Admiring Wil Wheaton

I’m grateful to Wil Wheaton for his efforts to de-stigmatize what for many is reality, and to my friend MW for sharing her own experience last week (she is my spirit animal).

My life is objectively good. I live in an adorable apartment with a ton of natural light in a fantastic city with endless arts and intellectual options. I have a job I enjoy and that pays well, so I’m financially secure. I sing with a truly exceptional group of people every week—a choir that continues to be the highlight of my life. I have friends, and my family, though they’re all far away, loves me.

And yet.

I just spent half an hour rocking back and forth on my couch, wracked with sobs. The culprit? The sandwich shop I was in started playing Smashing Pumpkins and the people in front of me took a long time with a complicated order. This should not be a big deal—but it was just too much for me today. One minute I’m standing at the counter picking up my sandwich and trying to ignore Billy Corgan’s infernal nasal whine, and then suddenly tears are running down my face as I stumble the half-block home, and then I’m choking on roast beef and sourdough because it’s hard to eat and cry at the same time.

These days, I usually catch these episodes before they hit this point. I’ve gotten so much better in the past decade. Medication and therapy and cognitive behavioral skills have led to a vastly improved quality of life over that of the young woman who once didn’t sleep for eight weeks because someone didn’t love her back, and who spent years convinced she had no skills or talents so the thought of always having to earn a living was terrifying. Or the teenager who was an active cutter through high school and college, and didn’t realize the scars would always remain visible. (Fortunately most people don’t ask—though a bishop did once tell me I should wear longer sleeves if I wanted to attract a partner.)

But the episodes, they still happen. I wish that, like Wil Wheaton, I could say I’m not ashamed. But I can’t. I hate that I don’t have the emotional capacity that I want to have. I hate that I’m a grown woman who has meltdowns in public places, like Disney World AND Winchester Cathedral AND a Seattle street corner AND my local sandwich shop. I hate that I sometimes can’t do the things I want to do because I know what will happen if I push myself to do things that other people seem to handle easily.

Again, though, it’s so much better than before. The episodes are less frequent, less intense, and less long-lasting. I know how to handle it. I’ll be better after a couple of days of British period dramas, chocolate, and quiet; if I hadn’t created this post, nobody except the strangers I passed on the street earlier would have even known anything about this particular episode.

But I guess that’s the thing, isn’t it? Depression is such a shameful thing to have; I’d much rather hide away and work through it myself than “go public” in this way; I feel that I’m fishing for external validation. Which is why Wil Wheaton’s blog is so meaningful to me and to others who deal with this illness. Maybe someday I’ll find this mental miswiring less embarrassing, and I’ll be able to just say, “Hey, friends, I need help” without having to spend an hour working up the nerve first.

Until then, you guys, just know that this is what depression looks like from the inside. Some days are good, and some days are just rough. All the love to my friends who similarly struggle—maybe someday we’ll be able to talk about it more openly.