– A musician’s story of ignoring, but eventually coping with depression
Perhaps, dear reader, you’ve noticed the use of an old adage in the title of this blog; but allow me to present another: a picture is worth a thousand words. I’ll never forget a photograph of myself staring down at my 23rd birthday cake. A scraggly, unkempt beard and somber, empty eyes reflected the painful defeat of hauling my belongings through the winter snow back to my parent’s house shortly after a failed relationship.
Now, this entry will not be a record of a particular relationship, but rather, the 7 year long process of learning to love myself. You see, many relationships will come and go in a typical lifetime, but the one that will remain constant is the dialogue with your inner self. And that can be incredibly scary and difficult to be honest about. To confront your sins, seek forgiveness and truth, and to ultimately appreciate yourself, your role in the world, and the people around you is a constant and delicate balance.
As I blew out the flames from my 23 birthday candles an inner voice of darkness swept in to cover the wicks from ever being lit in celebration again. It consistently reminded me I was inadequate, incompetent, unattractive, unintelligent, and unsuccessful at each endeavor I attempted. At first, it wasn’t very loud, but just vocal enough to make me manic. I was obsessed with staying busy so that I wouldn’t have to sit and listen to it. If I can achieve “real” success I can show this inner voice what I’m made of eventually. But eventually would never come, because human nature is often insatiable.
Sure, I stayed busy, but I never stayed content. Moreso concerned with the outcome rather than the process it felt meaningless to do anything. I would typically cycle between 9 months of mania and then 3 months of depression every year. During my manic months I worked 4 jobs and balanced 2 – 3 creative projects at one time. I would typically burn out and lose work because I never admitted I was overburdened by the time I hit my depressive cycles. Unsure of why nothing seemed to come to fruition, I typically clung to the one leftover job or project that I barely had the energy for.
Being younger with a natural physicality of a twenty-something allowed me to deny the self-destructive nature of this cycle for some time. However, my depression would become increasingly more proportionate to my manic stages every sequential year. My 9 month cycle of frenzied productivity fell to a meager 3 months before I hit my rock bottom. I cried myself to sleep often, gained weight, and overslept. With my seemingly final bit of mental energy I contemplated calculating the fuel and time it would take to roadtrip to California so I could run my car off a beautiful, moonlit cliff and worry no more. It was at this time I was introduced to therapy I had no idea I was taking part in, through the lectures of a Dr. Jordan Peterson.
Of course, there were many conversations held with family and friends in my support group before my revelation. At first, I just started telling people I was depressed. There are so many great ways to gain perspective from listening to other people’s stories. Sometimes, the stories come laced with advice about how to walk a straighter path from an outsider’s view on your own hardships. They can be hard pills to swallow, but the result is often a healthier you. Doing the right thing is seldom easy and truth is often derived from painful reflection.
One of the biggest things my depression disallowed me to do was to be proactive in my health. Even though I liked my long hair, I rarely maintained it until this year, when I eventually realized there were people out there who could do a better job with it. Being a performer, you see lots of talented people in the entertainment industry and it can be quite impressive how entertainers keep up on their own locks. I thought it was better served with someone who would enjoy fussing over their hair, so I donated it to Wigs 4 Kids. Hopefully a little kid somewhere gets more artistic with it than I did. 😀
I certainly feel lucky to look in a mirror nowadays, because I have the tools to manage the bad luck that is my depression. It’s important to see past looks and recognize the beauty and heart within. My depression will never disappear, but I know why it exists and how it works. Not everyone has your best interests in mind in this world; in fact, that duty is solely up to you. Love yourself and you will learn to love others even better. There are far more people not worth your time than the people that are so learn to appreciate them when you can. To my friends and family reading this you know who you are, and if you’re unsure, I’m sure we’ll have a conversation picking up where we left off. I try very hard at affirming not only myself but other people these days.
There’s plenty more nuance and story here, but I’d like to leave off with a few personal tenets that have helped grapple my sickness. Maybe it can help somebody else.
CB’s Totally Tubular Tenish Tenets
– “Treat yourself as someone who wants the best for you”. Imagine yourself as your closest friend or family member cheering you on through every little accomplishment in life and tactfully guiding you through your darkest hours.
– “Life is a series of happy, little mistakes”. We are bound to fail at a multitude of things everyday. Rather than dwell on them, try and set plans in to motion to learn from them effectively and change your habits. It can take much longer than expected, so give yourself time and allow yourself to fail.
– “Find your passions”. Passions will seldom be something that is your main source of income. In fact, it’s a rarity for most people of this world. Allow yourself time to pursue it, but don’t let it consume you and interrupt you or your family’s well-being.
– “Know thy own darkness”. We all experience feelings of anger, disappointment, and desire. It is worth contemplating the things you really want in life and thinking of ways to achieve it without cutting down or cutting out others needlessly. Be honest with yourself. Many emotions and desires have shades of darkness and light; it’s mostly a matter of knowing yourself and that you’re pursuing something for the right reasons.
– “Strive to be content, not happy, for life is suffering”. Endorphins hit you at random points in your life, sometimes for no reason. If you think life is best spent waiting for your next surge of serotonin to reward you, you’ll often be disappointed. Take care to ease your suffering by having peace in your relationships: business, personal, and self. It will take a whole lot of trial and error, both in method and the people you involve.
– “Love is about growing, not owing”. Not everyone can appreciate you to the same level you can appreciate them. It is worth it to find out where people are at in your life. Finding out who you can depend on and what you can expect from them takes courage and honesty. Know who will walk beside you and communicate when missteps happen.
– “Most people aren’t evil, but that doesn’t necessarily make them good, either”. People are dynamic and change every year. Intent can be a very grey area. For the most part, people can take care of themselves or are within a social circle that can, so be wary and don’t overextend a helping hand to those that will drag you down. This is moreso cautionary for compassionate people.
– “Affirm each other”. People have different love languages, and knowing those closest to you is worth knowing when and how they feel appreciated. I don’t think this is necessarily confined to romantic relationships. Though the bar is lowered in friendships and family this knowledge helps to maintain contentedness.
Loving Your Role in the World:
– “Look out for number one”. We’re all selfish creatures even though we have great capacity for kindness. Our regular nature is one of independence and self-interest and realizing that will help you empathize with others more.
– “Give credit where credit is due”. Imagine being the only one left alive in this world. How much of civilization could you possibly recreate from scratch by yourself? Appreciate the work of your predecessors, your mentors, and your peers in any field you occupy. They’ve saved you countless hours of trial and error through guidance. Take the torch and pass it on.
– “Life is so random. Make plans, but be flexible.” How many times will relationships or careers change or end in your life? That in itself is a random factor, but you can probably bet that it will happen more than you’d like it to. Don’t be afraid to try a new career if you get good vibes from new people. Don’t be afraid to step back and re-evaluate relationships from time to time. Doing this often in small doses is a better formula than letting hard feelings linger and lead to emotional blowups.
Keep Rockin’ y’all!