Mauerblümchen: Depression and the Emperor’s New Clothes

This is purely a personal post so feel free to run away now.

There has been a bit of discussion floating around about depression and how it effects us all in one way or another, whether we suffer from it ourselves or are close to someone who does. The reason I chose to throw my hat into the ring on the subject is that I keep seeing people talk about how the anonymity of the internet helps them, makes them feel more confident, happier even. I on the other hand am the complete opposite of that. For those of you who don’t speak German, the first word of the title translates as “wallflower” and that’s how I feel on-line. The girl in the corner, the one no one asks to dance unless it’s a dare.

When I’m down, I have zero self confidence, zero self belief and a whole bunch of self loathing but in the outside world I can fake it. Much of my working life has been spent dealing with upset, stressed and often angry individuals, many of whom were so wrapped up in their own issues (rightly so), that they wouldn’t have noticed if I burst into tears in front of them or danced around dressed as a clown for a bit. I learnt very early on that looks are hugely important (a mother who tells you how ugly you are at very opportunity tends to do that for you) and now, as long as I feel my facade is properly in place, my carefully constructed mask of makeup and expensive clothes I can function reasonably well even though I’m broken inside. Of course, I live in terror that just like the Emperor’s New Clothes, some bright spark will see right through me, will spot the terrified and miserable little girl posing as a professional but to date, no one has yelled “fraud” at me.

Then we come to WoW and twitter and the rest of the internet which should be the perfect hiding place for someone like me but I’m clearly doing it wrong.  I watch twitter scrolling past, wanting to join in but feeling I have nothing to contribute. Even the basics take a huge amount of effort on my part, like responding to a question that I know the answer to because I’m afraid of being laughed at, of having my feelings of worthlessness reinforced. When the people who supposedly love you, criticise your every move, why wouldn’t strangers?

In-game with the exception of pvp, I shy away from contact with other people. I would love to raid in MoP but I know I won’t, the thought of trialling for another guild, of having to prove myself is too much to contemplate. It’s the same with 5 mans and LFR, without someone I know there to make me feel more comfortable, I’m just too insecure to queue up.  It doesn’t matter that I have a whole bunch of hardmode achievements and that a relatively hardcore guild felt that I deserved a legendary, inside I feel a failure. I used to make my husband two man current heroics with me because I couldn’t queue up to do them 5 man. No wonder he doesn’t play tanks any more and yes, it has occurred to me that if you can two man something you could certainly manage with 5 but I still couldn’t make that leap of faith.

Battlegrounds on other hand is a completely different situation, I have no idea why but it’s an environment I’m comfortable in, perhaps because it’s a bit like work. It’s not paranoia, they are out to get you! Also as I said in reply to Navi’s post, I think I focus so much on winning that I tend to forget what’s going on inside my head.

So why the soul searching now? Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about perceptions recently. My Mother thinks the internet is full of monsters because you can’t see who you’re talking to, because everyone wears a mask yet the same is true of the real world. People show us the faces they want us to see, regardless of the space they are in. The face we project often isn’t what we see when we look in the mirror either. I applied for a nice and boring admin job the other week and didn’t get it, instead I got unsolicited advice from the Interviewing board who thought I’d be wasting my time and abilities doing something so mundane. I put the phone down and burst into tears, they wanted to me to apply for a couple of “proper” jobs within the same Department but how can I, someone who has screwed up their own life so much possibly take up a position where I’d get to play God with other people’s lives. Where failure has real and potentially life destroying consequences, not to me but to the people I’m meant to be helping. At times I think people just don’t see what’s right in front of them, how can they miss the rivers of scars on my arms, contours which map out the worst days of my life. How can they miss the tremor in my voice, my pulse hammering away just beneath my skin like a drum. Then I start to wonder if deep down, we’re all the same, it’s all an act for everyone and that inside us all there is this tiny gnomelike creature terrified of discovery.

I think the other part of my issue, is that I feel almost like a fraud for talking about depression because on the surface I have a perfect life. A husband who adores me, a large and complicated family who love me in their own special way, money to buy whatever I want. I have all the trapping which should make me happy, but I’m not. I have dealt with such terrible things at work, victims of torture and abuse which make my abusive ex look like a puppy dog, I feel bad for being miserable, for hating the way I look, for having days when the only thing which made the loathing go way was to drown it out by hurting myself.  I read other people’s accounts of their depression and feel dreadful because even at my darkest moments, when I’ve contemplated dying I still function like a badly programmed robot. On a side note, I think that’s why the idea of Tranquillity in Dragon Age appeals to me, oh to be able to do my job without emotions getting in the way.

