I have started so many blog posts of late that have just seemed too ranty or too complicated – like big topics that required a lot of research and synthesis that I didn’t have time for while I was frantically trying finish an oversized short story. So, I may have neglected them.
After I finished reading The Abandoned Heart, or rather as I was finishing reading it, a request from the library, You are a Badass. Let’s get real: I’m not big on the self-help genre. I keep reading it, off and on, hoping it’ll be different, but I’m generally left wondering why I don’t put some fuzzy-logic nonsense on a page and rack in the dollars. It’s always a lot of white space, repetition, and mantra shit like “love yourself.”
I had some thoughts about this book over on the blog. Particularly, I had thoughts about the idea of depression as a "story" that you can just talk yourself out of. Grr…? #mentalhealth #depression #selfhelp #youareabadass #reading #books #bookstagram #cats #catsofinstagram #readersofinstagram #booknerd #bookworm #bookreader #?#bookish #igreads #instabooks #instareads #goodreads #bookcommunity #totalbooknerd #booknerdigans #bookgeek #igbooks
You are a Badass takes that to a new level by telling you if you don’t think her bullshit is brilliant, it’s your own fault for being poor and unhappy. Now, I’m all willing to believe mind over matter can take you a long way, but it ain’t fucking magic. When she suggests that the thing keeping your personal training gig from becoming an endorsement deal or that you’ll go from clients at LA Fitness to celebrities and your face on supplements, I was skeptical. Look, I don’t care how much magical thinking you do or how in touch with the Universe you get, there’s a thing called supply and demand. Not every personal trainer gets celebrities as clients. Maybe Sincero just means the ones who read this book.
“Let’s say, for example, that your story is that you’re depressed. Chances are pretty good that even though it feels awful, when you feel awful you don’t have to work hard or do the laundry or go to the gym. It also feels familiar and cozy and comfortable. It gets you attention. People come in and check on you and sometimes bring food. It gives you something to talk about. It allows you to not try too hard or move forward and face possible failure. It lets you drink beer for breakfast.”
No. Fuck no. Holy fucking fuck. No.
See, sometimes I get depressed. It comes in cycles and I can stave it off as best as I can through exercise and plowing ahead and getting things done.
When I’m depressed, my “story” isn’t that I’m depressed. In fact, I rarely talk about it. I only talk about it in instances where I have to – like explaining what I’m actually feeling to my husband – or where I feel (like this one) like I have to get up on my damn soap box. I don’t walk around using depression as an excuse to not get out of bed, though sometimes it makes it hard to get out of bed. I get pissed at myself every time I sleep through an alarm and spend a good hour beating myself up over it. (Yeah, I get that it’s not the positive magical thinking I’m supposed to be doing, but you get one or the other lady: it’s either an excuse to be lazy or it’s a real thing that frustrates you when you’re doing your damndest to get around it.)
I keep plodding along with writing and editing. It might not be great, but I do it. I keep doing the laundry and the grocery shopping and scooping the cat litter boxes. It’s not cozy and comfortable. It’s physically fucking painful sometimes. It makes my joints sore and makes my muscles ache. It makes me tired, but it also makes me twitchy and restless. Attention? Not the good kind. No one wants the kind of attention that comes with depression, the assumption you’re nuts or that you’re lazy or “on the rag” or too moody for adulthood. No one wants to be the one crying at the grocery store because deciding which chips to buy for the husband’s lunch is an overwhelming concept.
Very few people are interested in checking on you and those are the people who care the most. No one brings you food, but it might let you talk loved ones into eating take out more often. It seems like a very privileged and entitled view to think that whining and lolling around playing at depression is a good way to get out of things and get other people to take care of you. A lot of people with depression have burned their last bridge, unintentionally, years ago because they’re exhausting. Worse, they know this and they wish it weren’t true.
The idea that just telling people with depression (or anxiety or ADHD or schizophrenia or any combination of disorders) that if they just change their mindset and “story,” they’ll be cured and happy is as stupid as telling amputees to pretend they have a leg and they’ll grow a new one. No, you have to learn how to live as an amputee and you have to learn how to live with depression. What that looks like for you might be different than someone else – and yes, having money and good insurance helps both those things because prosthetics are expensive and so are therapists.
Not try? I’m trying and trying. I’m at the dojo 4-6 times a week jumping up and down like a nutball in front of a bunch of elementary kids teaching them kicks and punches whether I feel like it or not. A lifetime of hiding depression has taught me to whine and sigh to myself when I’m alone and to suck it up and hide it the best I can around others. Just like a lifetime of ADHD has ensured that while I have a pile of unfinished projects around me, I can get through the ones that are most important and I eventually fold the laundry.
Not move forward? Not face possible failure? I worked in corporate advertising, taught in kiddie jail, took up martial arts and hurdled the first degree and second degree black belt tests, competed in a karate tournament, started a candle company, sold prints of my photography, created and sold a planner calendar, published a book, read at the afternoon Bouchercon Noir at the Bar, put paintings of mine up online… I keep trying shit and doing my best despite my depression. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes not.
I can rewire the little brain weasels as best I can. I can spend more time in nature and run more and all the stuff that makes me feel better, but it doesn’t ever completely go away.
And don’t get me started on the damn beer. That’s not depression. That’s either “day drinking” or alcoholism depending on how often you do it and why you’re doing it.
3 thoughts on “Badass You and Magical Thinking”
I totally recommend one of these books instead: http://brenebrown.com/books/
The Gifts of Imperfection, in particular, and I Thought It Was Just Me are helpful, less judgmental, and better researched.
This nonsense is what happens when people who have never actually BEEN clinically depressed write about depression. There’s a enormous difference between feeling down and actually being depressed: it’s an effort to BREATHE. It’s an effort to walk, to eat, to stand up…I remember people telling me, “You look like you’re going to faint!” “Yep.” You cannot simply cheer yourself out of depression (though practicing mindfulness changes can help to a degree), and medication can be instrumental to interrupt the neurotransmitter death spiral. Eventually, I lived past it…but some don’t.
The rest of that chapter, she makes it clear she’s never experienced clinical depression and she’s equating it to that feeling you get after a big meal when all you want to do is lie still and concentrate on digestion.
The rest of the book has a some useful stuff, but that one chapter I’d recommend anyone with depression or other mental illness skip.
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