Have you ever had to describe depression to someone? How do you do it? As someone who writes a lot and reads a lot more, I’ve found myself struggling time and time again to find the correct words and string them together into a coherent sentence to explain to people exactly what it feels like. Or, at the very least, what it feels like for me, because it’s different for everyone.
In the almost-three-years that we’ve been together, Mr OneBigStressball and I have tried numerous times to have a conversation about it. I guess he wants to be able to understand what is happening within my mind when I go through periods of depression and to be honest, I want to be able to articulate correctly why I am the way I am sometimes.
Through the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course I’ve been doing, I have come to learn and accept that my illness does not define me. I am NOT depression, I simply HAVE depression. This means that I can choose to react to the symptoms of depression with control, and not let it control me. Now, that’s all well and good, but when you’re in the middle of what I sometimes call ‘blips’ it’s extremely difficult to take that step back and not let the way you’re feeling in the moment – or days or weeks, or even sometimes months for some people – consume you and take over your life. This can be very difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t suffer from depression:
I want to get out of bed but my brain has told the rest of my body that I physically cannot get up.
I have had enough sleep, but my body feels so fatigued I need to go nap.
I know I have a good life, but I cannot feel joy, and haven’t been able to do so for a while.
I know there are people who love me, but I feel so isolated and alone.
I want to go out and be social but the mere thought of it right now is making me seize up in terror.
I’m stuck in what feels like emotional quicksand and it’s suffocating.
How do explain these feelings without sounding like you’re either lazy, neurotic or like you’re isolating yourself on purpose? Perhaps it’s just something I haven’t quite got the hang of, and it will come in time, but for now, I want to share a little secret.
There is a television show called Big Mouth, which you can stream on Netflix.
Mad. Mad is the only word I can think of right now that can describe it. But in the best way possible. Think Family Guy-esque cartoons for adults, but about children going through puberty. In all its ridiculousness and random musical episodes, it’s actually pretty accurate and they know what they’re talking about. I mean, what better way to describe the weird things we did as pre-pubescent teens than to personalise our hormones into ‘hormone monsters’ and tackle it from that angle? The show is full of quick one-liners and witty comebacks, and successfully explores themes such as periods, masturbation and the complicated relationship between teenagers, their friends, and of course, their own raging hormones.
This wasn’t an AD by the way, I’m just really impressed with what Nick Croll and his team have done.
Anyway, I digress. The reason I wanted to talk about the show was because it played a big [part in how Mr OnebigStressball has been able to understand depression, and begin to scratch the surface of what it’s like to live with it. On a drive out to the countryside not long ago, I was feeling a bit down and trying my hardest to convey what I was going through to Mr OneBigStressball. He looked confused for a minute, then quipped ‘oh, like the Depression Kitty in Big Mouth?’
It was like a light bulb had just switched on in his brain and he started to know what I’d been banging on about.
‘It’s time for a new approach, we just want things to be easier, don’t we?’
– The Depression Kitty, Department of Puberty.
In one of the first episodes that the Depression Kitty appears, she becomes the new hormone monster for a character named Jessie. She encourages Jessie to lie in bed and not do anything, and tells her to keep scrolling through her phone and social media pages, even though Jessie’s neck begins to hurt from lying in the same position for so long. When Jessie eventually gets sick and tired of lying in bed, she tries to get up, only to have the Depression Kitty point blank refuse, and when Jessie tries to fight it, Depression Kitty simply sits on top of her, intent on making her stay in bed no matter what.
It took some genius in the Netflix world to come up with a simple cartoon to make Mr OneBigStressball begin to understand how out of control depression can make you feel. It is, like in the cartoon, akin to having a monster sit on you and refuse to let you get on with your day. Maybe it’s because he’s a man and relates to these cartoons, or maybe he just needed a visual representation of the situation, but whatever it was, it really did help to start a conversation between us.
Whether it be to relive and chat about the awkward teenage years that we went through back in the day, when hair was sprouting in random places and we suddenly had boobs, or to address more serious things like anxiety and depression, Big Mouth and its portrayal of children being controlled by their hormones has definitely hit the nail on the head in terms of bringing these themes into popular culture.
If you’re struggling to make yourself understood, or even just don’t want to have a face to face conversation about how you are feeling but want your loved one(s) to know even just a fraction of what you’re dealing with, show them Season 2, Episode 10 of Big Mouth, which is when the Depression Kitty makes her debut.
Have you struggled to explain how you were feeling in the past?
How did you find a way to express yourself?