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Depression Stories - Annie

How I Got The Nickname Eeyore

I was a affectionate and precocious kiddo, but age 12 I came to believe I was too much, and I've never been able to shake it. Too loud, geeky, needy, smart, and annoying for the other kids to like me. Not sporty, funny, or cool enough. Too female for my dad, and too tom-boy for mom. Too much of a big, tall know-it-all for the boys. Not demurring; not flirty; not pretty in any conventional sense—and yet somehow still too shy and awkward to pursue friendships.


I think "If only I'd tried harder". But no. A weird, nerdy, home-schooled kid stuck in the boonies who's only social outlet was a conservative youth group? Nope. I was fucked.

The funny thing is that as I write all that, I know that my description loosely follows an arch-typical adolescence narrative of many geeks. My personality and interests are now constantly catered to. I have more TV shows I'd love to watch, people I'd like to talk to, and things I'd like to attend than I have time or money. My sub-culture and my generation is the 400 lb gorilla on the internet; we're fucking EVERYWHERE. We have power now. We belong. My cerebral cortex knows this, but my limbic system and amygdala are still wired for a lonely, painful existence of alternately striving to fit in and striving to not give a fuck.

Breaking Down and Fixing Shit

In my twenties I officially mastered coping. I lost myself in potent distractions of relationships, video games, fiction, and yes—food. There were periods of intense loneliness. Life was at best a temporary distraction from emptiness and chronic boredom. At it's worst, it was the grinding pain of isolation, which any other social mammal would have the sanity to end by letting the lions catch them.


Still, sometimes I would catch a glimpse of piercing beauty. A dream, a song, a vista or the kindness of a stranger would catch me unprepared and fill me with poignant longing. Sometimes I would even have vivid dreams of simply being embraced with steady acceptance and would wake up crying. And I hated it. I hated being reminded I was so weak—this neediness that made me uncool in the first place.

I decided I wanted to try and find a better way to go through life. Over one month, I took myself off all the medication for pain, muscles spasms, anxiety and depression so there was just my own bare personality. I began weekly counseling to figure out why the hell it is that I can't get motivated and find meaning in life for more than just a moment.


The primary issue I've discovered is this: I find intense emotions unpleasant... even happy ones. Happiness feels dangerous and vulnerable. Sadness feels like eternal swallowing blackness. Loneliness feels like utter abandonment for all time. Hope is terrifying. I'm getting better—learning to turn toward and transmute the pain.

I'm paying much closer attention to what I deep down want, know, and believe. Being raised conservative Christian, I was taught that beliefs are something you choose in order to please others—not the least of which is an angry god. Feelings are suspect. Critical thinking is rebellion. Desire leads to temptation and sin.


Wanting What's Good For Me

Unwinding all this bullshit, I've found that I'm actually agnostic but spiritual. I'm highly altruistic and value justice, but reject systems of morality. This allows me to develop beliefs and make good choices that very much DO NOT please people in my life, such as rejecting monogamy and traditional marriage (I still haven't worked up the courage to tell my parents that one, although since I'm not dating anyone right now it's a distinction without a difference). And even though embracing these deep parts of myself causes some rejection by others, it's peaceful being the same person in both head and heart. I'm also getting brave enough to seek out other kindred spirits.


The last victory I'll share is I've learned how to avoid panic attacks, black hopelessness, and other varieties of shit-losing: I need emotional catharsis. The last time I felt a big panic attack coming on, I went to YouTube and just listened to moving music and cried. Another time I felt I was cracking up, I went and re-read what Neil Gaiman had to say about making good art when life's kicking the shit out of you... and then I wrote a poem:

Stinging warmth returns to me
Old hopes break loose, unbid
Like glaciers calving to the sea
Breath caught, raw edge unhid


Unwrap what's left of old desires
—If any still remain
A hundred thrown upon life's pyres
Shall rise again, but changed


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