Dear depression and self-loathing: Fuck you

Depression-depression-33252772-800-707

I feel as though I should start this by saying, through all his faults, I do love my father. Truly. OK, now to the story.

I’ve been lying to people for weeks. No “big” lies, but not exactly “little” lies either. But lies most of us tell. They ask, “How are you?” and I respond, “I’m doing aight.” I’m not. I’m not aight. I’m the furthest thing from it.

I should have caught it earlier. The weird sleep patterns, the lack of appetite, the increased alcohol consumption, the fatigue, the lack of motivation to do even the things I enjoy. Depression. I’ve been here so many times before. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression back in 2008, after spending most of that spring and summer experiencing daily panic attacks that ultimately prevented me from graduating college. Since then, I’ve certainly had depressed episodes, but nothing I couldn’t identify immediately and then do all I could to correct. I was slipping this time around.

That’s another lie. It isn’t that I didn’t recognize what was happening, it’s that I didn’t want to do anything about it. I didn’t want to be strong. I didn’t want to fight back. I’m tired. 

I’ve been feeling like I’d much rather sink into it, let the depression envelope me in all of its distorted comfort. Because…well, this brings me back to my father.

I’ve never had a very good relationship with my pops. I’ve never really had a decent relationship with him, either. Whether he knew it or not, we were always at odds with one another. He thought he was raising me. I knew he was crushing me.

Like many a father, mine is an old school patriarch. He saw his role as provider and disciplinarian, not much more. He practiced the kind of masculinity that I often critique: the unfeeling,

The older I got, the more I saw him trying to shape and mold me into the type of man he thought I should be, the more I resisted, the more he made me feel unloved. I got the sense that if I wasn’t perfect, the way he saw perfect, he would never love me. He pushed on school, on extracurriculars, on household chores, on the music I listened to, on the way I dressed, on every conceivable facet of my life. Any slip from his perfect vision was cause for swift and harsh punishment. It only hurt more that he could brag about me in front other people, friends and strangers alike, about what a great son he had, but could never bring himself to say those words to me.

Whenever I say this, I sound like I’m whining. When there are fathers in this world that are so much worse, the only complaints I have to register is that mine wanted me to do my best. I wish that were all there was to it. His method of parenting bred in me a deep sense of inadequacy.

I’m supposed to be grateful that I had a father in my life. But when sending him a text to wish him happy birthday triggers anxiety, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be grateful for. I can’t speak to him without feeling worse about myself, no matter the conversation. And whenever something genuinely good does happen in my life, I can’t help but feel it just isn’t good enough. For him.

Or, more damagingly, that I’m not good enough for the good in my life. I feel guilty. I feel like I’ve stolen all of my achievements from someone more deserving. I feel people who claim to love me have it displaced. When depression slinks in and tries to take over, I’m OK with it, because I feel like that’s exactly what I deserve.

I keep searching for validation or my worth, my beauty, in my work and friendships and romantic entanglements and Twitter and money and clothes, largely to no avail. Because all of those things are fleeting. There’s a void that I’ve become adept at talking around.

I’m profoundly unhappy with my life. And not because anything is wrong. By almost every measure, my life is great. But I don’t feel worthy of it.

That’s something that can only be corrected from within. But depression convinces me that I shouldn’t, that I can’t, that it’s not worth it. It offers the validation of my worthlessness and comfort in never having to fight back against that thought.

I wish I was just fishing for compliments here and that would make it all better. But it doesn’t. Trust me, I’ve tried that before. This is me attempting to be honest with myself. Depression can’t win against honesty.

I’m listening to a lot of Raphael Saadiq lately (not because I’m depressed, because the man’s a genius) and his song “Staying in Love” where he sings: “Falling in love can be easy/staying in love is too tricky.” He was talking about romantic love, but I think the same is true for self love. I fell in love with myself once, but I’ve yet to figure out how to stay there. It wouldn’t “cure” my anxiety or depression, but I wouldn’t be so prone to accept depression if I could figure out how to love myself more consistently.