Now it’s like a river, there are calms and rapids and rocks lurking just below the surface. For a family who don’t talk about depression and mental illness, we sure have a lot of it. Suicide attempts that aren’t mentioned, Great Aunts locked up in what they used to call asylums, alcoholics too, one of my Great Grandmamma’s lived until she was a 98 and drank a bottle of whiskey a day. So many skeletons lurking in the closet and yet to the outside observer, we’re a perfect family.

In my less depressed periods I’ve always tried to push past my demons. At school I joined the debating team and actually captained the debate team for two years with great success (apart from the time I turned up to a competition too drunk to be coherent but that’s another story). I always wore long skirts so the audience wouldn’t see my knees knocking but I stood up there and did it.  I started blogging as a sort of therapy, I thought trying to write to an admittedly flexible timetable might help keep my mind on the positives of life rather than the negatives. I force myself to comment on other people’s blogs and it takes a while because I delete each comment three or four times before I’m happy with it. Yesterday I queued for Ahune solo, I know it sounds like nothing but to me it was a huge undertaking. I was shaking the entire time, just waiting for something terrible to happen. It didn’t but the Gods of RNG didn’t see fit to reward my courage with a pet or a scythe either.

I accept now that I’ll never be free of this, that it’s always going to be apart of me. The little demon on my shoulder whose face and voice alters to fit the circumstances, worried about your appearance, well then it wears your Mother’s face. Stressed about failure, then it switches to being icy cold, your father telling you no one loves a loser, that daddy’s girl wins whatever the cost. Broken something and oh look, my subconscious has just conjured up my ex like a demon lover, “clumsy girls get hurt, what’s one more bruise when you’re so stupid you can’t walk straight”. The bruises on the outside fade, scars too but inside those wounds remain fresh as the day they were carved into you.

I can’t change the past but I’m not going to give in because if nothing else I’ve learnt that I’m better than them. Better than those petty people who seek only to destroy what they can’t control or understand. I’ve applied for those jobs I was afraid of, because I feel that the very fact that I understand the consequences of not taking enough care means that I will be good at it. That I’ll fight for each and every person as if my own survival depended on it. Bit by bit I’m going to challenge myself into doing the things I want to do, be more vocal, volunteer to help people and perhaps one day, I’ll become the woman I project in public.

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12 Responses

  1. It may come as a surprise to you, but many of these sentiments echo how I feel, especially in reference to your family. I think part of the battle to feeling comfortable with yourself is the acceptance that, like it or not, all of this makes you the person you undoubtedly are.

    Needless to say, if you want to talk or vent (or indeed just be what you are) then there’ll be a lot of people willing to listen, especially those of us who read posts like this and recognise ourselves in you.

    Life is a long road, and it is better travelled with those who care. You’re a lucky woman. You’re also very brave to be this honest.

    Good for you :D

  2. For what it’s worth, I have to say yours is possibly my favorite WoW blog of all. I’m also a priest-o-holic, yet I never fail to learn something for your instructional posts. I know that every time you post on a shared topic, your version will be both creative and grounded in game logic, insightful but not obvious. (I loved all your ideas from yesterday’s shared topic post, would love if they were implemented!) So in this one arena, I consider you to be an absolutely unqualified success!

    I am glad to hear that you took the interview panel’s advice and applied for the jobs. It is a curse to be able to see all the potential pitfalls at once (and self-confidence is never easy to maintain, even in the absence of bad genetic tendencies), but you are absolutely right that this insight makes you a BETTER candidate for the job. Best of luck!

    • Thanks.

      I’m a bit nervous waiting to hear back about the jobs but they were probably right in the long run, that I would enjoy this more once I got comfortable with it.

      My Grandmother always says that “Rejection is fate’s way of telling you there is something better around the corner”, I hope in this case she was right :)

  3. It takes time and courage and lots of patience to recover from any kind of depression. Even more so if you have little support from family. As a side note – I suffered from severe depression for years and years, started from hormonal contraception. No doctor ever had the idea that my suffering was based on that stupid pill. I’ve found out through a self-help forum on the internet when I googled my ailments.
    Anyways – sometimes, you also realize that when you have less money, less superficial stuff, less masquerade… you actually become a happier person. But most importantly you have to love yourself and be patient and give yourself time.

    • Your story and others I’ve heard like that is partly why I’m so dubious about seeking help from the Medical profession. I know too many Doctors (as friends) to have much faith in their ability to deal with stuff like Depression.

      It’s the love yourself bit I struggle with and I’m not sure I’ll ever manage. I’ve been told I’m unlovable once too often I think.

  4. Oddly my internet presence is far more the real me than irl. That person never drops defenses. So much of how you described yourself sounds like me. What is strange though is that my mother was the opposite. Every stupid thing I did was wonderful, I guess going overboard in the opposite direction was less painful but possibly just as harmful as it seemed to discount everything.

