Friends reassure each other


Author Comments:


Today's vote incentive doesn't really have anything to do with today's comic, it's just Whitespace Neko talking about a social issue

This is the bottom half of the page I uploaded the top half of on Monday. I hit a wall halfway through putting the script in and everything I put in after the that first gag was just shite. I've been up front about the whole depression thing, it can make it hard to write, especially if you're trying to be funny.

That came to a head yesterday when I got some bad news about an interview. I had kind of been counting on getting a callback for this one, so when the rejection email came it read like

Dear Fuckup,

We regret to inform you that you are a failure at life. Despite your experience and qualifications, we feel you deserve to live in poverty and despair forever. We wish you every luck in your miserable worthless little existence, and hope you die a peasant's death.

Kind Regards,
The Only Hiring Manager Who Will Ever Even Consider Looking At You.

Naturally I'm paraphrasing. The interviewer actually gave me some really helpful feedback today, but this is a story about mental illness so I'm talking about what it felt like rather than what actually happened.

I keep telling people my depression's like an emotional eczema. Just a mild irritation, a rash that flares up from time to time. Nothing to worry about. Nothing contagious. For the most part that's actually true, certainly the non-contagious part, but it's a half-truth. There’s an awful lot of pus behind that rash. I’m gonna switch to a less gross metaphor.

Another half-truth is that it's the demon I battle every day, and it's trying to kill me by draining my will to live. It keeps telling me that nothing I have ever done has ever meant anything to anyone, that I could drop dead this instant and the ripple my memory would leave in the lives that I've touched would be gone the day after my funeral. It tells me there'd be eight people at that funeral, seven of whom are immediate family. It tells me all these thing in the voice I hear when I'm thinking to myself, so I think they're my own thoughts and believe them.

Again I can only do half-truths at a time here. I'm not a describing a dissociative state. I don't think there's actually a demon whispering to me. I'm present and it's my own mind thinking, it's just that it's not thinking anything anyone would want to think and I can't make it stop. Demonic possession has been a metaphor for mental illness since before we had a concept of mental illness, and it doesn’t always mean you’re hearing voices that don’t feel like they come from you. Mostly I just deal with it.

So anyway, I get the rejection notice and I just break down crying in front of the computer for about half an hour.

Now I think about my own death quite a lot. I honestly have no idea to what extent that's normal. I had a parent die when I was little so a more-than-usual preoccupation with death is to be expected, and thoughts of my own death are just a natural extension of a that. I know suicidal ideation is a symptom of depression, but normally it's just part of the background noise and nothing to really worry about. Yesterday I discovered how simple it is to make chlorine gas, but couldn't find information on what volumes would be needed to fill a small room to toxic levels without making so much that it floods the whole apartment and kills all your pets.

Coming up with a plan to die with a minimum of fuss that's probably a bad sign. Now I haven't had an actual suicide ATTEMPT in years, but I caught myself at the ‘earnest research’ stage had to go into the kitchen to get away from the computer. More breakdown.

While all this is going down I've been arguing civil liberties on Facebook. Someone made a post about white privilege that just got right up my ass. My point was that harsher realities than my own don't make my reality any more palatable, and I got real pissed off that this couldn't be accepted as a "well duh" observation. I mean REAL pissed off. I don't lose my cool all that often, and I calm down quicker than most, but when I lose my temper I get nasty. As public meltdowns go there have been worse, but I'm called on this almost immediately and am spiralling down into shame and anguish again until Paige comes home.

The worst part about being out of work is what it does to Paige. Her salary with overtime just about stretches to rent and utilities. My welfare payments are enough to cover the groceries and that’s about it. Thanks to me we’re just about skimming the poverty line. I was working full-time when we got engaged, so the life we have now is pretty damn far from what the first season suggested.

I’m so glad I still believe her when she forgives me for that. It’s how I know I’m still capable of love.

Anyway Paige and I have a really good talk, and then put a movie on Neflix and went to bed. Then I get out of bed again because whatever’s been blocking up Neko in my brain appears to have been shaken loose in the enormous shitstorm of October 1st 2015. I stayed up until 10am rewriting the end of the current story into something much more compact and thematically appropriate for the allegory for depression this comic has kind of always been.

And on Monday when Paige goes to work, I’m walking down to the library where I don’t have my computer to distract me and I’m going to start drawing some goddamn comics.




'Cause we're a team, dammit!
The rash analogy isn't the best I think. I tend to think of our depression as being more like boils. It's not an everyday thing but on occasion it swells and gets gross and horrible and interferes with our lives, but we wait and see if it goes away again. If it doesn't, it gets lanced. This is why I provoke you when I think your current bout has gone on long enough. I challenge you, I drive you and I make you angry, and suddenly the boil is lanced. You talk at me. I talk at you. Then it stops being "at" and becomes "to". The boil's been lanced and now it's starting the healing process. We talk it out together. We remind each other we're a team and that this isn't just "together while it's convenient and fun".

It sucks and it's horrible but it's maintenance. Every relationship needs care and maintenance, this is what it looks like in ours. Depression is a disease and just because the manifestations of it aren't always physically visible, they're no less ugly. Things like this may not be what we pictured when we first got together, but we're here now and what we have is worth maintaining.

It sucks, you being out of a job, beyond even that things are so hard financially. Keep in mind though, I still have a few months on you. I was out of work for 18 months, 15 of them straight, before I got my lucky break and landed in the best job I've ever had.

I'm not saying the same thing will happen for you, I'm saying it might, and in the meantime, we'll keep going, you'll keep searching and we'll lance those boils together.