I’m committed, now, to trying. For anyone else out there dealing with the same, I hope you can find a way to try, too.

MychalMychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute.

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9 Comments

  1. Posted May 9, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Can’t sum up my internet hugs verbally, so: <3

    I'm finally accepting that there are some feelings I might struggle with for the rest of my life. Like you said… just commit to trying.

  2. Posted May 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Good luck, Mychal. Everyone has a different path when dealing with depression, but for what it’s worth, here are my two cents. If you’re seeking treatment, which I recommend, what (finally) worked for me was a combination of drugs and weekly therapy. The drugs helped me get to a point where I had the energy to start dealing with the underlying issues. The therapy is what is really making the long term difference. Despite being a person who assumed I fully understood myself beforehand, I’ve since discovered so much and have been able to significantly change some of my thinking patterns. Also, since you’re a writer I’m assuming you’re also a reader, in which case I would strongly recommend reading The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon. It really helped give me a historical and medical scaffolding I could use to try and start understanding my depression. I also felt like a little less pathetic personally after reading Lincoln’s Melancholy, which gave a fascinating account of how depression shaped Lincoln’s life and work. Best of luck.

  3. Posted May 9, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Reading this was like reading through my own head. My mum passed away 10yrs ago after a short battle with cancer. We never had a great relationship and when she died I felt guilty grieving for her, like I had no right to cry. The funeral was like a social gathering to me. At the wake a friend of my mum’s who she’d only met a handful of times, got talking to me and made a comment stating ‘oh you’re the daughter your mum never got on with’. At the time I didn’t register what she had said but over the years it played on my mind. I wondered what was wrong with me that my mum couldn’t love me like she did my sisters and brothers. I felt that if my mum couldn’t bring herself to love me then how could I expect anyone else to love me. A mother’s love is meant to be unconditional yet it was missing from my life. I never asked for help or asked my dad what was wrong with me, I bottled it all up until 6 months ago when it became too much. I had planned to end my life because I felt so worthless, fat, ugly and hopeless. I felt no one really wanted to be in my company because I’d nothing of value to offer them. I was paranoid, walking through town if anyone made eye contact with me I automatically thought they were repulsed by the sight of me. My friend talked me in to going to the doctors, I was prescribed anti depressants, I was reluctant to take them. I also began seeing a counsellor. This past few weeks I’ve come to realise that it’s ok to be me, it’s ok to be overweight, I do deserve to be loved and I am a good person. I’ve spent the best part of 35yrs hating my life and wanting to fit in. Now I realise it’s not me I have a problem with but rather other people’s perception of me. If I want to change anything about me it’ll be because I want to and not because it’s what is expected of me. Depression sucks big time and I wish I had asked for help sooner, but I’ve promised myself I’m never going back to the personal hell I lived in. I hope you find your peace x

  4. Posted May 9, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    To be honest, Mychal, you’re my favourite contributor on this site. I think you consistently talk the most sense, and your posts are excellent.

    I regularly read through the articles, and almost every time I go, “Yes, extremely sensible, very well-written, completely(or almost entirely) agree, really enjoyed it,” and then check the author, you’re the one who wrote it. This article is as usual, a thought-provoking piece that a lot of people will probably relate to, a post that is clear and concise, getting everything across it needs to. I know it’s not much coming from a stranger on the internet, and it’s a load of useless, clichéd words, but you’re definitely worth a million times more than you feel. Just fight it as much as you can, by doing whatever you have to do to try and get better, because it’s not you, as such, it’s a disease. Good luck anyway, seriously.

    (And I was planning on commenting to let you know how much I enjoyed your posts even more I saw this one, I just figured this was as good a chance as any to comment)

  5. Posted May 9, 2014 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I could have written this about myself and my mother, almost word for word. Hang in there. You are not alone. Check out the book The Drama of the Gifted Child.

