I spent last evening talking to a psychiatrist. A woman I've grown to know through ballet and is a childhood friend. She has accomplished so much in her career and currently works with high risk patients in our community with a compassion and resilience I've never witnessed before. I admire her steadfast commitment to clients she obviously cares about; encouraging her patients to 'stay one more day' and tirelessly seek out new or different treatment even when they're tired of 'trying'.
I've not seen a mental health professional for a very long time (Feel free to insert whatever joke you'd like about my need of one, I left that wide open. Just make the joke to yourself, because while I can take it, someone else might find themselves in your joke). I took myself off of anti-depressants almost 20 years ago. Over a period of 6 months, I slowly unscrewed the capsules and measured less and less powder into my orange juice. Then I waited to absorb the roller coaster of emotions as my body readjusted to the absence of that aid. That's not the path for most and certainly not the path I advocate for those under mental health care, but in my particular circumstances it was important, and life affirming. To be clear, what I did was risky, and my story is my own. I'm not condoning anyone attempt to do the same.
Before you read the quote below, I’m not depressed or suffering from depression. I'll admit I'm a bit mercurial, and quirky, but vibrationally (not a word, but I'm inclined), I’m settled, glowing at the center. Someone said, it's in my nature to know the "highest highs and the lowest lows" when I realized the Capricorn goat had a fishtail. And I've finally found a glorious balance between the crests and troughs and Jim Carrey articulates it well:
"People talk about depression all the time. The difference between depression and sadness is: sadness is just from happenstance—whatever happened or didn’t happen for you, or grief, or whatever it is. Depression is your body saying f*ck you, I don’t want to be this character anymore, I don’t want to hold up this avatar that you’ve created in the world. It’s too much for me. You should think of the word ‘depressed’ as ‘deep rest.’ Your body needs to be depressed. It needs deep rest from the character that you’ve been trying to play.” ~ Jim Carrey, 2017
I’ve explored a lot of deep crevasses in the darkness throughout my life, and initially wanted to share this photo from several years ago (I affectionately call "351 Rover") as a nostalgic 'throw back Thursday' post on social media. And now I'm here sharing the winding way that photo brought up Jim Carrey's words, which is (to me) one of the most resonating descriptions of my experience with depression. Depression is on the rise and in recent years it's spiked. Montana has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country: 20.5 per every 100,000. In my years attending high school, 3 individuals were victims of suicide in a school that averaged 350 students total. And I’d have been 4 had I not woke up 23 years ago.
Surviving that near departure is something I'll share another day, maybe in a less public setting. But what I know is I vividly dreamt that night: I saw myself leaving my body and I chased what felt like a reversed gravity to climb back into into my chest, back into my heart, and something changed after that. I became porous to those around me, I listen to the energy of a person's body more so than I hear the words they speak.
On the heels of two celebrity suicides, the country rallying around suicide prevention and awareness, visiting with a dear friend that is in the trenches of it all, and reflecting on my own story I drifted to Jim Carrey. You might not care for his comedy, or find his current self 'surreal', but I appreciate his boldness to say that depression should be acknowledged, it's your body asking for change. And in a lot of circumstances 'change' isn't available to those existing below the poverty line or suffering from progressive and terminal diseases + all the other factors that can blind side us into a solitary, and helpless, place.
We can do more to help those with depression, and I've no criticism about the suggestions coming forward on the ways to reach out and be supportive to those with mental illness or suffering from situations of trauma or crisis. I would ask that we also consider for a moment Carrey's experience (or Robin Williams for that matter) as a comedic performer 'performing happiness', on and off the camera, and allow individuals to find a balance between the highest high and the lowest low.
My two cents, if someone seems less enthusiastic, changed, more solemn, quiet, I think those are important qualities to check up on and I've provided resources below, but I can also attest to Carrey's thoughts on depression, "Depression is your avatar telling you it's tired of being the character you're trying to play." Let's allow each other to change, to be 'weathered' by this complex world, and love each other in the middle.
Thank you for reading this, thank you for being here. Even if I've never met you - my take away is that I needed to share this and say to any (and all) in times of doubt: life is saturated with connections. Never underestimate the memories we create even in a few chance conversations. I suspect it's all worth it. I believe even the small things matter. I know in my heart that you matter.
*One more time, so we're clear: I'm healthy and well, contented and digging into the world in a whole new way. Some might even say I'm happy, a real and present happy, not fabricated. Just me, and it's so much easier.
Jim Carrey - What It All Means | One Of The Most Eye Opening Speeches
Suicide Prevention Hotline
NAMI, Risk of Suicide
Montana tops national trend of increasing suicide rates, report shows
Montana Suicide Rate, 2016