They say you’ve got to take time to be grateful for what you have, that the act of gratitude will ground you, motivate you and make you appreciate your life more.
This is some straight-person bullshit. Why wouldn’t you stop to smell the roses, when you own all the roses?
In truth, I agree in principle, but in practice, anytime I have ever attempted to make a gratitude list, I am left filled with dread. To me, a gratitude list is everything you have to lose, everything that could possibly be taken from you. What if, for instance, the political climate gets any darker or more foreboding, or the actual climate goes to shit and society goes full dystopian?
Am I being melodramatic? Of course, but I don’t have full control over what my depression will attack me with next, and it definitely likes to paint a fearsome and detailed picture to fret and obsess over.
That is how my brain works, though, and it always has. Any moment of success or joy is immediately followed by a thorough self-analysis of how “ain’t shit” I am. Any moments of success or joy are just that, fleeting moments in a life of disappointment and struggle.
I’m not alone. Studies point to queer people having higher occurrences of mood and anxiety disorders than our heterosexual counterparts, a fact that should surprise no one in our community.
It starts in our youth in the institutions of family and school, where and when we are most vulnerable. Then we grow up, and if we are lucky, we find our new family, our chosen family and set out to build our life in a world not designed for us.
We shelter ourselves, protect each other as much as we can and in this environment, we thrive, some of us for the first time in our lives. We strive and achieve and contribute and innovate, but we still feel the edges of our successes sharply as they butt up against the straight world.
We’re constantly reminded that our lives and livelihoods could be legislated out of existence as quickly as those recognitions were created.
We fight, but that fight does not come without a cost to ourselves. Sometimes, the unfairness of this world feels like a boot on my chest, and that is enough to stop me in my tracks. It’s enough for me to give in to any and all negative impulses and listen to the negative talk track in my head. It could be enough to check out from the fight, to sideline myself in the name of self-care.
Some days, I just live my life and nothing that happens is so good or bad that it triggers the depression inside me. Then there are weeks like this.
I lost another queer friend to suicide this past week. To almost everyone that knew him, he was one of the most bright and bubbly personalities they had ever encountered. That’s what he was to me, too: someone who could light up a room, who could make you feel like you were the most special person in the world while he talked to you.
Still, I also knew he struggled with depression all his life. I knew he had attempted to take his life before, and that the person he projected was the best self he wanted to be.
He leaves behind a huge void in the lives of the people he touched, and as much as my depression is trying to use his death as a trigger, I know that the best way to honor my friend is to keep working on my mental health and be the kind of person he was in the world.
Even though I don’t want to, even though I’d rather just eat and cry about my lost friend, I’ll continue on with him in my heart.
I hear a lot of people describe themselves as suffering from depression, and I have definitely identified with the term “suffering” with regards to depression.
But I am done suffering at the hands of my depression. My depression and I are tied together at the wrist, both with a knife in our free hands, stabbing wildly at each other. Oh, I may be suffering, but I am not going down without a fight, hunny.
Ian Aber is a stand-up comic, columnist and showrunner in Atlanta. Visit comedyian.com.
This column originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the full issue online here:
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