Working with my depression
I’ve never been 100% sure that I belong in this business. The ideal model of a funeral director is a paragon of sanguinity and stability. I’m neither.
I have depression. Whether it’s an illness, or due to the work I do, or a product of both, it’s bad enough that two different anti-depressants at above normal dosages are just enough to keep me from sliding down the slippery slope. I’ve been open about my depression on the internet and it’s elicited a lot of support, but the voices that scream loudest come from those stable funeral directors who send me a “this job isn’t for you”, “it’s time to get out”, and “just suck it up, millennial” message or comment. I’ve tried not to pay them mind (that is the first rule of an online platform), but it reinforces my own self-doubt.
For most of my career, I’ve been ashamed of my depression, of the thoughts that bombard my mind. Ashamed that I spend SO MUCH energy trying to keep myself upright that I have so little energy left for others. Ashamed that I’m not and will never be entirely stable. But over the last couple of years, I’ve started to make a change in how I approach depression. Grammatically, it’s a simple change in a preposition. Here’s the change: for most of my career, I tried to work AROUND my depression, but recently I’m trying to work WITH it.
Here’s what that means for me: it’s an acknowledgment — that comes from years of reinforcement — that I have depression. I no longer paint smiles on my face, or try to exude this veneer that I have it all together. I’m just … myself. I don’t want to go Pollyanna and give you the impression that everything’s better when we accept ourselves, because it’s not. But it does give those around us the permission to do the same. Oddly enough, around death and grief, my weakness can be a strength. Because when we acknowledge our pain, we lay the cornerstone in the sanctuary of grief. And if I can build a sanctuary for grief, that’s something I can feel good about.