Living without the lead apron, leaving the loud room
May 4, 2018 6:47 PM   Subscribe

"My wife and I were having a walk in our neighborhood and I realized that it was just a really beautiful day – it was warm with just a little bit of a breeze, the birds sounded really beautiful, the flowers smelled really great and my wife’s hand felt really good in mine. And as we were walking I just started to cry and she asked me, “what’s wrong?” I said “I just realized that I don’t feel bad and I just realized that I’m not existing, I’m living.” At that moment, I realized that I had lived my life in a room that was so loud, all I could do every day was deal with how loud it was. But with the help of my wife, my doctor, and medical science, I found a doorway out of that room." My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic Depression, and I am not ashamed.

A preface from Wheaton: "I’m about to go speak to NAMI Ohio’s statewide conference, Fulfilling the Promise. These are the remarks I prepared for my speech.

"Before I begin, I want to warn you that this talk touches on many triggering subjects, including self-harm and suicide. I also want you to know that I’m speaking from my personal experience, and that if you or someone you know may be living with mental illness, please talk to a licensed and qualified medical professional, because I am not a doctor.

"Okay, let’s do this."
posted by MonkeyToes (36 comments total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have had chronic depression and anxiety my entire life. My most recent depressive episode has lasted more than two and a half years. Thanks to access to Medi-Cal, an understanding doctor, a good therapist, and the right combination of meds I finally am starting to feel human again. I wouldn't wish chronic depression on my worst enemy. It's so debilitating, demoralizing, and dehumanizing, and so few people truly understand what it's like. It's not just being sad. It's losing access to joy but knowing that it exists. You feel physically ill; the weight of the depression just drags you down until it feels like you'll never escape.

But you can. It's hard fucking work. It might take a long time. It's not going to be perfect. But you can escape it.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:01 PM on May 4 [38 favorites]


Yes, people who haven't experienced it have a hard time grasping how physical depression feels. It's hard to describe. Being trapped in a loud room isn't a bad way of trying to explain it, if you can imagine how fatiguing it would be to be trapped in that room for weeks, months, years at a time. That's only part of the experience, but it's a big part. It feels awfully real and you can't just turn it off, but with a lot of work and help you can turn it down, and learn to cope with what remains.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:57 PM on May 4 [25 favorites]


The above is just my personal experience, of course. Depression is nothing if not varied.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:03 PM on May 4 [7 favorites]


Go elisetheeel!

Fuck yeah Will Wheaton!
posted by loquacious at 8:09 PM on May 4 [7 favorites]


The Bloggess often says that "Depression lies," and it is very, very true.

Unfortunately, depression is also REALLY GOOD at it which makes it difficult to remember the lying part sometimes.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:13 PM on May 4 [16 favorites]


Depression, anxiety, OCD: these are like being buried alive without being able to suffocate. I’ve been fighting them for years. I suppose I always will be. Sometimes I think of the years before as “back when I wasn’t dead.” But every so often I can actually feel that I am not, that I am alive, that there is another way to be.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:20 PM on May 4 [11 favorites]


You know that feeling when you get home from a long crappy day and take off your shoes and bra and sit down, finally? That’s what coming above the surface feels like, but times a million.
posted by Grandysaur at 8:36 PM on May 4 [16 favorites]


You know those shirts that say "Fuck Cancer" ?

Well, Fuuuuuuuuck Depression. It's stolen so much from me, so much that I (and others who've loved me) will never get back.

Fuck any more of that.

It's been many years but I recall reading Peter Kramer's Against Depression and finding it good and useful.

Thanks for the post.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 9:13 PM on May 4 [10 favorites]


I too live with chronic depression; it's hard not to be ashamed, but I'm getting better at it — sometimes.
It's also hard not to be terrified when a depressive episode costs me a job and endangers my access to medication and treatment.
It's hard not to feel like a failure when my lost income and increased medical costs mean my spouse and I might not be able to make rent much longer.
It's hard not to be hopeless when I might as well be sending my resumes and job applications into the void.

