"I'm a good officer, but in this world that's not enough. In this world you have to nod and smile and drink a pint and say 'how was your day?' In this world no-one can be different or strange or damaged... or they lock you up. So what do I do? What do I do now?" - DI John River from BBC's River
Photo courtesy: BBC/Kudos/Nick Briggs
Friday I spent most of my day sitting in bed, racked with guilt after being sent home from work because I just could stop crying. It was then that I discovered River, a miniseries produced by BBC staring legendary Stellan Skarsgård, and when I heard this quote it made me cry even harder.
John River is a successful Detective Inspector with London's Metropolitan Police — he is also mentally ill. Seeing the 'manifests' of those whose murder he investigates, River struggles to cope, resigned to the fact that his illness may cost him the job he loves.
Skarsgård's character resonated with me deeply as depression is something I've always been forced to 'just deal with.' A bonus prize to pair perfectly with my occasionally crippling anxiety.
Friday was a distinctly tough day for me and for no specific reason. I was resigned to the fact I was expected at work and went through my morning routines in gloomy silence.
I was too scared to call in sick. I tried once before with the same reason and was told because I wasn't a health risk to the guests that I was expected to be there.
I spent that day with a fake smile plastered across my face when outside of the kitchen, falling into my true state as soon as I crossed into employee only territory. Using the staff restroom as my personal hyperventilation chamber I managed to make it through my four hour shift before collapsing at home. I spent the next two days hiding in my apartment, avoiding all human contact and crying.
So when I arrived at work on Friday I wasn't expecting much different.
But perhaps I need to give people more credit, not everyone treats depression like a false illness. My manager came to see me as I was getting ready. She asked me why I didn't call in and when I explained she shook her head and said: "Go home, have some tea and relax. We have lots of servers on today, we'll be fine without you." If I wasn't already crying I would have started right then.
I'm happy with how awareness of these illnesses is becoming more prevalent, but you still see people laughing at the "crazy" man muttering to himself in the subway, or throwing around the term OCD as synonym for someone who likes things clean and tidy. I'm sure my tear-streaked face even got a few second glances during my walk to work.
In my mind there is no rational reason for me to get so depressed. Yeah, money is tight and I can't seem to find a job in journalism but the good in my life far outweighs the bad so I can't help but feel guilty when I'm in this state. I should be functioning. I should be at work making money to alleviate my stress levels, but I just can't.
It's embarrassing to be this sad, especially when you're asking for help. Because in my experience, for every one person who understands and believes what you are going through, there are two more calling you a 'faker' or telling you to 'think of the people who are worse off.'
What exactly is wrong with being different, strange, or damaged? It's just another thing that makes me... well me. Just like DI John River I might get a look or two on the street, but without my depression and anxiety I would be a completely different person — and that is not something I want to be.