Stigma and Depression LiesBy Keith Reynolds | Jun 1 2016
I think I drink too much. I promise you though, it’s not my fault. Now, before I go ahead and blame society, which I will do in the future, I would like to blame the psychic I spoke to nearly a decade ago.
She was a charming older woman, who smelled only vaguely of lavender through the overwhelming odour of vegan soap and other organic nonsense at the back of the natural health store. I’d never been to a psychic before, and while I did it mostly for fun what she said to me that day changed me profoundly. She told me I was an old soul.
“Who me?” I thought, basking in this validation of my every hermit-like tendency. I could feel myself radiating wisdom, as though a spectral cardigan and glasses had been placed on my very soul. My vanity overfloweth. It made me feel sage and wise, but also kooky and offbeat. Following this, she went on to tell me that as an old-soul, I was more keenly in tune with my body and I should consider self-medicating. This too, was in line with my current mental health self-care regimen. I was, after all, an early 20-something gay who was taking six math and science courses a semester. I was all over the self-medication thing.
Fast-forward to now, when I realized that I might have a problem. My alcohol intake is sitting at around one or two bottles of wine, a week, and only really when I’m around other people. I know, I’m out of control.
Yes, that thing that I do to make myself tolerable and gregarious when I yellsplain the rules of a new board game, is also becoming a bit of a problem. Not because I feel like four glasses of wine over the course of a 4-hour board game impairs me. I will still kick your ass. Rather, it’s a problem because I’m depressed.
My depression manifests itself in sleeplessness, apathy, and intense anxiety. It means sometimes I have to leave a room to cry because I, like the whitest of white girls in a meme, cannot even. It does not, however, have anything to do with why my face looks so bitchy, that’s all me.
I am on treatment, though. I’ve been taking anti-depressants for over a year now, which has helped me tremendously. It gave me the confidence to quit my job of 5 years and go back to school. It helps me cope with things that would’ve normally left me unable to function for long stretches of time.
The only problem is that treatment interacts badly with wine, and there’s the rub. The social lubrication I used to rely upon to help me get over my anxiety is now giving me anxiety. The solution, it would seem, is that I just shouldn’t drink.
So, here’s the part where I blame society. I can’t just say no to having a couple of drinks. Not because I lack willpower, but because I am afraid of the question/accusation “Why aren’t you drinking?” I know I’m not a teenager anymore, so I’m not worried about peer-pressure, but I am worried, intensely, about the stigma that saying no will open me up to.
I can personally say “I’m depressed” and most people will acknowledge it with a knowing nod. While I appreciate this, there is often a lack of understanding behind it, like when you tell your cat to get off the counter or when a white person says they get racism. They just really don’t get it. The reality is that my depression prevents me from functioning properly. It makes me want to hide. It makes working to the best of my abilities difficult and taxing. It keeps me from actually enjoying life the way I ought or used to.
When I’m anti-social or unprofessional, it will rarely be attributed to that part of my physical brain that is slacking off. It will be attributed to me being a lazy, unreliable flake. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve heard people say it when they thought I couldn’t hear them. Even if it’s not actually being said, I still expect it from people, and the worst part is that I think I deserve it. Not all the time, but often enough that any progress I make towards being happy and healthy, is shut down. I shut down. I have to fight to convince myself that my friends and family won’t just cut and run. I have to fight to convince myself that I’m not worthless. Depression lies. It lies more than the rug on Donald Trump’s head.
To those that know this part of me and support me I thank you. I thank you for not giving me the side-eye that others will flippantly cast or talking about me behind my back or whatever other anguish I imagine as I try to sleep. To everyone else, understand that I’m probably not going to be drinking for a little while, and please respect the wishes of that psychic who said that I am in tune with my body.
Also if you could still like me, that’d be great.