On Depression

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I’ve been trying to write something like this for a couple of years, but it has been difficult for me to find the right words. I am not sure if I have, even now, but I think it is important that I try.

When I was diagnosed with depression, it was late summer in California, and I was wearing an itchy skirt, sweating slightly in an air-conditioned doctor’s office. The psychiatrist asked me a bunch of questions, wrote a couple things down, and then called in a prescription to the pharmacy. “You’re depressed,” she told me. And despite everything, despite expecting to hear her say it and knowing that it was the truth, it still confused me to hear it out loud. “I’m what,” I said.

For weeks after, I could not shake the sense of alienation or the feeling that something was terribly wrong with me. When I was finally able to tell my best friend, she told me that she got sad, too, sometimes, which just made me feel worse. It wasn’t sadness that I had been dealing with. It was something else, something much more permanent. It was the most difficult thing in the world to explain, but it wasn’t just when things were hard that I got sad. There were ordinary moments, too, when unhappiness would spread through my thoughts. At the most mundane, unexpected times — coming up for air in a swimming pool, drinking a glass of water on the back porch, stringing up laundry — I would suddenly be overcome with hopelessness. This was something I had been experiencing since I was about fifteen.

When things got really bad, I attempted to detach myself from reality. I hardly spoke to anybody, and when I did, my words were heavy and cruel. I drove spaces between myself and the people who cared about me and felt no remorse as I did. I grew my hair until it reached my hips, I stopped wearing shoes, and I scrubbed my hands nine, ten times a day. Somehow, they felt unclean no matter what I did. I only took cold showers, and I ran every morning until the only thing I felt was the ache of my body and a heartbeat in my left ear. I figured the more worn out I was, the easier it would be to sleep again.

I hated how cynical I was about everything, but I also didn’t know how to change what I thought. I only listened to very soft or very loud songs. I recoiled into my music and my writing and my silence. There was a simultaneous rapidity and idleness to everything; months passed with a persistent sort of speed, but the days were long and tedious. People who did not understand the tenacity of depression told me to “just be happy,” as though being happy is a decision we make. Maybe it is, but I don’t know how it could be.

Without getting into a lot of the things that lead to me actually going to a psychiatrist, because that’s really not the point of why I’m writing this, I will say that, generally, what a lot of it came down to was sticking around places and people that were not good for me. My problem is that I have such an incredible amount of fondness and love for all of the people in my life.

And yet the most important thing I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that it is possible to love a place or a person, but also know that they aren’t the right fit in any sort of permanent way. I have also learned that it is possible to know a lot of different things about a person but nothing about what they are actually like. I do not know if I will ever get used to it — having to quietly get rid of someone, having to leave some place — but I do know that it is the only thing I can do to help myself sometimes. It is the most difficult and important thing to understand that just because you need something to end in order to move on, doesn’t mean it wasn’t once the most significant, beautiful part of your life.

Another reason is that I have often found myself fixed in a horrible, temporary way of life, stuck between trying to start over where I am and being unable to forget what it was like somewhere else. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that so much of my happiness depends on how I perceive everything and everyone around me. And so I am learning to find the benevolence in everything and everyone.

Today, I can honestly say that I am content with where I am and with the people that I have surrounded myself with, but that is not to say that I am not still depressed. I am, but I am also so much better at dealing with it. Today, I know that learning about happiness has made me so much sadder and I know that summer is the same as winter, only warmer, and I know that, above all, it is okay to get like this sometimes. This past spring and summer especially, I poured my focus into the world around me. It didn’t fix everything, but it made me feel less isolated from myself and from other people.

I went to film viewings uptown and art galleries downtown. I bought a New York Times on my street corner every day and read it cover to cover. I read a lot ~ non-fiction pieces on grief, collections of french poetry, textbooks about the economy. But more than anything else, I wrote. I filled about a journal a week, and I spent the entire summer traveling and writing and writing. I finally finished my novel. And the day that I did was the only cold day of July but I was happy and impossibly full of love and empathy and care for everything and everyone.

I guess that we can’t really account for each other’s unhappiness, just like we can’t account for our own unhappiness. For a long time, I thought it was the most important thing in the world that I understood the sadness in me and in him and in her, but the truth is, I can’t make sense of any of it. That’s not really the point. A long time ago, somebody told me to look at the world with a certain disinterest — without any sort of selfishness or innocence or anything and I am trying so hard and it is making everything so much easier.