  6. Posted May 10, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Mychal – no advice or platitudes, but I’ve been in that place too of wanting to sink. I’m sending you my good wishes, and hope x

  7. Posted May 10, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Oh my gosh, Mychal, I relate to this deeply. My father and I have a very complicated relationship. It’s only recently, and with a lot of work (self-help, therapy, meditation), that I’ve really started to gain some insight into just how it affected me. My whole identity growing up revolved around his image of me, of him living vicariously through me due to his own unhealed trauma. But at some point an intuition struck me and I began to separate from that image. And it was a long, bumpy, often self-destructive, occasionally deeply depressing journey. But I’ve reached a place of healing, of self-love, and of approaching my fear (and none of these states are permanent! It’s an everyday battle). I don’t know what will work for you, but for me I’ve begun letting go of my images of what I “should” be. When I’m down on myself for not having something, or being at a certain place in my career, or relationship/family/friendship issues, I remind myself that none of these things define me. That I am still a fundamentally worthy human being, just as everyone else is, even when I hurt others or I am hurting.

    I hope you find strength and healing in your journey. Be patient with yourself.

  8. Posted May 10, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Wow. It’s kind of eerie. When i started reading this I felt like someone was narrating my own life. My regular trysts depression, my dysfunctional relationship with my father, my struggle to attain and retain a sense of self worth. I was really hoping to read more…

    One thing of the many things that a similar relationship with my own father that has affected me that I’m coming to realize only recently is the status of romantic relationships in my life. Its a current issue right now so I’m writing about it. I have never been in a relationship. I have never even dated. For years I had a hand-to-hand combat with severe body dysmorhphia (which got better two years ago once I started accepting my genderqueer) and severe inferiority complex. There was a time when I actually used to believe that I am not good enough for anyone. I actually believed that I am undateable.

    For years, I kept falling for straight men. And it wouldn’t be like simple stupid crush or infatuation that would fleet away with time. Every single time it would be massively head over heels kind of falling over them. The endless months of agony and misery. I would overcompensate with giving more than I normally would into a friendship, pretending we’re just friends and I can live with my attraction for them. That’s never a good plan. Obviously thing’s would get messed up beyond repair.

    Right now, I’m nursing a similar getting over process. But this time it was a gay guy. And he has been the closest friend I have ever had. We saw each other through our respective difficulties. And the amount of care and affection is uncomparable to anything I have experienced so far. But then I screwed it up. I fell for him. I fell for him hard. Things got so difficult. Finally I came out to him about my feelings for him. And then it all made sense to him. We had one of the last conversations overflowing with all the love, where we decided to end the friendship for now and figure this out later.

    Why I am talking about that? Because he has been going through a massive break up with one of the most important relationship of his life. It will be a year in June since they hit the rocky shores. He has been left so damaged by it, he’s still picking up the pieces. I knew where he was. But I still fell for him. Even though I knew it would be tantamount to nothing, but let myself drown in the idea of it.

    Someone got pissed at me during one of my depressions and called me a “Rejection Junkie”. That really rang a bell in my head. When I read your article, instantaneously my brain started drawing parallels about my relationship with my dad and how i keep repeating the same nature of relationship even now. I think I consciously or sub-consciously seek out men who are categorically unavailable and I know I will be rejected. And I’ll let myself lose into the utopian fantasies craving and waiting for love that I will never receive, same way the love that I never received from my father. I’ll wallow in self-loathing and misery in a complete absence of any self-worth until it all hits the fan and it ends.

    To be honest, my realizations have only come this far. I have no idea what to do about it or where to go from here. I hope to find out a way sooner than later… But thanks for this. At least make you feel like you’re not alone…

  9. Posted May 11, 2014 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    This is amazing. Thank you for talking so openly about your experiences. Undoubtedly, this will reach others exactly when they need some sort of hope that there is someone else feeling the same way. You’ve deserved all the good things that you’ve gotten in your life! It takes a special kind of person to write something so open and vulnerable when experiencing depression, something that tells every part of you to close up and shut down. Be good to yourself and stay open.

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