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The Joan Theory of Depression

March 2, 2016

My best friend introduced me to a local artist, Joan that she was just getting to know. Joan was a singer/songwriter. She had an unusual type of beauty. She always photographed well. She wrote songs and performed both locally and nationally. She owned an adorable house in one of the hippest, oldest, cutest neighborhoods in Lafayette. She was stylish and funny. She had just moved back home from Paris where she had spent time song writing and having a affair with an intriguing man. She was one of the cool crowd. People looked up to her. Wanted to be like her. Men wanted to pursue her. She was influential within a certain clique. She put out an album and a local artist created the artwork for her, boosting both of their careers.

I spent some time with her and saw all these things. I admired her success and was envious of her experiences. Though we didn’t really connect as friends, I witnessed very moving and funny moments. I liked her.

But as my friend spent more time with her, the layers began to fold back. She had been through a painful divorce. She was seeing two different men. One was married, the other was verbally and emotionally abusive. I listened to the second hand stories in shock. How could someone poised and accomplished allow herself to be treated that way? She wanted to have a child and was in her mid-thirties. She was confused about her career, not sure where to turn. Should she perform or just write songs for other people? She was terrified and filled with doubt every time she was about to take a stage, even a small stage in a little dive in Lafayette. She didn’t think she was pretty. She didn’t have it all together and she fell apart, leaning on my friend, very often.

In other words, she was human. Everyone is like this. Everyone has these two sides. Sides that we see in ourselves and that others see in us.

Here’s my explanation of depression.

Depression takes the person in the first paragraph…..the Joan that is talented and beautiful, successful, accomplished….the subject of admiration and inspiration…..the Joan full of potential with a future filled with creativity and growth…..and kidnaps her. Depression throws a blanket over that Joan and hides her from the real Joan, silencing her voice and overpowering her strength.

Under depression Joan is weird looking. She’s the victim of her parents’ divorce, continuing a cycle of abuse with the men she dates. She’s foolish and weak, allowing a man to yell at her and tell her she is nothing. She is filled with anxiety because she knows she’s not good enough to sing on that stage. She is defeated by small, mediocre successes knowing they may be her last. She will give up on her dream of becoming a mother because she is getting too old. She is filled with regret and despair and overcome with the heaviness of the feeling that she should quit. Quit trying, quit making, quit singing, quit looking for love. Just quit everything.

That is depression.

Depression enters the brain and searches around for memories of mistakes, regrets, flaws, things its victim feels shame about. It scours its victims psyche for ammunition for its arguments and prepares for the debate. It will win the debate. When depression hears the voice of hope and love and value it argues against it with a never ending dossier of impeachable evidence. It wins with fear and judgement and a life of bad experiences and failures. It is stronger than the other voice. It always wins.

Until it goes away.

But nobody knows how to keep it away all the time. Medication can keep at bay, sometimes. Exercise and healthy eating and sunshine and supportive, positive, happy people are its enemies. Positive thinking can even beat it back, if it’s used early on in depression’s attack. But no one knows how to kill it for good. So it’s an enemy its victim always lives with.

Even as Joan rises in her career, writes a hit song, meets a wonderful partner and starts a family, works towards goals of doing more and being more, confident in her abilities and proud of her accomplishments……on any given day she might wake up one morning and feel the tentacles of depression entering her brain and by the end of the day she will be immobilized and defeated, her self image a betrayal of who she really is.



From → Rantings

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