Most people who interact with me in person or for the past 20+ months, virtually through video conferencing, know me to be a funny, laughing, and cheerful soul. Even these days.
And I am knee-deep in depression.
Before I go on, I want to let people know I am under the care of a doctor and a therapist, so don’t worry about me, okay?
But yeah, situational depression has walloped me hard. It has joined forces with perimenopause hormonal weirdness, and the seasonal fatigue of fibromyalgia.
A perfect storm of yuck.
I feel sad, for sure, and wiped. It’s hard to concentrate. Everything seems difficult to do right now. But on a day of me feeling really low, you might also find me posting about my latest book, my LEGO Star Wars Advent calendar mini-build, or how I was singing along to show tunes.
Depression isn’t always being sad and remaining under the covers. It can be a wibbly-wobbly thing. I can still laugh while managing a depression. I can even still be productive, socialize. But the underlying symptoms are still there. So, I need to keep in touch with my medical staff and be honest with my loved ones about how I’m doing. Since I also consider myself an advocate for mental health and normalizing its discussion, I am open about it on social media too. And, this blog.
Depression isn’t something to be ashamed of. For me, it can be a sign I have put up with a crappy situation for far too long and want the crappy situation to be yeeted into the sun. Yes, pandemic, this would be a subtweet about you if I had written it as a tweet.
Depression has been an unwanted visitor a few times in my life. I rate it zero stars. Mainly because my brain can be really mean to me and put me down a lot. One friend said my depression is jealous of me, and tries to keep me from seeing how awesome I am. (I need to bake this human a cake.) But yeah, depression for me tries to rob me of my joy. So an act of resistance against it is to seek out people and activities who/that stir joy.
One thing I have learned is how much I need people right now. I am ridiculously lucky, though. My critique group of authors are there to help me through the developmental writing phase. This is something I never really needed before, but I heckin’ value it these days! I have a relationship with my husband where I can openly talk about my mental health and receive support. My closest friends are also dealing with mental health issues, so we get each other. And I appreciate the support from the medical professionals who want me to thrive. I have zero shame in asking for help. I will wave the flag, ring the bell, whatever it takes to announce I need someone to keep me from sinking.
The timing of this wave of mental illness is interesting too. Work-wise, I mean. I am co-editing another anthology with my BFF, Talia C. Johnson (Nothing Without Us Too). It’s again a collection of stories from authors who are disabled, Deaf, Blind, Spoonie, and/or they manage mental health. If I had to work on any project while managing a depression, this is a good one. I know I am among my peers. So, how do I take on a project of this magnitude while depressed? Talia and I have a system designed for maximum Spoonie-ness. Plus, we’re really upfront and real with how we’re doing. But the stories lift me up as well. Knowing there are other authors in my community who are putting words together in this awful time feels like an act of hope—and rebellion, to be honest.
In my upcoming book, Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space, there is a senior officer who manages mental illness. I never reveal a diagnosis but refer to “peaks and valleys”. Depression can feel like peaks and valleys. The wibbly-wobbliness of depression in my experience means that it isn’t static. Some days suck to maximum suckage, other days are great, some are meh. I might react to depression by fighting it, or resting, or cosplaying a Barbie.
Creativity has always been a huge rescuer of my brain. I’m grateful I am still able to feel motivated for those things. Even turning my Star Wars mini-builds into ornaments for my tree has been fun. Cosplaying Barbies into Lartha and Iris from my book was special too. I say hi to them every day.
Oftentimes, I will be making some craft and getting really into it, then I’ll say to my husband, “I don’t know why doing this is so important to me right now.” And he’ll reply with, “Because it makes you happy. It’s good to do it.”
And that’s kind of it, isn’t it? Things don’t have to make sense as I manage this depression. If what I am doing brings joy and isn’t harmful to myself or anyone else, then that’s how I’ll ride out this whirly brain condition.
Just know that I will believe folks who can be happy and still insist they are dealing with depression. Totally understand what that means. My hope is that you get the supports you require to take care of you best. My wish is that you thrive to utmost thrivage. That’s not even a word, but I don’t care.
So, in closing, sure, it’s supremely difficult wanting to live through this muck, I mean, experiencing a situational depression where the situation is pan-global is so wicked awful.
But my greatest inspiration is spite.
I shall stay alive for spite.
You know, like, “Ha! I’m still here. Deal with it.”
Cait Gordon is a Canadian autistic, disabled, and queer author of speculative fiction that celebrates diversity. She also co-edited Nothing Without Us with Talia C. Johnson, a 2020 Prix Aurora Award finalist for Best Related Work that has thrice been part of a disability studies syllabus at Trent University. (The submission window for Nothing Without Us Too is currently open until Jan 31, 2022!) When not fine-tuning manuscripts, Cait advocates for disability representation and is the founder of the Spoonie Authors Network.