30 August, 2018
Time to write perhaps the most personal post of the week, talking about depression. It’s not an easy topic to talk about in the first place, but when it’s affecting you and you’re all too aware of the stigmas, it can be even harder to deal with it.
But I want to say a few words. We’ll see how long my courage holds out.
Depression lies to you. It tells you that things are shit when they’re not quite so bad. I mean, we don’t exactly live in an era of peace and happiness, so it’s not like there’s a ton of stuff that reinforces that things aren’t so bad. Even if you avoid most of the news (which is hard for me since I live near Washington D.C.) the news cycle thrives off of focusing on the negative.
But depression tells you things are worse than that. That you only see the tip in the news, and there’s a yawning abyss of trouble brewing under the surface, waiting to swallow you up. That the things you do don’t matter, that you don’t matter, that things might as well go on without you. You can understand logically that depression is lying to you, but that doesn’t mean the emotional part doesn’t kick you in the shins every chance it gets.
Having something positive in your life helps, but it doesn’t negate these feelings completely. Sometimes you can work to distract yourself, or tell yourself it’s not so bad, but the depression is just under the surface.
It gets worse when the world seems to work to reinforce this. My last two major jobs didn’t end well, seemingly from politics being played behind the scenes. I wasn’t told “your work isn’t good enough” or “let’s work to improve this”, it was “We’re going in a new direction with things” or “we can’t afford to pay you, but everyone else is getting paid.” I’m sure they have some excuses ready if things came down to a lawsuit, but feedback wasn’t given to help improve things.
But the reality is that I know I’m older. I didn’t work on a big hit, and I’m not ready to throw my life away for unpaid crunch to meet an arbitrary deadline because I feel like that’s dumb. Probably because I’m old enough and have already done this enough to know it doesn’t matter as much as things like seeing my significant other matter. So it’s easier to get rid of me rather and keep the status quo of long hours and greasy pizza and caffeinated pop for every meal instead of dealing with someone who wants to live better than that.
Still, it does horrible things to one’s self-worth to realize that my hard-won experience at running a company, understanding business, even doing years of blog posts on design issues matter so little. It makes you doubt in an industry already rife with doubt and “impostor syndrome” victims. And this is why I think exclusion is so toxic, because it discounts not just my experience because I’m “old” but also everyone else’s experience that could help because they don’t fit the in-group.
There’s lots to be said about gaming, but the truth is that it acts as a great distraction for depression. You can focus your efforts into something that feels like it matters. I’m not just talking about grinding up a meaningless character, but rather things like touching other people’s lives. Being the person who organizes a group where they finally feel they fit in. Or being the patient ear that truly listens to someone who feels they have nobody else to talk to.
Being that person who helps others feels like life has meaning. I don’t have to worry about convincing other people of my worth, I know I might have saved someone from a shitty day, of falling into depression themselves, or even worse thoughts entering their mind. Online friendships may not be quite the same as other friendships, especially as they can seem more ephemeral, but they ultimately do have some meaning.
Should I get therapy? Probably. But some of my problems aren’t things I can just talk out. Taking a pill has consequences beyond the initial boost in mood. So I do the best I can despite not feeling like it’ll ever quite measure up to my potential again.
Thanks for listening. Always keep in mind there may be more going on beneath the surface than what people will let on.