Getting Depression to Move Out and You Move On
View others in this series:
Part 1: "Are Comedians More Depressed?"
Part 2: "When Depression Visits and Stays"
Part 3: "Do We Have Any Control Over Depression?"
Mr. D. was firmly planted in my being, but I was determined to unseat him.
Since I started writing about depression I’ve been inundated with well-wishers giving me solutions, including: meditation, MDMA, exercise, various TED talks, and moving to join a cult. I do appreciate the intent behind all my readers, and since exercise didn’t involve packing for a trip to be in a cult, I put on my Target tights, gathered my dogs and went out for a jog, moving slowly enough so that someone on crutches could whiz past me. I kept going, waiting for a runner’s high. It never came. But, something else happened that changed everything.
I ran past a man walking his dog and my dog’s leash got tangled around his leg. He bellowed at me, “God damn it!”
The force of his anger shocked me. It was excessive. All that was going on was two leashes getting involved. I quickly untangled mine, apologizing, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” over and over again.
Glaring at me with hateful eyes, he kept yelling, “God damn you!”
I hadn’t run more than half a block before I ducked into an alley and collapsed in a puddle of tears. We all have our limits. Both the external world and my inner world were conspiring and yelling at me. But, this time, I recognized those angry eyes. I also noted the voice was familiar. It belonged to my father, drunk and screaming at 6-year-old me for spilling milk at the dinner table, “God damn it! You are worthless, worthless.” In that moment, I found out who Mr. D was.
Sobbing, I continued to sit in the alley. This was no movie star cry. It was ugly and heaving. I thought about my father, about all the angry old people, and that horrible angry man. As a child, I wasn’t allowed to cry. Now I could let it all out. I comforted myself by wrapping my arms around my torso. My dogs caught on and licked my face. Somehow I felt lighter when I got up. I was feeling again.
I continued my jog around the golf course. In the distance, I saw the angry man walking towards me. My inclination was to go another way, but an inner voice challenged that, asking, “Why change where you are going?” It was a voice I hadn’t heard in a long time. Kind. Strong. Reasonable. It was the voice I heard when doing standup comedy, the one I used to make sure that the hecklers in the audience didn’t have the final say. It was the voice that had my back, the one I could count on now to deal with the angry man.
With my head held high, I looked directly at him and said, “Have a good day.” Saying this simple positive phrase was a triumph. I didn’t let him turn me angry. I realized that his anger had nothing to do with me, and my sadness had nothing to do with him. And in that moment, the course of my personal emotional history shifted. People do and can trigger the past, but it has nothing to do with who I truly am in the present. And today, in this this expression of positivity, another angry person didn’t get to have the final word.
That night, I woke up while it was still dark, stunned to discover the voice that had been telling me I didn’t deserve to live was gone. Mr. D had left the building, replaced by the voice of quiet. I could hear and enjoy the quiet snoring of my beloved dogs. The birds welcoming the dawn. And I was pleased to again feel a sense of peace, something that had been eluding me for a long time.
It’s now my 3-month anniversary of celebrating life. My energy has returned. Mr. D has come back, but it’s temporary lodging and he no longer hangs around for long. I uploaded an app that tracks moods that helps keep Mr D at bay. I’ve stopped being ashamed of depression because I understand how much it has given me. Depression has escalated my power of empathy. It’s magnified my inner strength. It’s made me accept that life is not a series happy events, but rather it’s a series of disappointments where we learn how to transform messes to successes. Happiness is not delivered free of charge, but realized.
Regardless of which voice is in my head at any moment, I’m grateful that I am again able to feel something. Anything – sadness, anger, fatigue and joy. Mostly, I appreciate feeling love: the love coming from my friends, family, my dogs, and you, the readers who write me with your own stories.
Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.