Five years later

Five years ago I wrote something pretty personal about mentalhealth and depression, and who I was at the time. Six years later, let’s talk to that guy.

I hate Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign, and I keep forgetting it’s still a thing until it rears its ugly head. I’m not going to write about it any more here, mostly because I already didfive six years ago.


It was only after this very blog post was published that he realized it was not five years ago. But he republished it somewhere else five years ago.

Who gives a shit?

Reading that post today really kind of hit me because… who was that kid? I mean, he wasn’t a kid, because he was 27 26. But it was almost an out-of-body experience where I didn’t feel I was reading something I wrote.

I figured I’d just open a post and see where it took me, like I often did back then.

Hoo boy, Matt.

I can’t count the amount of times I have not wanted to get out of bed in the morning — not because of comfort or laziness, but due to pessimism or anxiety towards what’s to come. It’s probably the same amount that I’ve laid there at night, letting the “what if’s” keep me from sleeping.

Yeah. Those nights didn’t go away, but at the same time, all that lack-of–energy that you felt was laziness was legitimately something wrong with your brain chemistry.

You ended up trying a bunch of different things to see if your body was lacking something. You did a sleep study. You were strict and you were lax, and nothing seemed to make a difference. You found a great doctor, and you communicated how shitty it just felt to live, and eventually, hey, the symptoms lined up with something.

In case you’re reading this in another five years, you’re three weeks into the treatment, and you haven’t had any kind of depressive periods or overly spirally moments, except ones to be expected.

The anxiety you felt about the “what ifs” is still there, but quieter now. Now you have better evidence of why you felt the need to punish yourself for being “lazy.” It all makes sense. Sort of. Trust me. You have something to go on.

I can’t count the amount of days I’ve lost to negative spirals, the panicked messages to friends about nothing, or the “bad days” spurred by something that shouldn’t matter. There are times when by all accounts I “should” be happy; trips, holidays, parties, meals get suddenly derailed and feel wasted.

Yup, those days are still there too, but you’ve come to terms with the idea of not “matching up” with people that you’d like to (like family). You’ve started to become comfortable with mourning the relationship that you would’ve wanted. It’s not fun, but it’s something. It’s slow healing, and that matters a lot.

Your friends don’t care about your panicked messages, spirals, and whatever else; you’ve never been a burden to them, and you’ve made every effort to be self-aware enough to “pay them back”, even though it doesn’t work like that.

That’s the big one: you feel like you should be strong enough to handle it on your own, but sometimes lack the person you know that can process what you KNOW sounds like something completely irrational. Knowing is the worst part.

That self-awareness is a trap. It makes you feel like you’ve “done the work” by over-worrying. You’re actually delaying your progress by not forgiving yourself for having difficulties.

You’re still working on it. It’s not perfect.

You’ve started realizing how good you are at communicating, with personal things and at work. You’ll actually be a little insecure, because you’ll wonder if you talk too much when given the chance; this is mostly because you feel that you need to explain perfectly in order to be qualify for the compassion and understanding that any person deserves.

That “qualifying” is going to be a running thing, but it’ll click some lightbulbs in your brain.

You see friendships, family and acquaintances drift away because you can tell that they don’t know how to process how you are. Sometimes, you feel like you cannot give an answer to “how’s it going?” besides one that is overloading and negative, so you stop trying to say anything besides “fine.”

Fuck them.

Ironically, the same dismissal comes up when people genuinely try to reach out to you, but you have no idea how they can help.

Well, okay. Maybe try being open about what the issue really is, especially if they aren’t the emotionally-intelligent type.

They might not give you exactly what you need, but you’ll be able to gain more confidence expressing yourself, and your “irrational” needs, without being abandoned.

I know that it takes some of your bandwidth to help them understand, but eventually you’re going to be okay with “being a problem.” You don’t need to “have the issue solved” in your head before you it explain it to them; I know it’s easy to want to have to take away the “burden” of needing to actually deal with you, but trust me, it doesn’t work like that.

Some of those friends can still leave and not come back, though. It’s okay dude; they aren’t the last ones you’ll have.

Depression frustrates me mostly because it conflicts with my drive and ambition; it feeds into feelings of inadequacy and a fear of reaching my potential, exacerbates it, and gives nothing back. Instead of gaining from a humble or passionate mindset, it leaves me with only the negatives of both.

Yup. We’ve been over the “toxic self-awareness” thing, but your brain chemistry and past trauma aren’t something you’ve acknowledged yet. You think doing so is going to be a crutch, or you want to succeed on your own terms because admitting otherwise means you didn’t earn it.

That comes from somewhere really raw that you’re going to discover with your therapist. You’re going to have some ugly cries about it. You’ll deal.

