What are you supposed to write about on your depression blog when your depression lifts and your feeling pretty good? It’s a question many of us grapple with. Surely I am not the only one who impulsively started a blog about my experience with depression without the foresight that one day I might start feeling better and not have access to intense personal pain to write about.
I have been feeling better, more “stable” (says my therapist who hasn’t even read Harry Potter, so what does she know) and there are many factors that have contributed to this. I referenced a profound experience I had with spirit and healing in my last blog, and I also have had a small but mighty medication change, and a shift in my work schedule that allows my to streamline my work days, an invaluable asset to someone with ADD. My son is hilarious, my friends are great, my wife continues to be amazing as an individual and truly amazing as a partner. My point is, as with the onset of depression, there are many different factors to it’s remission. It’s hard and probably unfair to single one out … but I am going to try.
Someone from my recovery circle (of goddesses and warriors) once remarked that alcoholics are people who feel deeply and must numb deeply. I wholeheartedly agree with that. It’s why alcohol – or drugs, or food – work so well. Overloading our system with these chemicals creates this incredibly effective and impenetrable shield that blocks our ability to feel our wounds. I mean, if you have an addiction to these things, it eventually totally destroys your life. But it works incredibly well at what it is supposed to do in the meantime. So … 50/50? Worth it? Eh?
I’ve also begun to wonder if depression creates the same sort of protection, albeit in a really painful and masochistic way that depressed people love, with it’s own set of complications and fucked-up-ness.
This is what I’m noticing, remembering, and being reminded of. When I was younger – before I found alcohol and before depression periodically suffocated me to the point that I couldn’t feel anything but darkness, creating a greying effect on the rest of my emotions, I was super super sensitive. Sure, in the traditional way of one time SOMEONE IN KINDERGARTEN WITH THE INITIALS LH told me that my drawing of the human body was dumb because I used different colors within the body instead of skin color and I was devastated by this and to this day use it as an example of being wronged. But also in the more refined sense of feeling other people’s (and my own) emotions very deeply, and picking up on the energy of a room as soon as I walked in. So, when I first listened to the RENT soundtrack in high school and realized that Angel died and Tom Collins lost the love of his life and their friend group argued passionately and with conviction but ultimately loved each other fiercely and were there for each other the end, I lost my damn mind and stayed home from school for two days, crying. It also made things incredibly difficult to be a girl, growing up with other girls who were taught not to be assertive or angry, and have conflict with one another because it was this whole dance of not wanting to hurt each other’s feelings but feeling all of the explosive anger just under the surface, anyway.
I’m not alone in this, as I am not alone in depression. This is called being an empath and if you are reading this, there’s a good chance you are an empath too.
Being an empath is something that I cherish, but I was taught it was worthless. We all were. How many times were you told that you were too sensitive growing up? To me, being an empath has a strong correlation with the divine feminine and my own feminine energy (this is not a gendered thing, we all have feminine and masculine energy within us, each of us on our own spectrum), and therefore I understand being an empath to be similarly valued to being a woman in our world. Which is to say, not. And at times, violently not. Look at how compassion and empathy are welcomed in our currently political climate.
But this de-valuing is bullshit. And it’s a desecration of the sacredness that exists within each of us. Empaths understand this on a deeper level than those who are not in touch with this. Those who want to blow away any hint of vulnerability with an assault rifle.
No wonder we’re depressed.
Being an empath is similar to being empathetic or having empathy. Being empathetic is like “I understand how you feel, and I connect with you around this.” Being an empath is like “I feeeellll what you are feeeeelllling and I understand that what happens to you, happens to me. Therefore I am overwhelmed with sadness for you and/or I can’t get out of bed because this is so draining and challenging.”
And in Trump’s America, the assaults don’t stop.
Before I realized that being an empath was a tremendous gift, I didn’t like that I was so sensitive because I thought I was weak, and because my energy drained quickly (much of this leading to a depressive episode, where I just couldn’t do it anymore), and because I had to tune out sometimes to handle the constant demand for attention and connection, which hurt people’s feelings a lot. But since I’ve had some healing and recovery, I understand that this sensitivity and intuition is a huge part of who I am, and a huge part of the work I am meant to do.
But I’m learning, guys. I’m just learning how to be in this world without the false armor of alcohol, embracing my sensitivity in a way that is empowering and which allows me to serenely tell the patriarchal and white supremacist culture we live in to fuck off. To fuck off with love and light.
We forget that we’re sacred, and that we belong to each other. And those of us who are empaths grieve this loss deeply and to our core. And sometimes we don’t know what to do with the sadness, and the heaviness. Because it is completely overwhelming. Depression, and the isolation and feelings of aloneness, protect us from this in a bizarre way. Because we don’t have to feel the despair in the lack of connection in the larger world, which we know in our bones is wrong. Because we can pretend we are not a part of it for a few days.
Learning how to manage this sensitive gift has been so incredible because I don’t have to hide and pretend I’m not a part of it anymore. I can choose to bow out for a little while. But I don’t totally disconnect. And the most effective way I have done that is to learn about being an empath, being highly sensitive, being intuitive*. Maybe this will help you too.
And – a concept I have taken with me throughout this recovery and healing process as been that “healing is not linear.” So today, I am good and I feel strong. And next month, I might be a puddle on the floor because of stupid idiot Jack on “This Is Us” and unable to communicate my feelings. And all of that is OK.
*The podcast “Enlightened Empaths” has been a lifesaver for me. and Judith Orloff’s books on being an empath are good too.