It's hard, but I'm not giving up. I refuse to.
posted by thedward at 9:50 PM on May 4 [13 favorites]


I've met Wil a few times doing beery things. (I remember at one point being annoyed that he could swing into the homebrew hobby and become a celebrity in a way I could after working at it for years and having to surrender that) I honestly feel like it's a combination of Wil being honest and open about his struggles and my wife's prodding that's finally made me go to therapy about my own anxiety issues. Good on Wil for spreading this word.
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:40 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


I'm finally in a place where I'm aware that I deserve to be happy. That's taken years and cost me a lot, and while I don't yet know how to get to a place where I am happy, it's a huge fucking step and I know that path is there somewhere. The near-physical weight of it is the hardest part to convey, and I appreciate anyone who tries to help others to understand it.
posted by sysinfo at 11:54 PM on May 4 [14 favorites]


I've had a few things stolen from me that were recovered, but the authorities have given me no hope that I shall ever see justice for the theft of my 20's.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 12:40 AM on May 5 [29 favorites]


I have been "up and down" at various times in my life, which I used to always blame on having wrong reactions to negative stimuli, with doctors occasionally prescribing meds that had little effect, but a few years ago when I was at a very low point, a doctor prescribed an old-school antidepressant that I hadn't tried before and my reaction to it was so positive and so sudden it felt like I had just woken up from a dream. It hasn't been all happyhappyjoyjoy ever since, and right now I feel like I need to appeal to my current docs for an adjustment, but that particular experience opened me up to a lot more understanding of what I'm going through AND what I went through in the past. What's the cartoon-based slogan? "Learning is half the battle"? Well, I learned about 2/3 of that half, and yes, it made life at least 30% easier.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:58 AM on May 5 [6 favorites]


I’ve been taking a new antidepressant since December. My anxiety has gotten worse. I’ve got an appointment at noon to hopefully try something else or something additional. I can’t keep staring at the wall for hours willing myself to breathe.
posted by bilabial at 4:57 AM on May 5 [23 favorites]


Best wishes, bilabial -- I hope you feel better soon.
posted by Fig at 5:19 AM on May 5 [6 favorites]


Hugs also to everyone else suffering from this awful disease.
posted by Fig at 5:20 AM on May 5 [5 favorites]


My two daughters both take medication for anxiety and depression. We are fortunate that we -- including their doctor -- recognized their conditions and sought treatment. Still, among the many fine points of Wheaton's speech, I appreciate the understanding he expresses to his mother. Watching a loved one struggle with depression when you'd give anything for them to be happy isn't nearly as bad as depression itself by a long shot, but it's demoralizing too.

I admire Wheaton greatly for this honest and compassionate address, and my fellow MeFites for their struggles in coping with it.
posted by Gelatin at 6:13 AM on May 5 [5 favorites]


"I had taken that walk with my wife almost every day for nearly ten years, before I ever noticed the birds or the flowers,"

Yeah, I'm tearing up. Because it's like that for me. I've spent most of my life not being here. I don't live in the now, pretty much ever. I live in the much-regretted past or a endless set of futures, some dreaded, some hoped-for, none real. The moment that's happening is edited out of my conscious thoughts unless I really struggle for it, and any success is a best short-lived.

Now and then I get a few minutes where the awful lifts. And suddenly the world is amazing. Life is full of possibilities. The smallest wonder, like the smell of the ocean, can tear an exquisite hole in my heart, and it's so overwhelming I feel like I can hardly live through it. It's very much as if I've surfaced from being held underwater. As if I've been drowning and drowning and don't realize just how bad I feel on a daily basis, nor what my coping mechanisms (disassociative behavior) has cost me. And for a moment I breathe, and for a moment my eyes clear, and then my attention is distracted and I sink back under the waves. And I can't even remember what I was happy about, nor what happiness really felt like, only instead the memory that I was happy, and the memory of words I used to describe it.

Fuck depression. And thanks for speaking out, Wil. It can't be easy to talk about this. And god, like him, I know the feeling of being taught that it's the sufferer's fault. What a sadistic pack of lies that is.
posted by allium cepa at 7:34 AM on May 5 [28 favorites]


I tell my high school seniors who come to talk to me about their depression (because I am open to them that I suffer too and that I'm there for them if they want to talk) that using the word "depression" is an awful name for what we suffer from, because the traditional use of that word implies that you have a choice about the way you feel: "Oh, I'm so depressed I didn't make the sports team/boy didn't ask me to prom/I got a D on my paper". That is NOT the same type of depression my students and I talk about or suffer from. Depression needs to be re-named BCIS (Brain Chemical Imbalance Syndrome - or another medical name), so people take it more seriously and realize it IS a medical condition, NOT a choice, and help shed some stigma attached to it. Thank you Will for speaking up and sharing your story; that too helps to shed the stigma.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:11 AM on May 5 [10 favorites]


(I’m going to take a moment for myself right now, and I’m going to tear a hole in the fabric of spacetime and I’m going to tell all those adults from the past: give this kid a break. He’s scared. He’s confused. He is doing the best he can, and if you all could stop seeing him as a way to put money into your pockets, maybe you could see that he’s suffering and needs help.)