~ Natalie

Additionally, some songs, art, books, and films that have made things better:

 

Songs

New Slang ~ The Shins

Black Flies ~ Ben Howard

Re: Stacks ~ Bon Iver

Do You Realize?? ~ The Flaming Lips

Down By The Water ~ The Drums

Red Eyes ~ The War on Drugs

Comfortably Numb ~ Pink Floyd

April Come She Will ~ Simon & Garfunkel

A Rush And A Push and the Land Is Ours ~ The Smiths

 

Art

Trust Me ~ Moyra Davey

Any of Nan Goldin’s photographs

Porte-bouteilles ~ Marcel DuChamp

12 Shoes For 12 Lovers ~ Sebastian Errazuriz

The Plum ~ Manet

A Lot of Sorrow ~ The National

 

Books

The Year of Magical Thinking ~ Joan Didion

Slouching Towards Bethelehem ~ Joan Didion

The Bluest Eye ~ Toni Morrison

The Dharma Bums ~ Jack Kerouac

Changing My Mind ~ Zadie Smith

South of the Border West of the Sun ~ Haruki Murakami

 

Films

Goodwill Hunting

American Beauty

Almost Famous

Drive

Sleeping Giant

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Whiplash

Lost in Translation

Palo Alto

An Education

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221 responses

  1. Reblogged this on Don MacIver; poetry & prose and commented:
    Hello, friends.

    I wanted to share the writings of Natalie Breuer with you. I have just now connected with this young writer’s written works and I will leave the powerful dynamics of her subject matter for you discover as I have.

    I am struck by Natalie’s courage and selfless sharing of the great challenges of depression. She has much to offer to those who, similarly afflicted and challenged daily with one and the same, and I urge you to absorb Natalie’s self-examination and what is revealed on her site.

    By sharing those things which we are individually challenged with we can and do help others who may not be willing or ready to share here in their own way.

    Read Natalie Breuer…and share her in kind.

    Like

  2. Natalie, I wish you well always. What you share here is extremely important; for yourself and for those who battle the constant difficulties that you have described so unselfishly. I suffer from an anxiety disorder and, without comparison to depression, find it extremely difficult to describe to others who are no so afflicted.

    I will share your writings through my own site here Natalie. The importance of not sharing what we believe to be of significant value to others cannot be understated. I am inspired, by your courage and caring. I have much to learn.

    Like

  3. I suffered from depression for a long time. Went to a psychologist and pastor-counselor friend of mind. I’ve learned a lot about myself including that I was a co-dependent. I am thankful I have been cured of depression for several years. It was debilitating.

    Like

  4. There’s that brutal honesty so evident in your writing and you truly make depression feel like that hollow black feeling it promises itself to be. I particularly like the way you describe how slow time can pass rapidly and it’s just the way you write that forces a connection of empowerment and again, that brutal honesty.

    Like

  5. Reblogged this on PrincessBlabbermouth'sBlog and commented:
    So refreshing to see people who are mature enough to talk about this. Depression is real- it happens! You can’t just tell it to go away, like anything else it takes time. So to everyone who says “Cheer up!” Thanks, but remember, people don’t want to feel like that. Natalie Breuer, your blog is truly lovely!

    Like

  6. Hi Natalie,
    what a deep and thoughtful piece. I’ve been trying for a long time to put depression into a perspective that could be appreciated by more than just other depressed folks.

    I very much like your line about people giving advice to “just be happy” as if it was a choice. If it is a choice, like a switch that can be turned on or off, I wish someone would show me where it was.

    Wonderful writing. Thank you,
    Jim

    Like

  7. A Haiku I penned when I was closed clinically depressed and wanted someone to say something kind to me:
    “I want you to live.
    My life would not be the same
    Without you in it.”

    Like

  8. Hi Natalie, and congrats on finishing your novel! That alone is an amazing feat. 😄

    I’m sorry to hear what you’ve been through, and I’m glad you’re healed quite a bit since then. Thanks for writing this beautiful piece, and I hope it help to spread awareness about depression. 😊

    Here’s a hug to hopefully brighten up your day! ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Natalie,
    Your writing is beautiful. I truly understand and have suffered as you. I too feel as if I am getting better, but realize I am just more aware of my stressors. Besides the meds and counseling the things that have helped me the most are yoga and practicing mindfulness.

