Concealing Depression…Dancing with the Soul.
I read this article posted by a kindred spirit today on Facebook and found myself in awe that I resonated so strongly with every. single. bullet. point.
It made me think a lot; particularly at this moment, when my face is still caked with glitter, my body still crusted with the early morning sweat leftover from an early morning of dancing at the monthly gathering of Daybreaker — an event that has become like church to me over the last year of my life. (#10 — They might have habitual remedies)
I remember walking into the first one, not knowing what it was, not knowing what to do, feeling somewhat awkward and out of place, as I often do around all of the uber-cool kids of San Francisco (although I know at my core essence that I have become one of them; that I always have been one of them somewhere deep in my small-town-raised, feeling-like-I-never-belonged soul). Eventually, I settled into the groove, finding myself evermore comfortable the more often I stepped away from the person I came with and out of the gaze of anyone who knew me, and began to dance more freely on my own.
Now here I am, 16 months later, strolling in late to work on a Friday, not bothering to change out of my goth/fairy ensemble of turquoise patterned joggers, sequinned pink high tops, black lipstick, a flower crown, and a too-large tank top I bought on clearance at a department store for $2 displaying a pug and the word LOVE. I got some interesting looks as I strolled down the 9 a.m. streets of Chinatown, past the suits of the Financial District, onwards past tour buses of visitors, some mumbling words like “interesssssting” as they gave me morning side-eye of disapproval. Even here in my city. The unabashed rainbow capital of the country.
Part of me feels completely comfortable, totally normal, and gratefully free. Part of me feels shunned, stared at, objectified, made assumptions about: “crazy”, “who-the-fuck-does-she-think-she-is?”, “she-must-not-have-a-job”, etc. (cue social upbringing and limited exposure to mentors and adults like myself as a child). Part of me knows that, despite these voices in my head, perhaps I have made someone’s day, given someone a much-needed spark or smile, took the extra mile so someone else could take the extra inch. Part of me doesn’t give a flying fuck. Part of me wishes I could conceal the raw, vulnerable parts that DO give a fuck. The parts I try to cover. The parts I don’t want to feel.
It brings me back to earlier this month when, excitedly, I began bantering in my usual animated manner to a long-time friend about the possibility of an upcoming large shift in my life. One that I am very enlivened by. One that is bringing me an incredible amount of affirmation, energy, and peace at a time when I have been sinking into an incredible rut of lack of purpose, lack of growth, lack of excitement — and feeling a very visceral and undeniable push to move on to the next step in my life.
What I needed was support. What I needed was a friend to say “Yes! You can totally do this! I believe in you!” Instead, I was met with questioning. I was met with doubt. I was met with an unnecessary guilt trip — “Don’t you want to spend the next year here planning your wedding with your husband-to-be? — C’mon you don’t want to leave him here, alone!?”… Met with unrealistic and unhelpful solutions — “You’ve got your wedding to look forward to! Just put all of your excitement and energy towards that!” — Perhaps I didn’t state my needs. Perhaps I didn’t uphold my boundaries. I can take responsibility for that piece. But perhaps moreso, you can’t understand what it’s like to be me.
You can’t understand the visceral panic that runs through my body when I know it’s time to go. The angst I feel every day when I know I’m not actively working towards a greater purpose in my life and career. The overwhelming waves of emotion that make it difficult for me to lift my head off of the pillow, turn on the lights, take a shower, get dressed, put on makeup, leave the house … keep putting one foot in front of the other. And you know what? I haven’t allowed you to understand.
Because I too have become a master at concealing depression. My life, body, emotions, and psyche suffer and when I do not have an outlet to turn this darkness into beauty, it becomes catastrophic. When those around me are seeming to find their purpose, and after so many years of endless work and soul-searching, I’m not sure I’m any closer to mine, I begin to feel hopeless, lost, and begin to spin out and down.
I’ve become a master at cover-ups. At putting on the face. I remember once a friend’s girlfriend expressed her jealousy of me during a moment of angst, telling her partner he should be with someone like me, someone who was “always happy”.
But my dear friend, what you perceive is a protective mask. It’s a way I stay positive on the darkest of days. It’s the way I grip to life on days I have to hold on so tightly, for fear it might slip through my fingers. It’s a way I keep the people I love around me, for fear that if I revealed the full depths of my murky interior, they might finally decide once-and-for-all that I am far too intense, far too dark, far too much to handle.
It’s the reason I got out of bed before 6:00 this morning when I really could have used an extra two hours of sleep (because I never can manage to get to bed at a decent hour). It’s the reason that I decided for once not to wash the glitter off of my face, to remain decorated for the full length of the day. It’s because I needed it. It’s because it’s for me.
It’s because on days like this, during times like these, I’m doing what I can. Not to fool you. Not to put on a face. Not to be something I’m not. But to try, with every ounce of all I have inside of me, to have courage to unabashedly live this life as my most authentic self. To muster enough energy, when I feel like I’m about to collapse, to awaken to greet a new day, to put on the costume, and to dance my soul into the ritual of being alive on the planet at this time.
No matter what anyone else believes, we only get one shot to be this person. So I’m going to give it my all, to be myself, despite any trials or tribulations, any challenges of my constitution or makeup, any perceived flaws — from outer or inner — in the intricacies and elements that make me who I am.
I hope that you’ll join me.