Opinion: The Backpack

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Opinion: The Backpack


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This article is about something, but I cannot reveal what it is just yet. Please bear with me.

Let us imagine I had you do this practical demonstration (or heck, do it if you can be bothered):

What you need:

  • An empty backpack
  • A 5 kg dumbbell or something
  • Books
  • A staircase

Put on the empty backpack. Pick up the 5kg thing. Carry that thing up and down the staircase.

Easy, right? No trouble at all.

Now, fill that backpack to the brim with heavy books and put it on again. Pick up the 5kg something again. Carry that 5kg something up and down the staircase again.

Probably not as easy to carry that something up and down this time. You might have felt your legs aching a bit. Maybe you even got a little bit winded.

Now, let us extrapolate. Imagine that your backpack was so heavy that you could just barely walk. Could you carry that 5 kg whatnot up and down the stairs now? Even if you could, could you do much of anything afterwards?

The correct answers are “probably not” and “no”.

Now, let us use our imagination just a little bit more. Your backpack is invisible and intangible. No one can see it, no one can touch it, and no one can really know it is there unless they believe you when you tell them about it. Someone asks you to carry that 5 kg stupidity up and down the staircase.

You tell them that you cannot do that. They tell you that “Sure you can! It is easy, just watch me.” And then they run up and down the stairs with the thing. “Now, you do it”.

But, of course, you cannot do that, and you explain that it is because of your backpack. But they cannot see or feel that backpack, so they do not believe you. At best they are confused; at worst they call you a liar. They might force you to try, and when you inevitably fail or are way too slow and incapable of doing anything else afterwards, they get angry with you. They yell at you for not being able to do such a simple thing.

“Just fucking run up and down with it. It is not that hard!”

“I just showed you how easy it is! You just have to do it; it is as simple as that!”

“You are just fucking lazy. You just don’t want to do it.”

This whole thing is a practical demonstration of depression, anxiety, chronic illness and every invisible ailment one can have.

The Thing This Article Is About

A major source of stress and anguish for me in my own severe depression was the people around me. I have been lucky to have had great support in my depression from a good many people, but I am not talking about them. I am talking about the people who had greatly supported me prior to my depression – but who stopped doing so during it.

I am talking about the people who should have been there, who wanted to be there, who tried to be there, but who just could not be there through no fault of my own and neither really of their own.

The people who just could not see the backpack and thus did not really believe it was there or did not really believe it was that heavy.

And I get it, I really do. A 5 kg dumbbell might not be nothing, but when you do not have that backpack, it is rather easy to run up and down with it. It is easy to pay all your bills. It is easy to get up in the morning. It is easy to keep your promises. It is easy to do all those normal, responsible things an adult should be able to do and needs to do.

But if you have a backpack filled to the breaking point of what you can carry, maybe even past it, carrying those otherwise easy 5 kg of responsibilities up and down the stairs might take more out of you than you have.

And if someone cannot even see or feel or understand the backpack, I can see why they would be confused and annoyed and even angry with the person with it.

These are the people who will yell at you for failing. These are the people who will blame you for what you cannot do. These are the people who will get angry with you when their attempts at helping you do not work. Who will accuse you of laziness or unwillingness to do these things when the backpack is just too heavy for you to function.

They will call you a liar. They will call you a manipulator. They will call you a parasite. Trust me, I know, for I have been called all of these things and more.

Because these are the people who really tried and really, really wanted to help, but who only really made it all worse.

And all because they did not really believe that the backpack was even there.

Written by Emil Olai

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