The Other Blue Label (It Ain’t Johnny Walker)

Despite being a writer and having that touch of masochism artists are known for, I never felt fully okay with being “depressed”. The first time someone told me that someone else told them (that was a mouth full) I had “depression problems”, it made me so hurt, so confused, so…

Well, depressed.

When lyme really started taking over my body, it was running parallel to some of the hardest times in my personal life. My responsibilities at home surpassed my teenage strengths, but I didn’t want to be anything less than strong. My “first love” was breaking my heart one piece at a time, Kit Kat style. People around me were sick and dying. Stressors abounded. Going to school each day was an escape for me, a performance full of peaks and valleys inspired by a constant change in energy levels I had little control over. I was either running around shouting in accents and making jokes aloud in class to distract myself, or falling asleep because my body couldn’t help itself. There was no in between. My mind was ahead of my years and my body was a toddler. Either way, I had no idea what gave it away that I was beginning to emotionally flounder. Most of the time I was told I had a great attitude, I was fun, I was funny…or, according to those who didn’t like me, my personality and energy were “too much”. I put so much of my being into appearing happy-so where did I falter? Hearing from someone who barely knew me that I had “depression problems” felt akin to leaving a crack in the curtain during the most confidential and sought after part of my magic trick.

The physical pain I was starting to feel, the emotional ups and downs I was beginning to experience, the heartbreak and the pressure, were all meant to live between the leather covers of my journal-by the light of the moon streaming in as I listened to Dashboard Confessional. After all, on the few occasions they left me to dance on my tongue and swan dive from my lips into the ears of a supposedly close friend, they were swiftly drowned by disbelief or a thought that I was seeking attention. I learned quickly that I was not “allowed” to be blue. It was not a color that suited my expectations from others nor my goals for myself.

The notion that the physical things I was experiencing were “in my head” due to the widespread ignorance about Lyme disease (oh, and the fact that I had no idea either) only made it more complicated-causing me to buck harder against the idea that I, Jacquelynne, bringer of fun and being of sound mind and intellect, protector of family and fearless adventurer, had any sort of mental illness.

There’s this strange association with acknowledgment and definition. It’s easy to believe that if we name our problem, we are then defined by it. There is a whole school within chronic illness that believes that giving a name to anything gives it power. But there is also a rival school that believes never doing so means it can never be improved. Somewhere in the middle is me, running around with a bunch of weirdos with the crazy idea that you are a dynamic human being with seasons, layers, and nuanced qualities that defy dichotomies-happy people vs sad people, people with good energy vs people with bad energy-you get the idea.

You can have depression and be a positive person. You can have dark moments and still be a light to others. You can have a dip in your vibes and bounce back-you can have years of feeling buried and climb out. Your trials can be remolded into triumphs. You can be wed to an abusive tribal king like a piece of property and then learn you can actually walk through fire and make dragons listen to you, which is not a reference to a mildly depressing but popular television show.

Even the moon has a dark side…and she’s the freakin’ moon. Even gods and goddesses have rough days, or their stories wouldn’t be as cool. Even quokkas, which are amazing animals that always look like they’re smiling, are nocturnal and native to Australia-where I can only assume they deal with some crazy shit.

Whether you wear it on your forehead or keep it in your diary, your “blue” side can be beautiful, your shadows can be part of a bigger and incredible picture-but when they’re taking over, hindering your ability to function and thrive, or threatening to define you, it’s time to ask for the makeup artist to wipe it off-or more likely, seek professional help and make shifts in your life. If that requires a label…well, call me Miss Depression Problems-whatever gets me into the Self Improvement Club. No masks required.

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