I recently discovered that my heart had grown, without me noticing, a thin, little crust.
I don’t mean that I’m cold hearted or unable to feel. If anything, I err on feeling too much. Every injustice in the news makes me angry. Every story of suffering makes my heart squeeze with the pain of it.
No, what I have is the result of my mental illness, not from my nature. I was born wearing my heart on my sleeve. I would throw full on tantrums at age twelve. I spoke my mind a little too much. I was an over-sharer. I hadn’t even realized I’d developed this crusty heart, until my therapist kept asking me, “Do you hide your depression?”
No, I told her. I don’t hide it. I talk about it on social media. I’ve blogged about it. All my friends know.
Then I sat with the question for a little bit longer.
I do hide my depression. I call it being strong. I call it not bothering people with my bad mood (that’s lasted years). I hide it when someone asks how I’ve been and I lie to them. I never talk freely about my bipolar disorder to anyone, really. I talk about it sometimes in the past tense, like it’s something that’s gone away, instead of the black dog it is, always by my side.
I realized why though–why I don’t talk about it and why I’ve got a crust. Because here’s the truly terrifying thing about depression. Being depressed is like having a hole. A hole of emotional need. The natural thing to do is to look to other people to fill it. And when you look to other people to fill it, it doesn’t work. At least, not much. Because depression is a bitch, and it can’t be placated with things like a nice snuggle or a good talk with a friend. You battle depression in your head, by yourself, using tools you don’t have and willpower that depression itself has sucked from you. It’s an impossible scenario.
Pretty soon into depression, I talked myself into believing that if I didn’t want to be a soul-sucking, leech of a mother, wife, friend, that I had to keep my depression to myself. But keeping it to myself made a crust of isolation and an independent, stubborn, strong streak. Because I wasn’t meeting my emotional needs, for years at a time. Having untreated bipolar disorder closed me off, and it made me reluctant to be vulnerable with people.
Now, I’m slowly learning that the world doesn’t end if I talk about it. That I’m still loveable even if I’m depressed. It’s not easy to trust that I don’t need to be so strong, such an impenetrable fortress. I’m stepping away from my self-induced isolation, and slowly, I’m breaking up the crust.