It’s been a struggle for all of us this winter: between COVID deaths now over 500,000 in the US, watching our democracy crumble, record cold and snow in many areas of the United States, the rising rates of failure amongst our students, higher rates of mass shootings and murder, and basically anything on the news, it’s been depressing for quite awhile. Add to that a nearly criminal lack of new movies and shows to watch to provide even a modicum of escapism and it’s a perfect storm of yuck.
And this is how it is for all you neurotypicals, just imagine what it’s like for those of us who are atypical in our grey matter. Surprise, it’s not been fun.
I’ve been trying many things to alleviate the existential terror surrounding us: writing (ha), exercise, doing good deeds, sex, making really good food, making really bad food, you name it, and while it worked for a while, it never lasts. These measures are meant to be short-term fixes to get you through bad spells, but what happens when the bad spell is a bad year? I can’t try to screw daily for a year! I’m nearly 44! And honestly, once this is over, I’m not going to cook for a month straight.
So how do you marathon the terrible horrible? I mean, lots of people do it. Seriously, when I think about people in parts of the world who have it worse than this on the daily, and have been dealing with it for decades, I feel like I don’t really have room to complain.
Except, there are two major problems with that: One, don’t minimize your own trauma just because you think it’s less than someone else’s. Sure, there are children working in mines or whole towns under constant threat of violence by cartels, and hundreds of types of existences far worse than yours, but that doesn’t mean you should brush off your own suffering because of it. Your trauma is valid, and the impulse to compare yours to another’s is very real but dangerous.
And two, sometimes it’s okay to just be sad and depressed, to allow yourself the leave to wallow in it for a bit. To curl up in your room with bad food and a comforting movie, to have a good cry, to rage, whatever. This becomes a problem when it endangers yourself or others, of course. If the depths of your depression are preventing you from caring for yourself, or others, is actually causing you harm, then it’s time to get help. And if you see people who are at risk of harming themselves, either through lack of self-care or physically harming themselves, you also owe it to them and yourself to reach out and help. If you don’t know-how, there are tons of resources out there to help. A simple google search will turn up sites like the Mayo Clinic’s page on helping others with depression, or this page from HelpGuide.org.
In the meantime, I’m looking for new therapists for myself, I’m trying to practice more mindfulness and take my studying of Buddhism more seriously. The sun is shining longer, we’re going for walks outside more, and I’m feeling better about life in general. Like many other atypicals out there, small things can trigger another depressive episode, but I’m learning to give myself the grace to accept them, to learn about what was it that bothered me, and how to talk about it.
But in the meantime, I’m back to writing and laughing and enjoying life with my family.
This post is republished on Medium.
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