One of the reasons I stopped posting blogs for the last few months was that I had a rough time in August in Edinburgh. I was exhausted, discouraged, and disappointed. One of the people I was working with was a terror, and I allowed them to largely make my experience miserable. Every day I would resolve to not let them get to me, and every day, when I had to deal with them, my blood would boil, and I'd feel seething anger take over my body. I wish I could be the kind of person who could let shit slide. I'm not. I never have been.
The experience was akin to being in an alcoholic family. There's the one parent who has a massive drinking problem, the other one who is desperately trying to maintain some sense of calm and normalcy, which, unfortunately means doing a lot of covering and apologizing for the drinker. There are the kids who work to please everyone all the time and act like there's no problem, going so far as to laugh off the VERY OCCASIONAL apology, and being like, "You're right! I'm the problem. Please keep yelling at me." And there are the other kids who are like, "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck this." That was me.
One of the problems with this kind of family is that when one of those kids who isn't buying it is like, "I'm not buying this," no one from the rest of the family steps up to be like, "Hey, me neither." Even the other kids who aren't buying it don't chime in because generally they're too checked out to bother.
I was triggered left and right. The only reason I didn't walk away was because I wouldn't have done that to my fellow cast mates. But, Jesus I wanted to. I was away from home. Away from my son, who was starting first grade without me there. Away from my career. Not getting laid. AWAY FROM MY THERAPIST. I would get back to the flat I shared with four other people, exhausted and angry, knowing I should be writing, and only use my computer to binge Schitt's Creek. It wasn't a good look.
It sent me into a depression. Because I suffer from chronic depression and anxiety, if my chemistry isn't right it can turn situations that are normally handleable into swirling holes of disaster. And because I've been on meds so long, sometimes I think, "I'm going to see what it's like to lower my dose!" and then my brain goes, "It puts the right dose in its mouth or it gets the depression again." I lowered my dose some months earlier, thinking, I GOT THIS! But, clearly I hadn't got it. So, rather than seeing a problem for what it actually is (someone treating everyone around them like garbage), my brain starts telling me lies. "No one likes you," "You don't deserve to be happy," "When you ask for what you want, you are a horrible selfish monster." The greatest hits. It turns an immediate problem into a symbol for my whole life. I begin to not be able to remember a time when I felt happy at all. I become convinced that I will always feel this way. And, when it gets really bad, I start thinking that Monty will be better off without me in his life.
It's not fun.
So, I've been battling that for a few months.
I've been thinking about chronic Depression (big "D" Depression, as in a chemical imbalance, not little "d" depression, as in a response to an upsetting or traumatic episode, that ultimately goes away) like cancer. You have to treat it aggressively and while it may seem to go away, it's more just that you're in remission. It could come back at any time. And if you have suicidal Depression, one could argue that you're living with a terminal illness that requires constant, aggressive treatment.
It's scary to be so open about these struggles, because I worry that it's going to effect my hirability (or that it already has). I worry that the powers that be will think that I won't be able to do my work if I suffer from Depression. The irony is, a great many actors live and work with Depression all the time, it's just we don't all talk about it. So, no. It doesn't generally effect my work. The last time it did was in 2013 when I had to miss a show because I had a panic attack and ended up lying on my living room floor unable to move. I tell myself that the right people will understand what Depression is, and that if someone doesn't want to hire me because of it, I don't want to work with that person. Authenticity is more important to me anyway.
Those of us with Depression know that our friends will be supportive up to a point. But eventually (and usually very quickly) they start suggesting ridiculous things like, "Get some exercise!" or "Pick up a hobby!" or "Write an affirmation on your bathroom mirror!" Statements like those do more harm than good. It's next to impossible to go to the gym when all you can think about is how much you want to die. No amount of crocheted doilies, or homemade cupcakes is going to change your brain chemistry. And there isn't an affirmation on the planet that will pull someone out of a depression. These people don't understand that making glib suggestions usually makes us feel worse. We already feel like shit for not wanting to leave the house. It compounds our guilt and makes us feel even more alone.
Usually the best thing a friend can do is listen. Offer to come over and binge garbage TV (in my case, documentaries about serial killers). Say "That sounds really hard." Download Candy Crush and play it while they cry over the phone. They won't know.
That said, go to therapy. I literally don't want to hear it from you if you know you have a problem and you won't go to therapy. There are free or very low-cost options everywhere. I don't have time if you don't go to therapy.
Anyway, this post is rambly. The point is, I felt pretty shitty for a few months, and I'm climbing out of it now. I have up days and down days. Life is hard. I'm working really hard to stay present (which is especially hard when you're almost always waiting to hear if you booked a job.). My meds are adjusted. Monty is happy. I bought a Nintendo Switch Online subscription so now I can play Super Mario Bros. 2 and eat cookie dough straight out of the package. Because that what normal people do, right?