Here is an extremely abbreviated and sanitized version of my non-clinical-diagnosis depression-mindset history: As early as grade school, I developed this bizarre all-or-nothing perfectionist mindset. Like if I wasn’t the best at something, it had to mean that I was the absolute worst and had no value as a human being. No idea where it came from because my upbringing was actually completely normal and pleasant. Morphed into deeply toxic depressive thinking that carried on for many, many, many years. It was, at times, far worse than what I’ve described here, but I promised this would be the short sanitized version, so I’m not going into detail.
One of the effects of all this is that I largely lost the ability to self-evaluate in any objective way. Yes, I get that objective self-evaluation is an oxymoron and perhaps, no one is capable of this by definition.
Over time, I got to the point of looking to some external evidence rather than rely solely my own deeply flawed perfectionist-era depression mindset negative spiral thinking. For instance, now if you were to ask me if I’m a good singer, I would say “It depends on the song” – an accurate answer arguably for everyone. Or I’d write an overly long blog post about it, but if I met you in person, I’d just say “It depends on the song”. Whereas if you asked me say ten or twenty years ago, I’d have said something severely self-deprecating about my vocal skills, and played it off as humor.
Only I couldn’t seem to pull off self-deprecating humor properly. People seemed to sense there was a truly broken depressed person behind the words that might have been innocuous coming from someone else. My friend who died a year and a half ago once called me out on it in front of my family, which I did not really appreciate. (Side note: I know I’ve been posting more unflattering things about her lately, but don’t get the wrong idea. She was an amazing friend, and I did not appreciate her or our friendship enough while she was alive. I started a longer post about her and her death, but it’s been hard to write).
Anyway, I disagreed. I thought she was wrong. I was hilarious. My self-deprecating humor game was spot-on! Even now, I re-read my own self–deprecating words and I like my writing style, even when commenters have noted that I sound unreasonably harsh on myself. This is my style! I’m authentic and funny!
And then I started reading and listening to other people who were also doing the self-deprecating humor thing. And hearing myself reflected back. Only now, it wasn’t all that funny.
I guess this is how all the moms feel when their pre-teen daughters start obsessing over body image and diets. Like the wrong audience got the wrong message. Or the right one, and it was never all that light-hearted or funny. It was actually cringe-worthy and painful to read.
I’m not sure this is going to change how I see myself, write about myself, or what I subject my poor readers to. But it is good for me to recognize what this actually sounds like.