I admit, I have suffered from depression. Clinical, real depression. I don’t talk about it overly much and I don’t let my co-workers know, though some of my friends are aware. I am a depressive person in remission. I’ve learned how to accommodate sufficiently that it is no longer the every day, nonstop difficult that plagued my life at one time. Yes, I still have the addictive personality. Yes, I still have manic delight and an intensity that some find uncomfortable. Yes, I still have funks and general blah days. It is sufficiently in remission that I can usually regard my ups and downs as utterly “normal.”
Where does this come from? Oh, there are all sorts of reasonable explanations: genetics, hormones creating a bio-chemical imbalance, prescriptions pushing my already delicate equilibrium out of whack. But in an unforgiving, bad moment, I can admit – this can also be triggered and resurface with a very rare sort of person. Someone incredibly critical. A well-intentioned perfectionist who has expectations of you. Someone who you seek approval from, no matter how much you’re aware that any approval you gain will be laced with undermining limitations.
Now, I’m not saying that’s the original source of depression, but I’ve recently witnessed first-hand how toxic and damaging such a person can be. I can say that this person is one of the reasons for some of the darker poetry of my youth, because I didn’t know how to handle such criticisms. Don’t get me wrong, I have led a privileged, amazing life with so many opportunities and so many benefits. That doesn’t halt your self-perception. Some of the greatest people suffer from all sort of personal difficulties that are simply kept under cover and private.
I recently was given some potentially bad news at my job. The dreaded words “it’s a business decision” came up. What this means is everyone in my location has the choice of moving to NY or finding another position locally, whether within or outside the company. Which is actually a little worse than that sounds, too. Basically, the department is leaving my area entirely. We can request a position if we’re willing to move, but no guarantee that the position will be available. Rough, right?
Now for the good. First, it’s not just me. It has nothing to do with my performance and is no reflection on me – it’s a location thing. Which sucks, but at least it’s not personal. Second, our current positions don’t go away for another nine months or so. Time – time is a good thing. That’s huge. That’s time to look for another position. Time to work out what’s going on. And third, I have options. I’m good at what I do. I’m known. I should be able to find another position without a problem if they won’t work with me to retain me. So, not horrible, but a little irritating since I only just started this position at the beginning of this year! I was just starting to feel secure in it!
I made a very general comment on a form of social media. I should have known better, but I kept it very general. It was more an expression of the up and down nature of life, rather than a woe is me or angry statement. I’m angry, but only at the situation. I’m frustrated. I’m uncertain. I’m not devastated or inconsolable. I’m not a basket case and I’m not depressed about it. (Just depressed. See what I did there? Ha!)
This particular person saw my posting and reached out to me. I explained the situation. The response I received was so well-intentioned and so flagrantly wrong that I was floored. “This is a perfect opportunity for your OCD to flare up.” And a whole flurry of advice on how to turn my “OCD” into something positive.
Okay, I have never ever EVER been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. I am clinically depressed. I have manic periods. I have obsessive tendencies and yes, I have an uncanny focus when my mood complies. That is not OCD. My first thought was – if I was OCD, I wouldn’t have those piles of laundry I keep avoiding having to do. Heck, my house would be neat and clean! I’ve known people with OCD. I am not like that.
I expected someone of this nature, someone who’s known me so long, someone related, to have sympathy and compassion. I expected support or I wouldn’t have explained the situation at all. This response was enough to actually depress me. The job situation didn’t, but this misdiagnosis – this “there’s something wrong with you, so you need to look for help in resolving this situation” response was not what I needed. Sure I’m less than happy, but I have options. Options are good. This failure to provide support made me melt into a big puddle of suck.
I wallowed for a day, questioning my worth – something I haven’t done in a long time. And it finally dawned on me why I was doing that. There was a reason I had reverted to old habits and negative thinking, and it was this helpful well-meaning advice. People only have the power we give them. When we have an expectation or define ourselves off of someone else’s impression of us, we’re giving them power. No matter how close the relation, no matter how you care about them, it is a power given. And if you give it without caution, your assumptions can drag you down into the murky, mucky depths of the puddle of suck. It’s hard to get back out. Making it out of the mire of power granted is far from easy, but step by step, it can happen.
I had to stop and ask myself – what is my definition of success. I consider myself successful if I am happy, comfortable, and not in imminent risk of having either of those destroyed. Am I happy? Sure. Not thrilled with the work situation, but I’m not unemployed or at risk of it and I still like what I do. Am I comfortable? Definitely. Maybe a little too comfortable if my pudginess is anything to judge by. Is there imminent risk? Nope. So, I’m a success. No puddle of suck can slurp that from me.