Reframe the Shame by Steve Earle
It's a neurological difference in my brain that causes me to
experience more sorrow and sadness that other people may do, if that
makes sense. For me um-well, let's see, I tend to be one of those
people who is really good at putting on the happy face when they're
really very sad. I tend to put on this mask when things start to
build up for me. Negative things start to build up. Um let's see, I
was diagnosed at twelve with depression. Um not really sure that it
should have necessarily been that way but it was after the death of a
family member. So it kind of justmy cousin who was two years older
than me died, not unexpectedly but after a surgery and I took it
really hard. And then I tend to be a control freak so then my grades
got out of balance and I got really upset and just became one of those
people who never wanted to get out of bed.
I live life. I live life. But my brain is keeping me from living it.
It's like, I'm having fun and then the next moment, I kind of
shift into like, "what's going on? This isn't happening".
Like, I look at all of the little tiny things. I remember I have a
big window in my room. And the light shines, like, right when the sun
is setting, it shines, and I see all of it, the dust and I look at it,
and I'm just looking at it. And I'm like, "why am I looking at
it". It's just dust, but at that moment, it's so much more than
just dust, it's life, it's all these things that, I don't want
to say everyone takes for granted, even myself, but it's just these
little things of life that makes me feel like I'm dreaming and
that's one of the reasons why I feel like, it's not life, it's
me. Life is life, but I'm someone who's completely different from
everyone else and instead of just living, I over analyze it. I over
think it. I just kinda don't know what I'm doing. I don't know
what I'm feeling. I don't know how to react to anything, because
I feel so stuck in my head. SometimesI just want to. . .like. . .
I just want to, like. . .
I suffer from both anxiety and depression. Um. The both of them
mixed in tandem make for a very interesting monster. It's the
feeling of wanting to do everything and wanting to do nothing at all.
It's the feeling of, you know, waking up in the morning and
realizing I have all these things to do and realizing that I am
terrified and don't want to get out of bed. People give me so much
grief cause like sometimes it will debilitate me to the point where I
will cancel things and I won't do anything that day. They will give
me grief because they'll say, "you are lazy, oh you don't really
care, oh you don't want to be involved," and it's like I really
don't understand like it's not for lack of interest or for lack of
anything its just pure unadulterated, illogical fear. If there were
a way to put it into an equation, it would be anxiety plus depression
equals fear. It just stinks.
My understanding is that it's like a chemical imbalance. I think
there's certain hormones (I think they are), that need to be
released in your brain and in your body to keep your mood stable and I
don't have enough of some or I have too much of one. I don't have
the proper balance. Depression is different; it's not always the
same for everybody. Sometimes you eat more or for me my depression is
that I want to stay in bed. I don't want to deal with people, I
don't want to be social, I just don't want to be around people.
But that's not everybody. At this point now, I'm learning that
I'm just an emotional person. I don't necessarily like that cause
I cry at commercials sometimes, just take things personal. I'm
really sensitive when I'm either starting it or coming out of it in
I never really thought about being a depressed person. Now that I look
back on it, my anxiety has been around longer than my depression.
When I was in second grade and I had this teacher. It was after the
Virginia Tech shooting. I was in second grade. She went on this long
speech the day after it happened about if the dude comes into the room
with a gun, you should immediately start praying because you are
probably going to die. I think that's when my anxiety actually
started to occur. Plus she was not a nice woman. It's the most
random thing but I think that's where everything started. I was
usually scared to go to bed. My sister and I would share a room and I
would be like "hey why don't you sleep in the bed closest to the
door so if someone comes in to shoot us you die first." I was like
seven so that was my thought process.
I was very sleep deprived um, overworked and overburdened as medical
interns usually are. And it was a rather cold night and a mother
brought out her very young infant with a fever to the emergency room.