For whatever it's worth, I've found this "reaching back in space and time" extremely important to my coping with anxiety and depression. Along similar lines, I was once all alone in a pretty scary place on psilocybin and I thought to myself "what would you say to a friend in this circumstance?" and I started to talk to myself as if I were talking a friend down. And it worked pretty well. I don't know where I'm going with this, but I guess that quote got me thinking about reaching out to past you and even current you (if you can) as a coping mechanism. YMMV of course.
posted by treepour at 8:30 AM on May 5 [10 favorites]


(And I know my comment might have come across in a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of way. I didn't mean it that way -- I probably wouldn't be alive right now if it weren't for a near-lifetime of therapy and SSRIs).
posted by treepour at 8:32 AM on May 5 [2 favorites]


Brain Chemical Imbalance Syndrome - or another medical name)

"chemical imbalance" comes from advertising copy, not science; so, another name
posted by thelonius at 9:14 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


My comment might have come across in a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of way

It definitely didn't. I find that it's pretty clear when someone's saying “I was pleased this worked for me” with a hint of “and I'd like you to feel the same” and it's also pretty clear when someone's saying the opposite (“If I give you some banal advice, then I'll feel like I've responded appropriately, and won't have to think about your pain any more”).
posted by ambrosen at 9:44 AM on May 5 [3 favorites]


So loud.
posted by tilde at 9:50 AM on May 5


My mother suffered from immense untreated anxiety, but was also a narcissist fully invested in projecting an image of perfection. Consequently, we kids (especially me as the only daughter and except for the golden child) bore the brunt of her anxiety as well being made to feel like we were unlovable, unworthy monsters. After years spent working through how this had affected me and being treated for depression and anxiety myself, I wanted to feel detached compassion for her and treat her with kindness, despite it all.

Anyway, her response to my brother and me, when we noted that she was suffering and suggested that we ask her PCP about whether trying some anti-anxiety drug might help, was to insist, indignantly, "I don't have untreated anxiety! I'm just very good at identifying all of the myriad things that could go wrong. Why would you say such an awful thing and insult me so? You wouldn't have had nearly as much trouble with [minor travel mishap] if you were more like me." It was tragic, her internalized sense of stigma about mental health matters, but oh well.
posted by carmicha at 12:15 PM on May 5 [3 favorites]


I always feel like the awful person who says "Have you tried yoga?" when I say this but I feel the need to plug ketamine, an expensive and annoying drug that nonetheless saved my life after years of hopelessness and suicidality and treatment-resistant disease, which I had to find out about from a, no joke, Youtube video from VICE that came up in my suggestions.

After the weird antidepressant nightmare NYTimes debacle a few weeks ago (and to be honest, sometimes people on this website being very cruel or tough love) it's nice to see anything that pushes back against that. It's always brave to be so open and candid.

I hope we can be as kind to people, and I want to be careful how I've phrased this, who have survived suicide attempts or aren't successful beloved nerd icon white men or who have the socially determined "unsafe" or "violent" or "bad" types of mental illness who chose to make these disclosures, who might not be able to safely, to a kind audience, who have a higher societal cost to pay. It's not a safe world to have mental illness in at all, despite being safer than it was, despite people who don't talking a good game about who much they care. I don't have a point, it bums me the hell out. Good for Wil.
posted by colorblock sock at 1:27 PM on May 5 [11 favorites]


So glad Wil Wheaton listened to his wife and got good treatment and thereby has been able to Keep On Doing. It just seems to me like he's used his celebrity and nerd special powers for good as far back as I can remember.

And all of that being said... colorblock sock's points about people with mental illness who don't have as much privilege are worth repeating many times over.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 3:22 PM on May 5 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm tearing up. Because it's like that for me. I've spent most of my life not being here. I don't live in the now, pretty much ever. I live in the much-regretted past or a endless set of futures, some dreaded, some hoped-for, none real. The moment that's happening is edited out of my conscious thoughts unless I really struggle for it, and any success is a best short-lived.

Now and then I get a few minutes where the awful lifts. And suddenly the world is amazing. Life is full of possibilities. The smallest wonder, like the smell of the ocean, can tear an exquisite hole in my heart, and it's so overwhelming I feel like I can hardly live through it. It's very much as if I've surfaced from being held underwater. As if I've been drowning and drowning and don't realize just how bad I feel on a daily basis, nor what my coping mechanisms (disassociative behavior) has cost me. And for a moment I breathe, and for a moment my eyes clear, and then my attention is distracted and I sink back under the waves. And I can't even remember what I was happy about, nor what happiness really felt like, only instead the memory that I was happy, and the memory of words I used to describe it.


