Turn That Frown Sideways

J'MelThere are no easy answers with depression.

By J’Mel Davidson

have to take pills so that I am not constantly crying.

I know you don’t come to the pages of B-Metro to get hit in the face with this sort of truth, but I feel that this is an important discussion presently. I want to talk about depression. Try and remember, though, that much like great popular culture hero Tony Montana, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.

Don’t worry. There will still be jokes.

So, I take pills. The pills make me care about things. They shut off a great deal of my overactive empathy. And apathy. They allow me to live in the daylight and to hear children’s laughter without vomiting.

I didn’t always have the pills.

Years ago, I had employment that provided very little enjoyment and even fewer medical benefits. Yes, I know that this doesn’t exactly make me special. I’m special because Jesus loves me and my ma says I’m handsome. Lots of people hate their jobs. Some even hate their jobs enough to act irrationally. This is why the term postal became prevalent in America. One of the traits of this disease is that I went internally postal. With food. Pizza and Chinese. Cookies. Crates of Twizzlers and Diet Coke. I’d have a bad day at work and I’d go home and eat alone. Though I often felt alone even when I was in a room full of people. Perhaps you’re asking what it was about the job was so bad that it forced me to put on 200 pounds in an incredibly short amount of time?

I can’t pinpoint exact moments. Well, actually, I could, but I won’t.

I will say that people telling you to smile when you’re in the midst of an emotional downswing is the most I’m-not-allowed-to swear-in-the-B-Metro-but-you-get-my-drift, most annoying and hateful thing you can hear. And I got that. A lot. Once I was surrounded by a bunch of coworkers during one of the bad times and confronted. Not because they wanted to ask if I was OK or if they could help, but because they felt I was ignoring them and they wanted more attention. Usually, I just become less of a goofy and boisterous person when I’m sick. It’s so I don’t snap at people. It’s because I’m working through the fog.

When you’re sick, you’re quickly able to divide the people around you into two camps: the people who are concerned about your pain and the people who are concerned about how they feel about your pain. Most people don’t get depression because they haven’t had to deal with it. They say things like “Cheer up,” and “Think happy thoughts,” because they don’t realize that what you are going through isn’t a mood. You aren’t lion down in the dumps (Sweet Pickles HA!), you are sick. The brain is an organ and sometimes it gets sick. Some people take pills for their sinuses; others take pills for their back pain. I take pills so my brain functions. Smiling doesn’t help that. Thinking positively didn’t cure polio. Pouring a bucket of ice water on your head does nothing for lupus.

Another misconception is that being depressed helps with art. Every person’s depression is different, and I’m sure some folks can work through theirs. I can’t. I’m too busy swaddling myself in a comforter and listening to Morrissey. One day I saw a doctor. She asked how I’d let myself get so bad. I told her it was because I didn’t care. Boom. Pills.

I guess you could say I was lucky. The first pill I tried worked. No side effects. And I care about my health now. I went from being morbidly obese to just regular obese. My doc has to get onto to me occasionally because I’m not getting enough calories. That can happen when you stop eating your feelings.

Is depression still an issue? Of course. It doesn’t go away. You manage it, you try to avoid triggers, and you take each day as it comes. Being a black, single, middle-aged nerd on disability in the South keeps me busy enough without the added distraction of suicidal thoughts and weeping. I manage now. Some people can’t, and it’s terrifying. This doesn’t mean they were cowards or they didn’t try to cope. It simply means that it just. Got. Too. Bad.

After Robin Williams died, someone asked if I ever thought about suicide.

Yes, I told them. All the time. But don’t be shocked, dear readers. I never could. I wouldn’t be around to watch people mourn. My narcissism keeps me safe.

I don’t have a clever ending for this. I apologize. Just understand that telling someone to smile because he or she is sick is stupid.

One Response to “Turn That Frown Sideways”

  1. Joe says:

    I appreciate the candor…and truth.

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