It was about 2:30 in the morning and the infant's fever was
medically insignificant. So, I ended up reaming the mother for
bringing her baby out on a cold night for what was not a real
emergency. When I finally got some sleep I realized that was a
horrible thing to have done to a mother who was concerned about her
child's illness and I had totally missed the boat. So I called and
made apologies and she was very gracious to me. Right then I started
recognizing that if the pressures of family medicine were making me
become that kind of a person, I needed to rethink what I wanted to do
with my medical career. And uh, changed focus from going into family
medicine to general psychiatry with the goal of becoming an adolescent
psychiatrist. Which I did and I've been practicing for many years
I guess I was in high school when it started to be noticeable; where
people were starting to pay attention I should say. But I moved
around a lot when I was a kid so I was, like, in one school for like
1st and 2nd grade and a different school for 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th;
another school for 7th; another school for 8th; and a totally
different high school for 9th and 10th. Um… I got suspended in the
middle of my sophomore year. "Pending psychiatric evaluation" was
how my suspension notice was written. I had anger issues. Um… so in
order for them to consider even letting me back into high school I had
to go through counseling and I had really bad migraines to the point
where I would miss days and days of school. So, pending the
psychiatric evaluation I went to counseling. They diagnosed me as
manic-depressive and they put me on some different medicines and stuff
and I had EKGs and brain scans and all that stuff. I never really
recovered—I ended up being suspended for almost four months so my
grades never recovered-I almost flunked out of school. I had a
friend kill himself right before I had gotten suspended. That was
probably one of the triggers and, um… I don't know… I just
wasn't keen on the whole medicine thing. It felt like it was being
forced down my throat. You know… and I had a lot of anger.
I realized that I definitely did not do well handling my own emotions.
Um, that I needed someone usually to talk to whether it be a family
member, a friend, an external person. I have learned how to handle my
emotions. I tend to do things like I cook, or I'll go to the gym.
Anything that can help me get some of that excess emotion out.
Counseling was probably one of the best things I've ever had to do
because someone sat there and listened to me. Without an opinion,
without bias, just listened. They helped me recognize some of the
signs that show up when I'm starting to change and be a little on
the darker side. I tend to shut people out, I don't talk that's
not me I'm a talker. Um, I can't get enough sleep; I can stay in
bed all day. I have a really weird thing that I do when I get
depressed and I eat canned frosting. It's a strange thing that's
just me. Um, I hate canned frosting as a cook and someone who grew up
around a baker you never eat canned frosting. And I can literally just
sit down with a spoon and eat the whole thing. And those are kind of
my personal triggers that I have learned to recognize as because I
wouldn't do it any other time. I only tend to do it when I'm
really, really not handling the outside world so well.
I used to punch things. um, I would punch myself… um… I would cut
myself—not to hurt myself—I mean, not in a suicidal way more in
like boyfriends. I would carve their initials in my body so they
would always be a part of me. I was really emotionally, like, clingy.
It was like I wasn't okay with who I was. There were just a lot of
things I didn't understand. I was living with my grandmother who
didn't talk about all this stuff. In her generation you just dealt
with it. So there were a lot of things that started coming out in the
counseling that I wasn't really comfortable with my grandmother
hearing. A lot of it was about my mom—her daughter—but it was
like I was kind of stuck in the middle because I had a lot of anger
towards my mom but I had a lot of love for my grandmother and they
were so opposite you know.
It's just me as a person. I'm happy, but my body needs to
understand physically, logically, emotionally what went wrong. My
whole body is affected; it's not just a mental thing. I start my
day, I try to move on and ignore the thoughts, but my body is living
anxiety and depression. There is always a buzzing going on inside of
my body, my stomach feels like everything in it is churning like
waves. When I'm anxious I feel like all the hairs on the parts of my
body are standing up and are prickly. I just feel permanently tense. I
have trouble focusing. I feel so weird, like I don't feel like a
person at all.
Now I realize that anybody can have depression. You can't tell by
looking at someone if they have depression or not. It can happen to
anybody of any age. Most people when I would say I had depression
would be like "really cause you seem so really happy like all the
time". Yeah I'd be like you suck. No matter how much the
depression affects the person. It doesn't matter how big or little
the depression is you still have depression. It means you are still
not in a good state no matter how big or little.
People often ask me, "What is depression?" That's such a hard
question. It's kind of like asking somebody in northern Alaska
what's snow. And so that's one of the problems with the word,
"depression." Are we looking at it as a temporary mood? Are we
looking at it as a clinical entity? There are different varieties of
depression. It can be a severely incapacitating illness with
suicidality. It can cause wasting of the body from people who just
lose interest in eating. It can be a manifestation of bipolar disorder
where then you've got swings. You've got the mixed pieces and then
there's the ones that are kind of below grade—not a severe
quality of depression.