    The most important thing for you to know is that you are not alone. And, sadly, most people are too self-involved to think about your feelings. I know that sounds harsh, but in a way it is comforting to know they won’t be judging you! Just take it one day at a time. Know that your thoughts are not always truths. Get stronger and stay creative.

    Like

  10. This was truly incredible to read. It is written marvelously and truly transports you to the life of someone with depression. Though I do not have depression, many of my close friends do. It is so difficult to help them and empathize with how they feel when I just do not understand it. In hopes of wanting to help those I love the best that I can, I have done endless research as to how to help my friends cope with their depression. BUT this spectacular piece of writing depicts depression in a comprehensible way while also showing that depression cannot be loved away. Your writing is vulnerable and raw, which is what makes it so fascinating to read. It can resonate with ANYONE. I hope that you find what works best for you and feel better emotionally, because you deserve it. Thank you for this informative and phenomenal post.

    Like

  11. A beautifully written piece about a subject that it is hard for people to connect with if they haven’t suffered from depression themselves, and even then depression manifests itself in very different ways for everyone. Thank you for sharing your experience. The more of us who share, the fewer people who feel alone in their suffering. x

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Natalie, this was beautiful, heartfelt and very brave of you to write. Too many people do not understand what real depression is and that it’s far more than just being sad. Sadness is a normal emotion and we all feel sad at times for different reasons but being clinically depressed is something totally different. Depression is a word that has been overused by people who have no clue what they’re talking about. No wonder so many people don’t take the illness seriously. I think the medical community should change the name of the illness that is ‘depression’ to another name that people will respect and consider important because it is. ❤ I wish you all the best.

    Like

  13. I have found that everything is cyclical or like the ebb and flow of tide. I, too, have always found it difficult to let things go especially people in my life. But, I know that they will come back if the time is right. You must always surround yourself with positive energy and let all that is toxic go away. 💜

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  14. Hello … I have battled depression throughout most of my 50 years. I have taken numerous medications that would supposedly help, but I didn’t like the way any of them made me feel. They almost made me feel emotionless, which I didn’t like. Hang in there. I am guessing this blog is a bit therapeutic for you, which is good. You have a lot going for you from the looks of your blog and following. Keep up the great work!

    Like

  15. What an awesone post. Thank you. The piece about knowing that just because you need to let something go in order to move on, doesn’t mean it wasn’t once the most beautuful and sugnificant thing in your life… that resonates strongly. May have to write a poem about that.

    Like

  16. I appreciate your sharing this. I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life. Sometimes it’s not so bad, other times it’s overwhelming. Writing seems to help. So does playing music. Medication has taken the edge off at times, but other things are needed. I’m not so sure it’s a disease that needs a cure, but it is definately a struggle. It may be a strange view but I am convinced there are a lot of good things that can come from people who struggle with depression. Most artist, musicians, authors, poets, etc. are fellow strugglers. We seem to feel things in more intense ways than others. Therefore, we can make contributions others cannot. It does get dangerous with mood swings and suicidal thoughts. I guess this is why it is so important to have people who really know us and love us just as we are. That gets me through those dark moments. It also helps knowing fellow strugglers like yourself. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Mental Health and the Success of Let’s Talk | Richard H. Harris

  18. You found lots of good words. And I’m proud of how you’re learned so well to live with depression. I’ve been struggling – sometimes better, sometimes worse – with it for 50 years. My constant companion. You inspire me to keep trying to find words myself. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: Sunday Share Week 5 | All In A Dad's Work

  20. Thank you for writing such a true and honest account of what it feels like. I feel that only through talking about it can we break the stigma associated with it. I’m a fellow girl who has had depression for 9 years I understand. and hope you never have too many dark days x

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Hey Natalie.. I have after a long time felt through this particular piece of yours that writing is also an art because I can now see how beautiful you must be. To have the courage to feel all those negative and positive emotions and come out the other way.. But more to be OK with expressing them.. Trust me depression is not being happy and the inability to change that state.. It is the state of the mind where you go beyond your usual self and feel all kinds of emotions and sometimes get stuck with one of them..