Yeah, this. Per a Coil lyric I've had stuck in my head this week, "I don't expect I'll ever understand / how life just trickled through my hand."
posted by ubersturm at 3:44 PM on May 5 [6 favorites]


Good for Wil for being willing to speak about this.

I could bullet point a list as to what I think caused my depression, but it is sort of irrelevant. I probably wen't into the field of psychology in order to sort that out, but, like others have mentioned, the self-imposed "shame" of having a mental illness kept me in a state of denial, never really solving the problem while life handed me more reasons to be depressed.

I'm here to say it's never too late, I turn 70 next month, I finally started working with a therapist a few months ago, found a decent PCP who is working with me regarding medication....

Making that first phone call felt like a bag of cement had been lifted off my shoulders.

Make the call.....
posted by HuronBob at 7:51 PM on May 5 [19 favorites]


Linking this one again: Stanford's Sapolsky On Depression in U.S. (Full Lecture) (transcript, but Sapolsky is a very, very good lecturer).
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:11 PM on May 5 [4 favorites]


One of my all-time favorite movie lines was from "The President's Analyst" when James Coburn (as the Analyst) made a scene in a restaurant, dove under his table then looked out to see that everyone else in the restaurant had pulled guns at each other and he said "I'm NOT paranoid; you ARE all spies!"

I didn't realize its relevance to me until over 30 years later I started thinking "I'm NOT depressed; it IS all awful." It seemed a great weight off my mind, but since then I've learned that you indeed can be depressed AND everything can be awful at the same time.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:08 AM on May 6 [6 favorites]


I don't have the pair, just depression. It comes and goes, but hasn't been debilitating for many, many years (which is a good thing). I refer to my particular form as either my "inner Dread Pirate Roberts" ("you've done a good day today, plinth, but I'll likely kill you in the morning") or "on-board terrorists".
So yeah, fuck depression.
posted by plinth at 7:09 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


I’ve had chronic depression, without a break, pretty much my entire life. Like, since kindergarten. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I was diagnosed. And, for the past many years, it’s been joined by great anxiety. I’ve heard Will speak about his depression on a couple of podcasts, and was very impressed by his willingness to be so open and out about his illness. Personally, I don’t avoid talking about it, but, as has been noted, most people have no idea what depression is really like.

I had a marvelous moment a couple of years ago. I was resting at a small table at a gallery when a young woman asked if she could sit with (it was the only chair left) Of course she could!

As we chatted, it suddenly became clear that we both were chronic depressives. This was the first time I had ever (knowingly) met another person like me. I was no longer alone! It was a revelation.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:52 AM on May 6 [6 favorites]


I've had depression my entire life, including now. I wish I'd found something that worked. I've tried over 25 medications, so much therapy, and electroconvulsive therapy with no luck. Wheaton's speech was nice to read, but I wish I had his hope.
posted by Four-Eyed Girl at 7:34 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


I've had it better than some, worse than others, and now I wish I could help each and every one of you who knows what it feels like, at whatever level.

And I'm glad Wheaton is speaking out, and that we all are too. Because one thing I did have worse than most is that I never even considered that I might be depressed for 37 years. It took literally life-shaking events to knock me to the bottom of my valley (instead of precariously clinging to a goat path a third of the way up the cliff), and insistence from a friend, to start therapy.

Depression lies. As cliche as that sentence is, it can't be told too often to those suffering from depression. The hell of it is that, as we all know very well, depression also doesn't let one believe that it's lying. Any and all shared experiences, been-there's, they help.
posted by seyirci at 12:24 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


And I guess there was something else I wanted to say, which is so much mental health activism is built on a foundation of moral bootstraps and self-sufficiency, and that's where it can fall apart and hurt the people who are most sick and most vulnerable. How much unnecessary pain would be saved among people like us if the imperative was changed from "get help" to "I'm going to help you" as it is for so many other illnesses?

It's obviously not that simple, and ableism is everywhere, but to have to see people swoop in and create a supportive community of care with an implication that of course you don't have to fight alone! for health problems that are more socially acceptable, while so many are told by even the most progressive mental health advocacy places to do the opposite even if they don't know that's what they're saying, telling people who are dying or could die to take Personal Responsibility for something they're also saying isn't your fault...that's that greatest travesty.
posted by colorblock sock at 1:21 PM on May 7 [5 favorites]


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