The first day of seventh grade just trying to go through the hallways
and up the stairs and they all had their bestie and I was just like
"hey". I got home and I couldn't breathe and I was like
shaking. I didn't know what was going on. I was like "Mom I
don't know what is going on." I was freaking out. I was just a
wreck. I really didn't want to go to school the next day but I did
and I just kept going. I would still be really anxious about grades.
I mean regular student stuff. I felt like all students were like this
and then I realized that not everyone feels as strongly as me. Then
eighth grade my best friend had posted a picture on Facebook and she
had like carved letters into her arm saying no one wanted her. I was
really confused cause I didn't know what that was. I was like,
"Mom I think she's not okay." So my mom notified her counselor.
No one knew that I was the one who turned her in. I wasn't
fascinated by it but I was confused. I was like why would you
purposefully do that to yourself. Then when I started doing it
especially when I get really depressed before ninth grade I was like I
get it. It's not cool but I don't have control and when I did
that I had control and I was able to feel. I felt like I had a bit of
control. In ninth grade, I wasn't really doing it so heavily at the
beginning of the year. Around December when things really began
spiraling, my parents weren't really aware of it then but it felt
like everything was just being thrown at me and I didn't know what
was going on. It was my first year of high school and I was just
really confused. There was just so much going on and I had no
control. I just became so ridiculously depressed. I stopped caring.
I mean this is not like something that goes away. A lot of people
don't really get that. What really bothers me when I'm talking to
someone about it and they are like just be happyyou know there are
people who have it a lot worse than you. I mean those people aren't
me and I'm going to feel different than everyone so why would you
put me in a bubble with people. It's like they don't validate that
this is a real thing that happens to kids. You're just being
overdramatic. You should just be happy. It's just so not like that.
You can take medication and it doesn't matter how many therapy
groups you go to, if you are just depressed or anxious you don't
just get over it. It takes so much work. I get that depression is
like a chemical imbalance in your brain. I mean I don't really know
that much on it. When people start talking about the scientific
aspects of it, I start drowning it out because I don't care if
it's a chemical imbalance. I just feel off put. I feel sad. I
don't want to do anything. I don't want to hang out with friends.
I don't want to play the ukulele or sing. I just want to lay down.
Not even sleep, just lay there. I mean you can tell me all about the
chemical stuff but I don't feel like that's what I'm really
feeling. I don't feel like certain electrons aren't really
clicking. I don't feel like that something so minor could cause
something so major.
(Media Video: The original production used a two-minute video created
by taking movie posters, short scenes from TV and film about
depression, and news anchors delivering the news of the suicides of
famous celebrities. The last clip was about Kurt Cobain).
I think the media exaggerates depression and glorifies it. Like in the
90s when Kurt Cobain killed himself. It felt like they glorified that
he took his own life. The media acted like it was great that he did
that. You know like Nirvana was this best band ever because Kurt
Cobain killed himself. I guess they were a good band. It's just that
people don't understand the excessiveness of it sometimes. That
it's not; it doesn't just happen overnight. It's not an
overnight thing. I think people just aren't as accepting of
differences as they could be.
The media portrays depression like it's a phase. You know, like,
um. . . you're depressed. They. . .even on face book, they have
your mood. You can post, like, your mood, and your mood will say
depressed. It's not a mood. It's not something you feel for an
hour and you just get over in an hour. It's serious! And then they
contradict it, because they have these posts where they say depression
is real, but you have depression as a feeling. Just a feeling that
you can have for an hour, and then the next hour, you could be happy.
Like, depressed, happy, sad, content all of that stuff they don't go
together. Not to me at least. I don't feel like being depressed is
just a mood. You can't just be depressed for a little while and get
over it. And then, when I first felt depression I felt like I was
told it was something. . .it was a phase. You know, I was gonna
eventually grow out if it. Or get over whatever was bothering me
making me feel that way.
When I was first getting diagnosed I was talking to my friends about
it and they're like oh. It was not a comfortable thing to have to
describe what it feels like when you are depressed. You just don't
feel like there are always triggers. There are relationship breakups,
people die, death is something I was surrounded by a lot as a child.
I lost people very young in my life. Death and funerals were
something I went to a lot. I remember doing cartwheels in the parking
lot not knowing what to do at a funeral. Even now what do you do at a
funeral? It's awkward. And I remember his mother's family being
like "Oh my god, she's doing cartwheels now!”