I love ya, ya big dork. Now get out of bed and make more comics! Also, will you make me pancakes for breakfast? <3

User Comments:


I hope things get better for you
I understand what you say about depression. I am having similar problems. My mom is very emotionally abusive and such, and so that has caused me a lot of problems. She is secretly sadistic, and she does whatever she can get away with. So I don't know all of what she did since I have a whole lot of repressed memories. In May I cut off all contact with her(I continued it as long as my sanity would let me) I have gotten a lot better since then. It is freaky the levels of denial she has while still not denying certain things she has done. (sorry for the depressing story but I figured it might make the rest of what I will say make sense)

But yeah, I understand what you mean about the demon you fight everyday. It is like my own thoughts, but yet they originate from somewhere else.(my mom) I have days where I can't help but think all sorts of bad thoughts about myself and such. Where I feel like I am a horrible person and I think about certain events that were harmless, but I still beat myself over for no logical reason.

I prefer to be a silent lurker on every webcomic I read, but I know that depression is really hard.(Understatement, but I suck with words) One of the hardest things for me is that not that many people understand. My dad knows how toxic she is(they were married for 14 years), but he is still confused as to why I have panic attacks. It is terrible trying to describe it to people and they respond as if logic makes a difference with the bad thoughts.(and then they still talk that way after you tell them logic doesn't make a difference) A lot of times it makes me more depressed. But it feels nice when someone does understand. And so even though I am a random person on the internet, I want you to know that I understand how terrible depression is. :)


@Paige: I love you too, but I need people to know why J

@Bea526: Thanks for stepping forward. I think Lurking is another depression behaviour. I do it myself in actual groups in real life. If everyone's already making most of the points I'd add to a conversation that means I'd add nothing so I stay quiet. Even easier on the internet where you can type out a comment, read through it, then not submit it. I self-censor a lot and that's usually a good thing, but it can be isolating. When I leave without saying goodbye I'm making a fairly insulting assumption about my friends that nobody even notices that I'm gone.

I'm pretty sure depression is one of those social issues that more people should talk about, but it's an issue that silences itself. Depression affects one in four people, and we don't like to talk about it because we worry nobody will understand? On the internet?

One in four people understands this. My own private hell is awfully crowded; did anybody actually say I wasn't allowed talk to the other inmates?

One in four people, Bea. This tribe is enormous. One in four people from every race and social class on the planet can relate to this. It works by making you isolate yourself, but it affects so many people out there it's gotta be something you can connect over. It's common ground.

DO NOT let depression make itself your entire identity, but don't be sorry for the depressing story, it's what we're talking about in this corner of the internet today.

To your story itself, well, your mom is almost certainly fighting her own demons. I don't know exactly what kind of abuse we're talking about, so please don't take a moral imperative to forgive her from this. Trying to work something out isn't the same as trying to explain it away, but if the idea of the person who hurt you being possessed by a demon you know all too well doesn't stir empathy within you, then it's at least good for some schadenfreude* knowing just how vicious that demon can be.

[*Edit, I forgot you can't do text links in ordinary comments so I'll just have to link to the schadenfreude song with the URL ]

Now I've got someone I can't forgive, and who will never apologise, so I know what that is. However it's a well-known truth of human nature that when you feel like crap you behave badly towards others. It's even got a vernacular name - Taking It Out On Someone. If you can't do anything that'll make any impact at all on the person or institution that hurt or is hurting you, you hurt whoever you CAN instead. It's nasty and it's small and if you haven't noticed yourself doing it, Really Look. Understanding why someone's an asshole doesn't magically make them not-an-asshole and doesn't mean you're obligated to spend time with them, but I grew up on Star Trek: The Next Generation and think it's good to seek understanding for its own sake.

Has your mom driven you away to the point that you're not going to be sad when she dies? If so then that's a victory for the demon over both of you.

And from this point on I could write all day just circling that same idea without really getting anywhere, to forgive is to know you can be forgiven. There are quite a few religions on the topic. That really doesn't mean it's easy or even possible all the time.

I'm going to stop here and sign off the same way you did. They're your own words so I hope you'll believe them, they sum up what I'm trying to say perfectly.

Even though I am a random person on the internet, I want you to know that I understand how terrible depression is.

Vlad (Guest)

You're amazing, no matter what letters say
Hi there,

This will probably sound very random/weird coming from a complete stranger, but I think you are amazing. I base this on how masterfully you've written the Neko story, very intelligent jokes about human nature and your absolute and unwavering dedication to publishing this webcomic for so many years and never giving up! I mean 1,188 pages! Wow!

I cannot say I can imagine what you are going through but I hope that things will start going you way more and more.



@Vlad: Thanks Vlad, good to hear from you again.

Job hunting is horrible, it's having to prove your worth to strangers with your livelihood at stake. It's tough to do when you're wicked insecure, which is why I needed to talk it out with Paige. It's something we do for each other when we need it - I tell her all the nasty corrosive toxic shit I believe about myself, and she tells me that it's stupid.

We're working on my answers to stock interview questions now. Turns out all the accomplishments in my CV are true, but in person I play off doing 218 tasks in a single day on a workflow queue target of 40 tasks per employee per day - a figure arrived at by dividing the average output of the entire team (and was later revised down to 25 when I was loaned out to another unit for a couple of months) - as if that's something any idiot could do if their work was boring enough.

In short I've got to present myself as something worthwhile. While I've got quite a few very marketable skills, that's not one of them. I'm starting to think I might not be cut out for marketing, which is why I'm going for admin roles.

Ciber (Guest)

Would you describe your depression as a circle of negative thoughts that seem to lead into each other such that you end up thinking the same thing over and over?