Depression frustrates me mostly because it conflicts with my drive and ambition; it feeds into feelings of inadequacy and a fear of reaching my potential, exacerbates it, and gives nothing back. Instead of gaining from a humble or passionate mindset, it leaves me with only the negatives of both.

About your drive and ambition: leave esports. Stop thinking that you need to stream, write or create full-time, and that’s your only shot of being happy. All those years of anxiety about how you’re only going to be happy if you have flexibility and a passion-based job were based on a scared 12-year-old’s solution.

That 12-year-old needed a hug, and needed help from people who didn’t give it to him; he thought he needed to solve it himself, and the next 20 years of your life were based on that false premise.

Medication is supposed to leave you “on an even playing field” to deal with it, but the size and strength of the fight sometimes becomes too much to handle. Knowing before a moment what you need to do to change yourself for the better, only for it to evaporate when you need it is disheartening: you wonder if you’re strong enough to make that change, or whether you’re just being too comfortable and lazy. You start to wonder if your meds even do anything anymore.

Trust me, man, yes, your SSRIs are doing something, but there’s a piece of the puzzle missing. Even with dieting, fitness, or all the other “you should do this!” suggestions, it still takes effort and bandwidth; some days it feels like it’s a lot to get to the gym, even if it’s right there.

I know you’re not going to take it well to say “that’s just how your brain is.” But trust me, it was not for the lack of effort, and that’s what probably matters the most.

You wonder if you’re “allowed to have as hard of a time” with the things that people deal with (and in worse situations than you). You wonder how THEY push on when they don’t have a parent’s basement to move back to when they fail, or a therapist you can get support from every week. You wonder if you’re truly making an effort.

You aren’t them. You shouldn’t feel guilty for not being them. Your only responsibility is to yourself, and you need to use every resource you have to try to fight your fight.

You can’t set yourself on fire to keep these hypothetical people from burning. The self-flagellation thing isn’t a good look; you aren’t winning any bonus points, and your life still sucks.

You realize, again, that all this can sound irrational or conflicting to a reader or a listener — dealing with that chaos along with the specificities is the entire point. Dumping all this here serves the point of explaining just how much people might be dealing with all at once.

Ironically, you actually stopped doing this out of a protective need for yourself. You got too scared of fighting internet fights with trolls or people with more confidence than you.

You having a lack of stable friendships meant that you felt you had the most to lose — without anyone having your back, it felt easier to suffer in silence. Protecting your voice didn’t mean losing it, but it did mean tempering it. It meant not taking chances, and some of that was probably the right choice.

A lot of what you thought was important just wasn’t, and checking out was good; however, some parts were this big monster you built up in your head, thinking “if I argued with them, they would win, no one would support me, and I would have nothing.”

And again, that comes from a very raw place. Seriously, figuring it out is going to break your brain for two weeks.

It’s helped me find a balance, a confidence, an identity — sure, I’d love to have reached those things without it, but we’re already past the point where I could. All I can keep doing is pushing, listening to what feels right for myself, and trusting that I’m making slow progress, even if I can’t always see it.

Thanks for reading this. Your support means everything to me, and other people who might be suffering. The cure isn’t a pill or injection; it’s having the empathy to be able to be there for the people who need it, and help them however we can.

Your identity isn’t “depressed”; you’re much better than that. You’ve actually helped a lot of people open themselves up to therapy and getting help through writing about it; two people told you as much today. That’s nutty.

Your thoughts of “empathy” are going to evolve; not necessarily leaving that concept behind, but growing into a focus on “authenticity” instead. You want to feel real, and you want to feel like you’re connecting with people, above all else; instead of just interfacing with them and being happy with that, you’re going to want to feel seen, as well.

When C tells you that you “crave connection” it’s going to connect (har har) a few dots. It’s going to mold you and cause you to look at your relationships differently.

You’re going to spend less time demanding energy from people who don’t have it to give. You’re not going to hate them for it (even though yeah, sometimes it’s going to kind of hurt). That hurt is temporary, and the practice at asserting your boundaries is going to build into a nice foundation.

You’re going to build a shack there. It’s not much, but it’s cozy, and it’s better than sleeping on the ground.

You’re still going to keep all the things you like about yourself, and even though the meds can make you wired sometimes, you aren’t becoming another person entirely. You’re still in control, and you’re still making your choices based on your principles, heart, and evidence.

By the way, a lot of that evidence in your head about yourself is utter garbage, but hey, it’s a process.

It turns out you’re still Matt, and Matt isn’t all that bad to be.

And for now, that’s enough. At least for another five.

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By Matt Demers

Matt Demers writes about media, esports, life, and mental health. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram. You can watch him stream on Twitch. He writes about esports biweekly on Substack for PlusHeart.