My Depression is a Feminist
By most standards, I have every reason to be happy.
I make a living sitting in comfortable rooms talking about my favorite things with eager, curious audiences comprised largely of people I genuinely enjoy. I have had the privilege and honor of bearing witness to students’ intellectual and personal growth; I have watched students take brave steps toward the people they are meant to be.
I get to walk through life with a partner who shares my penchant for unapologetic laughter. His brain rivals his heart in size. His bedhead is poetry in motion. He sees me, and I let him. He is my first thought and phone call. He gave me the most precious gift, wrapped in a mermaid tail blanket with Hannah Montana lyrics on her lips and a thin yellow string wrapped around her finger attached to my heart.
If there is any good for me to do in this life, it is with her. It is her. When she sees me and smiles, I am redeemed. She is every perfect day and every perfect song and every perfect sentence. She is love.
I have a one-year old dog who looks like a puddle of melted caramel when he spills himself onto the floor and has the face of the bastard child of Dobby and Puss in Boots from Shrek.
I have fierce, loyal, wholehearted friends.
I have a car to take me places. It smells like stale coffee (I don’t temper my dance moves to accommodate beverages) and Carmex with a hint of Express cologne #4.
I have a phone that lets me see and connect with my people. It houses all my playlists and notes to myself.
Remember that exercise from Theater class your freshman year at Rhodes—is there an essay there?
I miss the experience of watching The West Wing for the first time. I wish C.J. Cregg was my friend.
I have a home that is truly mine. Every room looks and feels like the inside of my heart. It is a place I can carry with me and long for when I’m away.
I have these things. I also have Depression.
It has lived in me for over a decade, though I didn’t call it by its formal name until it had its hands around my throat. It requires me to use no fewer than eight prepositions to describe our relationship: it is in, of, around, throughout, beneath, beside, against, and within me. The English professor in me (roughly 70% of my genetic makeup) knows that a prepositional phrase is an apt metaphor for articulating my relationship with Depression: a preposition (Depression) sits in front of its object (me). It (Depression) modifies its object (me). It determines me.
I want to tell you that it doesn’t always feel this fatalistic, but I need to balance that desire with absolute accuracy and allegiance to the reality that I am not capable of consistent happiness even when I’m drenched in reasons I should feel and embody it.
To have Depression and claim it as my own feels like a subversive yet overtly powerful feminist act. At least my Depression is my own.
I refuse to smile because it is expected or laugh when the joke aims to degrade. I don’t feel lucky to be alive every day because sometimes I feel like I’m being kept alive to do the emotional labor of those who threaten me. I openly resent being told that I shouldanything. I reject the mandate that I should constantly and LOUDLY give thanks because I am not thankful for the expectation that I exist to be put upon, pushed down, paid less, threatened, and endangered. That is pleading in gratitude’s clothing.
Depression reminds me that my life is short and depends on me to believe that to keep us alive.
My resources are finite while most people are allowed renewable supplies, so I can not sustain myself upon sacrifice; I am not meant for martyrdom.
Depression forces my hand and together we set boundaries that hold us above others, not just to fill our empty cup before we pour for others, but because we are thirsty now.
The need to survive pulses under every “Not now” and“No.”
On a good day, when my cup is full and my glasses are clear, I like to think that my Depression loves me just as much, if not more, than it wants me to feel pain.
It wants to protect me from others’ limited and limiting ideas of who I should be.
To reserve energy for myself.
To exist for myself.