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September 19, 2016

On Depression — by Anonymous


For most of the 25 years, my depression was pretty low-grade, without suicidal ideation. I had a brief flirtation in my teens, which I guess isn't uncommon, and then the divorce sent me spiraling. If I didn't have kids, I wouldn't be here. Heck, if I didn't have really good friends who wouldn't give up on me, I might still not be here. I know I spent a lot of time thinking about a David Foster Wallace essay he wrote after 9/11 in which he described how much he understood the jumpers, and how he compared it to his own life. I know I'd fall asleep at night begging God to take me in my sleep, and wake up angry that I was still alive.

And now, I look back and see how broken my thinking was. 2013 was the worst year of my life, hands down. But then 2015 was the best year of my life, without question. I didn't expect it, and I didn't even realize it at first, but even though I was absolutely certain that the pain would never end, it did, beyond all reason or expectation.

I hope I can remember this if I'm beset by depression again. What is that essay you post annually? I was sure, but I was wrong. I was sure the pain would never end, and that any relief from the pain would be better, even the relief of death. I was wrong! And it's not because I found someone new (I'm happily solo), and it's not because some external life event made things better. I spent a lot of time in therapy, and a lot of time with some very wise friends, and I heard them tell me that there was reason for me to live. I told them I disagreed, and that they didn't understand my past or how broken of a person I was. And I joined some meetings where I could, in fact, tell my story of just how broken a person I was. And even knowing the worst possible things about me, people still told me I had a future. And I still didn't believe them. So several of my friends used an illustration from Christianity (and I'm sorry if this means nothing to you; I'm just trying to explain what meant something to me):

After Christ was killed, the hopes and dreams of his followers were dead. Many of them had given up everything to follow him, believing that he would change the world, and free them oppression, and so on, but instead he was dead. But here's the thing: they continued to hang out together. Only a couple of them had seen him alive again, but they told their friends, and while most of them didn't believe it (because it's crazy), 120 of them were meeting together four months later.

So my friends told me: it's fine to disbelieve and doubt, and not be able to see any hope in your future. Just do this: hang out with us. Be one of the 120 in that room who had no reason to be there other than someone they knew really, earnestly, truly believed what they'd seen. And so that's what I did. I didn't believe in *anything* for a while. I didn't believe in getting out of bed. But I hung out with my friends, and as they encouraged me, I began to hope. Not for a bright future or anything like that; that was too big a step. Instead, I just hoped that *their* hope was not completely foolish. And eventually, that hope was followed by belief. I began to believe — again, not in myself, or in anything big, but I just began to believe that my friends had a better perspective on life than I did.

For someone who has spent most of my life believing myself to be the smartest person in almost any room, that was a hard challenge. That's the terrible part about depression. It breaks the tool you use to figure out how you're doing. It tells you you're doing worse than you are, and you have no reason not to believe that tool, because you've used it your whole life. I began to believe that my brain was untrustworthy. That chemicals and hormones and bad neural connections and whatever else were skewing my thinking. It was terrifying, but I picked two people and told them that I didn't trust my own thinking, and that I wanted them to vet every decision I made for a while.

And that's what I did. Anything I wasn't 100% sure of, and anything that seemed important, even if I was pretty sure of it, I ran by my therapist and my pastor. When they agreed, I went with whatever they said. When they disagreed (very rarely) I pushed until I found the agreement between them. And over time, I think my brain began to rewire itself. I would do things I felt/thought were completely backwards, because my advisors said to. I wouldn't do things that made sense to me, because my advisors said not to. And over time, I began to more and more predict what they would say, and they began to tell me that they thought I was doing better.

I went from hoping in their hope, and believing in their belief, to hoping for myself. And eventually, to believing for myself.

And now it's hard for me to remember why I thought and believed some of the things I did. The horrible, terrible things I did, or the horrible, terrible person I was, well, I'm never going to run for office, but I can see now that even as horrible or terrible as I was, my basis for comparison was off. I wasn't the most horrible and terrible person in the world. I didn't do the most horrible and terrible things in the world. And the person I was, and the things I did, didn't have to define the rest of my life. And I could do that without hiding or lying about my past, but by being completely and totally open about my past.

And yeah, that meant some people who had called me a friend never wanted to talk to me again. For a while, it seemed like that included one of my own children, and that was agonizing. It still seems like it includes one of my siblings, and that sucks. But I know this: the friends I have now really and truly know me, and really and truly care about me. They don't just like the polished cleaned-up fake version of me everybody's known for decades. They like the real me, who's been a super-shitty person in the past, and may be a shitty person in the future again.

And these days, so do I.

Man, that got rambly. I guess I hope for you that you are also in a place where you like yourself, warts and all. Where you like the real you, complete with the dark past and the better future.

Because I really believe that if I can get past my shitty past, anyone can.

September 19, 2016 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Maps of the Rivers of Europe


University of New South Wales [Australia] Ph.D student Robbi Bishop-Taylor has redrawn Europe by mapping out its waterways.


Bishop-Taylor used open source geographic informational software called QGIS to research the 1.35 million streams of Europe.


The results: maps of Europe and its individual countries with waterways delineated in various shades of blue.


Line thickness is proportional to size and importance.


Bishop-Taylor's Etsy Shop has these and many other of his maps at quite reasonable prices.

[via Reality Carnival and MindCircle]

September 19, 2016 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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