    I did the exact same thing yesterday when I queued for Ahune, I think I queued and dropped about four or five times. And then I argued with myself. DO IT. Why, I’m supposed to be enjoying myself, this isn’t fun. But I finally did it and the fact that the Gods of RNG don’t reward us for being brave really infuriates me, lol.

    Your writing is wonderful, I’m always excited to see a new post from you when I open my inbox.

    I’m glad you applied, you would do an excellent job and those people will be lucky to have you on their side.

    • Thank you for sharing this. It really connected with me, so much in there is hauntingly familiar, about work but especially when you talk about feeling like a fraud.

      I guess that’s all part of the cycle, but it’s the most insidious part because it can make you rob yourself of feeling a right to feel differently.

      Thanks again for sharing.

    • @ Tome Mothers… who would have them? :D

      I know all the things my Mother did to me was done to her in turn by my Grandmother and probably on down the chain. My Grandmother is 90, deaf and blind but the first thing she says to my Mother when she sees here is “let me look at you, are you fat?” and then out come the hands to see if she can pinch any excess skin.

      It’s odd really, she (Grandmother) phoned the other day to tell me I was selfish because I don’t want children and yet if I said she was partly to blame she wouldn’t get it at all.

      @Malevica Thank you. I definitely think that’s the hardest part to deal with, the feeling that compared to others we have no right to feel the way we do because it just adds another lair of self loathing to the cake. When I was growing up, any tears were always met with “I’ll give you something to cry about if you don’t stop”, not that I cried much anyway because I was told that if I did, I’d melt just like the Witch in the Wizard of Oz and that theme continued. If you’re down, you get something to feel bad about.

  5. I read this and this sounds strange, but somehow I knew it was there. I am sure you have never written about it on your blog before, and maybe I gleaned it from comments you have made on other blogs (and I admit I feel very honoured that you feel comfortable enough to comment on my own blog), but I think you put on such a brave face and put on a good front that most people would not know this secret you was inside. Though people talk about conquering your demons, the scared, insecure little girl inside you will always be a part of you and learning to live with her, I hope, will be something you can do.

    Mental illness is out there. It affects 1 in 3 people.

    Even Erinys.

    • I think I’ve commented on a few other blogs but don’t think I’ve actually posted anything about it here before.

      I normally try and keep my “game face” on, after all it’s hard to be a ganker if everyone thinks you’re afraid of your own shadow. However things have been building to a head recently and I thought screw it, what’s the internet for, if not posting your inner most thoughts.

      On the plus side, I think the scared little girl is the creative bit of me, she’s got an over active imagination and sees shadows everywhere. Without her, I’d be a pale intimation of myself, it’s just that accepting that is a hard road.

  6. Depression has a standing reservation at our home, including with me. I’ve had it like a rollercoaster since I was a teenager. About 10 years ago I was medicated for it, but decided personally that I didn’t want to go that route. I had heard directly that specific medication was brutal to try to remove yourself from and to be honest, that terrified me.

    With that decision, though, came a double-edged sword. I’m not on medication, but I also get depressed probably as much as ever. If anything, I’m simply more self-aware of it. There are days that are just difficult, and there are perfect days. There are others where the day is perfect and in the most trivial of ways I find my mind in a downward spiral. The days where suicide crossed my mind, or cutting crossed my mind, are long gone. It’s more that I recognize the state I’m in and just deal with it as it comes. I know sunshine will come between the clouds and that’s what I aim for. I focus on the things in life that I love, that make me happy, and that I am simply grateful for (this side of the grass is usually a good start).

    Like others, I know things will never be perfect. I also know how heavily the odds are stacked that my son will inherit it as well (1+1=likely when it comes to genetics). What I’m hoping is that my wife and I can give him a much more grounded childhood than either of us had, and just maybe it’ll help. It’s not that I think we’re lost causes or anything like that, but like every other parent we want the best for our child. If he DOES end up like his mom and dad, that’s fine. I will do my damndest to help him to know that I will always be there for him to talk to and to help him if he wants it. While I know I can say that about most of my family, somethings are easier said than done as the saying goes. Growing up it was almost impossible for me to talk to my family about the things going on in my head, because I’ve always been the rock for everyone else. In some ways I’m proud of that, but in others it almost killed me. He shouldn’t ever have to feel that responsibility.

    I suppose the end result of this little wall of text was to just let you know, like others, that you’re certainly not alone. I don’t think the internet offers anonymity so much as I think with certain people online you just feel more comfortable. In the right place and the right time there’s no judgement, only support. Knowing you have that can make things much easier.

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