Good things about depression? The mere concept seems absurd. But the answer for me lies with the motif of this blog: queerness. In this entry, I want to talk about the “good” or “positive” facets of depression by talking about it through a queer lens.
For me, being queer means being an outsider and taking pride in being an outsider. It is being a pariah. It is being and living at the margins and making a home there. Being queer is different from being gay and different from being transgender. Those could well be part of it, but they do not define it. Queerness is more expansive and distinctly more political. In my view queer is radical and it is revolutionary. It takes pride in being different. Which is why all of the emphasis on normativity and status quo establishmentarianism is so annoying [military service, marriage, adopting children, etc.] and so thoroughly anti-queer.
If I revel in my queerness there is a way I can revel in my depression in that both confer outsider status. It is very important to state: being gay or trans does not cause one to be depressed. Being gay or trans in the context of a virulently homophobic and transphobic society may cause one to be depressed. Making society less homophobic and transphobic may make LGBT people less depressed. But in the interim, many queer folks deal with depression and search for ways to survive with it or even find “positive” aspects of it to make sense of their suffering. What are some possible “positive” things about depression for me [these may not resonate with other depressed folk]:
1. Having depression makes me more sensitive. I have to be. It makes me more sensitive to other people’s illnesses, disabilities and life adversity. Suffering can cause great compassion to develop. It can help manifest empathy in the depressed person’s life. Sensitivity is a good thing. There is far too much harshness in our society. Depression has caused me to develop greater empathy, compassion and sensitivity and that is indeed a gift.
2. We have to think about our health: mind, body and spirit. Depression means thinking about where you are in terms of your mind, body and spirit. It means taking action to work on mending yourself. We cannot ignore our depression. If we do so, we do it at our own peril.
3. Depression can be life-threatening, so it makes you reflect more carefully on the value of life. Life is so precarious. It can be gone in the blink of an eye. When you make it through the dark tunnel to the other side, you can have a new appreciation for the value of life. We have good coping skills. However hard it is, I now often think, very simply: I am alive. And what a miracle it is that I have had the ability to live my life for 44 years. I am thankful for life, even though it has been full of suffering.
4. We get stronger. One of the most obvious positive parts of depression is our strength, determination and resiliency. Many of us go through hell and back. But we make it, and we get stronger and we get smarter. I would not be who I am if I had not had depression. It has certainly made me more determined to fight and to take pride in my queerness, my fatness and my crip-ness. Depressed people are often cast as weak, as tragic and as victims. An opposite way to view it is: We are strong, we are epic and we are survivors. Meeting other depressed people is always a joy because I see the strength within them and the desire to persevere.
5. We experiment with self-care in ways that are innovative. Writing this blog is a form of self-care for me. So is coloring, playing my keyboard and drinking tea. Sometimes I bring a small stuffed animal with me for comfort when I am anxious or feel social anxiety. Often we may get in touch with our “inner child” and do child-like or playful things as a form of self-care. When you’re depressed, you have to get creative and improvise. We often don’t care about others viewing our actions as strange because we are willing to do whatever it takes to feel better and be more functional. This will enable others to be brave and unswerving in their commitment to unique/queer self-care.
There are surely more but this gives you a sense of my thinking of subverting depression away from hegemonic meanings and queering depression to see its potentiality. If I had the choice of having or not having depression, I would choose to not have it. But since that is not an option, there are ways to re-think and re-conceptualize life that are comforting and innovative. Step by step, I choose to live with depression by using my agency to fight for my own life and everyday mental wellness.