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  22. I was in a relationship with a boy who suffered with depression and I wish I could have read this at the time to give me a more in depth understanding of how it feels on the other side.
    This is a truly amazing, genuine piece and I couldn’t praise you more for how empowering you are!!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am going through post-partum depression and have been for almost 3 years after having both my sons. I was ignoring all the signs because I thought that made me weak and a bad mom. I just seeked help about 2 months ago because I finally hit my low. I finally realized that by suppressing my feelings I became isolated and withdrawn from the people I love the most. Its people like you who are strong enough to share your story. If you have helped one person it was worth it. Thank you for sharing. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Pingback: The way I wish I could write: Natalie Breuer, “On Depression” – Sunlight in Winter

  25. Natalie, I’m so glad to have read this beautiful post. My own daughter was diagnosed with depression two years ago. It’s been a struggle. I know that it’s something you’re never cured of, but you can learn to live with it and have a happy life. My daughter turns 17 next month. For Christmas we got her a puppy. It’s brought so much joy into her life that I thank God every day for that little dog. Best wishes on your journey.

    Like

  26. I feel like I just read a post out of my own journal, I can relate so well, even in the way of reaction to things I am the same. I hope that I can get to a place of contentment that you are currently at. Even your playlist, list of books and movies align my tastes as well. We would be good friends! Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I have lived with mental illness since a child but went undiagnosed till my 20s. I don’t know if my blog will help you but you are not alone. Please read introduction and about. Then check out the rest of the menu options. I use to listen to, and still do at times, Hard Rock, heavy metal and different symphonic metal and Goth bands. In recent times I’ve found a band Nemeses which helps me when I’m feeling…the album The Quiet Resistance especially the song It’s Over really resonates with me. Looking forward to reading your future posts.
    K.Frazier (collection of words 5150)
    (If you are unaware 5150 is a police term in CA for someone with mental illness being involuntary committed.)

    Like

  28. Thank you for sharing.

    I was diagnosed with depression and PTSD in summer of 2015. I remember years prior to this going through periodic hopelessness and darkness. I thought maybe it was my laziness or something I was doing wrong. The diagnosis brought a lot of relief because then I knew it wasnt because I was ‘bad’ but because of this illness.

    I’ve started writing/blogging about my experiences in order shake off the shame associated with my struggles (I was abused as a child). I too remember starting the process of writing about this, fighting with fear, shame and shear inability to find the right words to articulate this. For over a year I procrastinated, until I started writing end of November 2016. Oh such relief!!!

    Again, thank you for sharing. You are welcome to check out my blog about my experiences (www.thulimazwi.com here on wordpress)

    Like

  29. I’m so happy that I came across this post. It really made me think about all of my mental illnesses. And together, we can empathize.

    I’m sad a lot. I believe in things that aren’t true a lot. I wish that I wasn’t alive a lot. But these awful feelings have seduced me into a relationship with a mentality that I didn’t ask for…but whether I’m hiding from the world, arguing with the voices in my head, or tearing the skin around my nails apart, I’m living in the moment. I’m living now.

    So I dye my hair lavender. I wear leggings as pants almost every day. I stay up until 3 a.m. on a school night solely for the sake of watching the stars move with the earth’s rotation.

    Keep on living, girl. From what I see, you’re doing it beautifully.

    XOXO
    Capturing the Corners

    Like

  30. Poor girl, I’ve been down that road before, unfortunately. I’m so glad that you got the help that you needed because the “just cheer up” or “come on, shake it off” can just make a depressed person feel worse and guilty.

    Here’s the good news: Keep going seeing your doc…It will get better. It will.

