The first draft of DEARNORMAL.
This is a project mainly for people with depression. I have manic depression myself. For the last 20 years I have been struggling with this maddening disease. I suffered a lot, I thought about killing myself on a daily routine, I couldn’t work properly, I couldn’t love properly, I couldn’t live properly. But despite of all the horrors that come with clinical depression, I also learned a lot about life, happiness, expectations, sanity — and myself.
This project is about sharing experiences with depression. So many people have it, so many of them live with it, quite a few very successfully. During the darkest episodes of depression I couldn’t connect to anything anymore, but nonetheless I think it would have helped me to know about all the others that share my mental banishment. Especially those who made it through to ‘the other side’ where hope and a certain kind of optimism start thawing our frozen souls.
Not everybody makes it there. A lot of us lose all the hope — and do what seems to be the only loop-hole when you are feeling abandoned by yourself: they kill themselves.
With the help of therapy I was able to reassemble a more or less stable personality over the last years. The valley of darkness lies behind me, at least the one I strayed around in between the age of 18 and 30. Now I am 33. I am a writer. I am quite good at it if my disorder grants me access to my brain, my humor, and my self-esteem. I love telling stories, I love writing letters, I love communication. Because it saved me from despair.
I learned to distinguish some symptoms from character traits. I worked hard (and still do) to differentiate between my actual personality and the saboteurs the illness sent out to destruct me. But I also understood that parts of the symptoms turned into parts of my personality. My depression changed me, of course. But not into a stranger. Just into somebody who is more willing and capable to accept imperfection and dysfunctionality. I do not hate myself so much anymore for being paralyzed from time to time. I kind of bargained a truce with my detested, dreaded and merciless flatmate who moved into my brain without asking for permission 20 years ago.
For years I hid. I was so deeply afraid of the powers of my personal fiend who always knew where I was, what I thought, what I hoped for and: how to hurt me the most, I couldn’t overcome the terror he caused. If I had to describe what changed my relation to him, I’d say: I got to know him better. Instead of hiding I encountered him. It was angst-inducing, humiliating and often felt more or less unbearable. But it worked. I know him better these days. When he beleaguers me I just open the door as often as possible. “Please, come in, neighbour and flatmate, share my time and energy with me”. It’s really hard and frustrating — but it seems as if it weakened him. It obviously has an awe-inspiring effect on him. He almost shrunk down to a tolerable size.
I know that I can’t trust him. Not for a second. But seeing him as somebody who I have to share my life with helps me a lot to feel alright with it.
The idea of this project came when I thought about writing him a letter. What would I tell him if he sat vis-à-vis? How would I explain to him what he did and does to me? What do I need him to understand — in order to understand it myself?
Writing letters for the drawer doesn’t really make a lot of sense. I did it for approximately 15 years. It didn’t really help. Drawers are mostly an uninterested audience. Somebody is supposed to read it. Somebody who cares. About you. About your subject. Or both.
The concept of MEDIUM is to connect writers and readers with each other. So why don’t we publish our letters to the ‘black dog’ here? Why don’t we share our stories here, so we can reassure ourselves that we are suffering individually — but not: alone? Let’s start this. I’d love it to become big. I want famous people who suffer from depressions and bipolar disorder to speak out loudly about how they felt, what they did and maybe: what made them stay here instead of leaving.
The power of stories is astonishing. By standing together and talking about our disease and all the terrible problems that come with it we, the depressed, can reconnect to the world we often feel like having fallen out of. Isolation is one of the worst symptoms of depression. The feelings of guilt and shame, the fears to be rejected and judged as ‘insane’ or ‘sniveling’, the angst to ruin other people’s lifes by sucking their love and empathy into the black hole our soul seems to be when infested with depression — all this leads to reclusion. And it makes the disease stronger. It took me very, very long to understand that not only rationally but also: emotionally. But I think I got it now. This is why I am starting this project.
Another reason why we hide our sickness is that it is impossible to describe what it feels like to be severely depressed. I am a writer. I worked as a journalist, I published plays, I write for agencies, foundations, and companies. (Obviously English is not my mother tongue, but in order to reach as many people as possible I decided to do this in English. There will be false expressions, mistakable formulations, and wrong images. Please do not hesitate to clear those faults! I appreciate it.) Depression is one of the biggest subjects in my life, of course. I wanted to understand and to be understood — and writing seemed to be the appropriate way to connect to other people. Still: I cannot explain to a non-depressed person how it feels like to be depressed. I tried to find metaphores that do justice to the dimensions of agony I found myself in. It’s like trying to draw the Mona Lisa into thin air. But writing always is an approach to something you want to express. So it’s worth trying.
If you took part in this, maybe we together can provide an insight into our ravaged souls. Maybe we can provide each other with expressions for the unutterable. Maybe we can even make it worthwhile for those who don’t share our illness. For those who suffer because they know somebody who suffers from depression.
Despite of all the horrors, the despair, the fears and the autoaggressive deeds that come along with depression, there is also a positive side to talk about. We, the depressed, know quite well who we are. How we operate. How much we can take and how much we can give without falling to bits. Therefore we may be more reliable than people who never got to know the place beyond their sane horizon. Depression can be a teacher for life. Let’s try to explain that as well. Like it is with so many things: as long as you fear them, you cannot understand them properly. May ‘know your enemy’ become the spirit of this project. May as many people as possible be able to find a bit of help here. In order to coexist with their demons.
Let’s do this. Together. Thanks for your time. And please stay.