally nerve-wracking and I felt so much better instantly simply by telling someone I needed help and having them listen and help me to make a plan.
- Hotlines are wonderful. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is: 1-800-273-8255
- Reaching out to your friends is even more wonderful (but not the way you might think).
Don’t wait for your friends who you think might be having a tough time to say something.
They may not be able to. Check in on them. Tell them you’re thinking of them. Invite yourself over. Let them know you are. Your friends with depression might not be able to reach out to you first.
- Just because I have depression doesn’t mean that I don’t have something valuable to say or contribute. It doesn’t define me. And if you have depression (or anything similar going on), it doesn’t define you either.
- In fact, I think we are often the canaries in the coal mine. We are often the ones who are most sensitive to the ways that our world is sick and hurting.
- What I really, really want you to know is that you are a brave person who is capable of hard things. If you woke up this morning, you’re doing great. If you got out of bed, you are slaying it. If you are breathing, you are winning.
- We need to change the conversation. We need to change the systems that make depression so rampant: capitalism, sexism, white supremacy, et. al. And we need to make sure that everyone has access to the mental health care they need.
- I have depression, and I believe that another world is possible. I plan to keep fighting for it.
If you’ve read this far (bless you!), here is your invitation: I’ve written a new manifesto about Self-Advocacy. This is about what it means to take a stand for ourselves in the world, as we are right now. It’s free. You can download it here.
“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin,
but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” — Harper Lee
I love you so much.