Well the blogger “Allie” in charge of Hyperbole and a Half is back! For anyone who isn’t familiar with this particular blog, it covers a wide range of topics, especially things having to do with writing and, more recently, depression. She also uses self-drawn cartoons to illustrate points, which almost universally make me laugh.
The most recent post is the long story of her recent bout with depression that stopped her from blogging for a long time. I have had many a depressive periods and I can say without hyperbole that this is probably the best descriptive of the disease I’ve ever encountered from a sufferer. You really, really need to read it if you have any interest in any of the following items: 1) things that are funny; 2) things that are sad; 3) things that are funny and sad at the same time; 4) things that have to do with depression and/or suicidal thoughts; 5) cartoons; 6) sarcasm; and, finally 7) unicorns. http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/
My personal response to Allie’s recent blog post is because of the chronic pain shenanigans. I notice that the pain has made me depressed… at times, deeply depressed. At other times, it makes me a horrible bitch monster. The times in between leave me abnormally empathetic and I am not sure I enjoy understanding and identifying with others so closely.
Point is, Allie talked about a few things I could identify with that had to do with the depression that comes with chronic pain (or, I bet, a chronic illness of any kind). All of it meant something to me, but it was how she felt about dealing with other people that really struck a chord. For example, she described trying to act like you are having normal emotions when really you’re filled with a pile of either nothingness or so many emotions you aren’t sure exactly how to pick the correct one when someone is talking to you and expecting an emotional response. “I could no longer rely on genuine emotion to generate facial expressions, and when you have to spend every social interaction consciously manipulating your face into shapes that are only approximately the right ones, alienating people is inevitable.” Amen, sister, amen. It’s really a kind of self-centeredness… I don’t think of myself as selfish (who does?) but I do know that the incessant pain makes me think about myself more than I’d like. In a way I am selfish, and sick people are selfish. We can’t help it, though, if that’s a comfort to anyone! Then someone suddenly expects you to respond to them in a conversation about their 9-year-old kid’s stupid soccer game with some kind of happiness (“Oh BOY he kicked a ball into a net, that’s SO THRILLING FOR US ALL“) just as you’ve been telling yourself you’ll be able to get through one more day and that things will get better somehow.
Maybe there’s something to be learned from this, something encompassing more than just people with depression or people in chronic pain. Expecting people to have “normal” reactions to things when they are going through something difficult is irrational, and since people are often silently suffering, I think we should all generally have a bit more patience and not judge others when their responses to conversations or events seem atypical. But, uh, when you know someone is suffering to some great extent, give them a break, man!
As a sort of homage to Hyperbole and a Half, I drew a little picture of myself that represents some of what I’ve written about above. Perhaps I will include more such pictures in the future, who knows. It was cathartic creating it.
Uh, so have a nice day! 😀