humility: \hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē, yü-\
1 : the quality or state of being humble
1 : not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive
2 : reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission
3 a : ranking low in a hierarchy or scale b : not costly or luxurious
The upside of depression – and pretty much any mental illness – is that it will wipe out any pride, arrogance and self-importance you had before your fall. It’s not easy to be your old pompous, pretentious, highfalutin self after going through a major depression. Ditto for bipolar.
When you are in a depression you learn the true meaning of humility – to remain teachable – whether you want to or not. Only through humility could I get well. Sure, the medications helped lift me from my black hole and my mood stabilizer calmed me down, but to become truly healthy I had to become humble.
I spent most of my life trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps whenever I sank into my black hole. I made no effort to calm myself when I vibrated with mania. I can handle this, I thought. Then came “The Big One.” I could not lift myself and I refused to listen to anyone – even my therapist – who told me I was in a major clinical depression and needed medications. I was NOT going to take antidepressants. I was not the kind of woman who took antidepressants. I was above that. I was strong. I just needed to work harder and exercise harder and get off my freakin’ pity pot.
I was like a little baby. Help me, please. Someone, help me. I could not focus. I could not eat. I could not sleep. I could not read or write. All I wanted was to curl up in a little ball. Everything was flat. I did not know what to do to help myself. I had to take off my cape and…gulp…ask for help. Then I had to admit that I knew damn near nothing about depression. Finally, I became willing to learn about my depression and bipolar.
I learned I needed medication and that medication was not a sign of weakness anymore than insulin is a sign of weakness for a diabetic. I learned I needed to retire my cape. I learned to ask for help. I learned and learned and learned. I surfed the web looking for information about depression and bipolar. I talked to others with mental illness. I asked questions of doctors, psychologists and therapists. I wanted to know any shred of knowledge that would keep me from ever sinking into my black hole again.
Three years out from my latest depression I am still learning. Google sends me alerts everyday with articles on depression, bipolar and alcoholism. I watch programs on mental illness or with mentally ill characters. I listen to others and what worked and did not work for them.
I learned some humility.