    Big hugs and prayers form a mom,
    Stephanie

    Like

  31. Thank You for being so honest about what you have gone through and how you feel and felt at the time I have just been diagnosed 3 months ago with both Hyper and Hypo Thyroid-ism and along with that depression and anxiety and so many other symptoms it’s not funny I’m currently waiting to see a Endocrinologist to get me sorted fingers crossed, I’m so glad you got help and are on the road to recovery my chemist told me it will take baby steps you give me hope for the my future 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Natalie, it breaks my heart that you are in the throes of depression. I’ve only experienced one bout in my life, about six weeks in length. Our two children were small; I could hardly wait until they took naps in the afternoon, and when they went to bed at night. I can’t imagine dealing with the heaviness of it long term. I pray God will lead you to the doctor/treatment that will conquer your depression, and He will surround you with caring people to love you and provide support.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Maybe I’m wrong but I’m starting to think that ‘depression’ is just a normal reaction to living in this messed up world. I’ve felt like you since I was 13, and whilst it’s not always the same it’s always there to some extent. Even when I’m ‘happy’ I don’t really see the point in continuing. We live in such an awful world with so little meaning to our lives. The only mistake is assuming that happiness is normal and depression is abnormal. I reckon if people weren’t so afraid to admit it, most people must feel something like that. I always thought I was abnormal and that it was to do with not being rich/pretty/popular etc. But nothing ever changes and you eventually realise that it’s not something that only affects certain people in certain situations but something that can affect anyone and everyone.

    Like

    • Depression is a disorder in the brain, it is definitely not a normal reaction. Yes, the world has gotten truly strange but I do think it’s the fact that we have so much information and most of it bad coming directly into our homes. There are truly beautiful people, there are good people doing great things, there is hope but you have to dig through the garbage that sells tabloid and gains ratings. There still is a lot of kindness and decency out there, you just have to find it and decide for yourself that you are going to find the good in this world. There is also a higher purpose to all of this, something we’ve been taught to ignore and avoid, in an effort not to be preachy I avoid even using the word God or faith, in fear of turning off the conversation.

      Another point you are totally wrong in is, You are Rich, I read some of your blog and you are so articulate and full of great wisdoms and ideas. The fact that you are freelancing the way you are, it is inspiring and I know you are really great at it. I was impressed enough to follow and send a long email. You are very pretty, amazing eyes and warm smile, it’s amazing how we as people can’t realize how beautiful we are, again in this world that has a strange and tainted view of what’s pretty. And you are popular, popular enough to have a stranger give you complements without any motives other to let you know how special you really are.

      Depression is a horrible disorder, it is often a normal progression of growing up but it is also something that you can get help for and there is hope that you can get through and beyond it’s grasp. I’m sorry for the long post, I just think someone like you with so much to offer this world should not be seeing this world as having little meaning. Look beyond the packaging, there is beauty and good in this world.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. WALKING THE DOG

    I have a black dog
    I hide away from people
    In his lightless kennel
    He would attack them
    Savage them to death
    Given half a chance

    But some days
    I have to walk the dog
    No choice I’m afraid
    Roles suddenly switch
    He becomes the top dog
    It’s his turn to take the lead

    His loss and pain exposed
    I can never fail but love him
    Despite his murderous eyes
    After a walk, perhaps a bark or two
    He can be mastered once more
    Kennelled in the silence

    In the end though
    He is my only companion
    My only reliable friend
    I call him Consolation
    Even on the blackest of days he reminds me
    There’s always death to look forward to

    Like

  35. I suffer from anxiety and depression. I take meds and it makes a lot of my symptoms better, but it doesn’t alleviate all of them. Sometimes (most times) it’s hard for me to get off the couch. But I do it as much as I can. I try to function I’m proud of you for sharing your story; depression is a lifelong battle we will always face. Music and art do help!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Thank you. I went through this last year and now I think I am back at it again, but reading this just made me feel better. It helped me think to myself that it is normal, and you don’t get to be immune with it, you just learn to handle it better the next time it comes at you. Thank you so much. All the love, Faith x

    Liked by 1 person

  37. I can remember when someone close to me went through a similar experience. Doctors gave some very strong medications which were useless, and it was only by chance it was later found to be a thyroid problem which when treated began a six month turnaround to a much better state of mind. I went through a bout of sickness myself which sent me into depression. The doctors were smart enough to see the need for a serotonin boost and that with exercise and diet got me back in shape. We are all different and your case is obviously not the same as someone else’s case history. The bottom line is many of us can genuinely understand the dark space you’ve obviously had to deal with and I wish you a speedy recovery and happy life.

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  38. Thank you! I was brought to tears reading this! I can totally relate. I see myself doing the same thing, with pouring myself into music. I avoid everyone and just let music wash over me. I get the urge to write and need to keep doing that. Seeing this post has inspired me. Thank you so much!!! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

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