We learn to hide the pain. We feel unacceptable. We learn to present happy faces, calm demeanors, soft voices — where what we really feel like doing is screaming until our throats rip apart.

Depression is a daily nightmare

Be kind.

That’s what comes to mind when I see people getting down on folks who write about being depressed and scared. Just be kind.

See, you have no idea how frightening it is to feel so shitty and not know how to get out of it. People say to them, “get over it!” Well, you can say that until you’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t help. Believe me, if they knew how to get over it, they would! No one likes to suffer!

“Cheer up!” you say. “Get up and get going! That’s enough! Just turn it around,” you say. Oh how that hurts to hear! Don’t you think they’d turn it around if they knew how???

You have no idea how fragile a thing it is to even admit to people where you’re at. I was homeless for about a year in the late 90s, living in my little car with my dog. I knew instinctively that, if I told anyone I was on the street, their look would turn to pity or disgust in an instant. They’d back away, as if I was dirty.

People don’t know how to help, so it makes them feel helpless, and they retreat whole cloth from the entire situation. I lost a few ‘good friends’ that year. I learned not to tell people. Everyone else assumed I lived in a house.

Depression is an endless loop of inner torture. You feel bad … then you feel bad about feeling bad … all the while you know you don’t know how to change it for the better. There seems to be no hope at all.

You avoid people for fear of their criticism, punishment or mockery. Which makes you feel more isolated, more bad, more worthless, more hopeless.

We aren’t taught how to deal with our emotions as we grow up. We’re taught to adhere to the age-old boys-don’t cry and girls-should-be-seen-and-not-heard crap, or something similar. One of my friend’s dad used to tell her she was a disgusting waste of air. Nice guy.

You feel so devastatingly alone.

It took me until my late 20s before I was able to utter a single sentence without fear of someone yelling at me to shut up or mind my own business, or mocked me with you’re-just-a-girl, what the hell do YOU know, missy?!?

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s to really understand at the deepest level that my belief that I was ugly and utterly stupid was incorrect. For real. I truly thought I had no worth or physical beauty.

I’m not sure what my life would have been like if I hadn’t had art in my blood. As a really young girl, I retreated under tables, hid behind furniture, snuck out into the barn, putting my bruised mind into dreaming up and making stuff. I believe art saved my life many more times than I can count.

Later on, I figured out that the only way out is to decide to BE out of it.

It sounds glib, doesn’t it? But once you decide, and commit to learning how to get mastery over your mind, it’s possible.

And lemme tellya, it’s not as easy peasy as all the gurus want you to think it is – it’s damn hard. Minute to minute, you have to take the wheel, and stop relying on the myths you grew up with, cultural norms, society’s conventions.

You have to dive deep into the wild morass of squirming, seething, slippery, spiky-sharp pain in your brain, and fish out what is real and what isn’t, what helps and what doesn’t.

You now have a life-long quest. You have to keep at it day after day after day, until you have a modicum of a foundation of peace you can stand on – and then you have to keep going, keep at it, building that foundation up into a reliable, strong, unassailable fortress.

You have to keep asking, what is my deepest heart’s most cherished desire, and walk towards fulfilling that. Constantly, no matter what obstacles seem to rise up before you.

You must ask, constantly, “My heart, what is best for me right now?”

And, since you are now so thoroughly connected with your deepest heart, you have to trust that it and the Mystery of Life will somehow come through for you, even if right now it seems like life is just a crappy fatal game filled with nothing but pain and misery.

You have to trust. That’s the hardest of all.

There IS a way out. It looks different for every person, but at the core, it’s learning how to be with, honor, and – amazingly – to guide – your emotions, the very feelings that have torn through you and destroyed your inner peace for so long. So you can create new, constructive habits that keep you from slipping and ending up again in the morass.

In the kind-time, because no one likes mean-times, I ask you to be kind. BE kindness. You don’t know how much or how deeply someone is suffering.

We learn to hide the pain. It’s not acceptable. We learn to present happy faces, calm demeanors, soft voices – where what we really feel like is screaming until our throats rip apart.

Our guts feel like they’re being torn out and strewn around, flailing like the arms of a stricken helicopter falling from a thousand feet.

We wish we could shake ourselves into numbness so we don’t have to feel the bleakness, the endless despair, the sheer, terrible force of the misery and torment anymore.

One act of kindness in the face of our pain is
more precious than anything you can imagine.
Better than food, or money, or even shelter.

One person acknowledging our value, our worth, can shine like a miracle out of the blue.

So when you see people on the street with their dirty faces or ragged clothing or smelly old jackets and boots full of holes; when you see posts on social media by this distressed artist or that agonized musician or lost teen – please look deeper.

See their pain. Understand that, if they could, they would certainly choose to do better for themselves.

If you can offer resources, please don’t do it from the disdainful attitude of, “You need to heal.” Do it from the stance of a loving friend, saying something like, “Here’s something cool, want to try it?” Or, “Can I get you some food?” without any trace of oh-poor-you.
If you can’t help openly, send them love-vibes. I know, seems silly, right? But do it anyway. It counts.

Close your eyes for a second and imagine them happy and whole and feeling valued and worthwhile.

Stop your judgement of them in its tracks.

You don’t have to talk to them or interact – just intend wholeness for them.

Every intention we have counts.
Curls out into the world and affects everyone,
like ripples on water.

I saw a video the other day where a young boy was telling his mom that love isn’t enough. That kindness should come first. He’s right. Out of the mouths of babes, eh?

Keep on keeping on — with kindness.


Thanks so much for reading my story – I hope you enjoyed it!

Image: Depression is a Daily Nightmare
text and image © Angela Treat Lyon 2023


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