I’m going to start with a bit of a disclaimer:
1. I am no expert on depression. I’ve dealt with it a few times in passing, but it is not something that I have a long standing battle with, nor is it something I anticipate dealing with for the rest of my life. I am aware that there are people for which it’s a real, lasting struggle, and my heart goes out to them. but please know that the two types are entirely different animals.
2. obviously this is my writing, full to the brim with my opinions and my twenty year old perspective. I’m sure some of my thoughts will change in retrospect, but this is my way of documenting where I’m at right now. again, this is solely based on my experience, so don’t think my thoughts are standard across the board.
3. it is important for me to note that this is a collection of thoughts documented at the lowest points of my life while I was actually experiencing it; scrawled on napkins and receipts and other easily accessible things. I’ve put off writing this post until I’ve felt like I was in a safe zone, like I was free and clear of these crippling, overwhelming feelings. gratefully, I feel like I am there now.
this is my brain on depression [taken from my collection of random scraps of paper]:
- for the record, I did go to class today. physically, anyway; i may have spent most of the time drawing pictures and trying not to cry. I spent the rest of the frigid and overcast afternoon in sweats being mesmerized by a slinky and watching mind numbing amounts of Burn Notice.
-some people can’t study because tv or music distracts them. for me it’s my brain. how do you control your brain? how do I shut it off? it keeps creating problems, insecurities, fears, stresses, and constraints that aren’t even there. it can talk me into a certainty that so and so hates me, that this thing I did was stupid, that things simply aren’t going to get better. ever. ten minutes of physical silence is danger; it creates an opportunity for my brain to take up the talking and it’s all negative.
-I don’t belong here. I feel so claustrophobic, so stir crazy, and no one even likes me. I feel like I’m running from place to place, seeking some sort of gratification, some satiation of this burning desire to feel like I’m not a complete loser
when I thought of depression in the past I’d picture girls who’d been dumped by a boy, eating ice cream, crying, and not showering for days. and perhaps, for some, that is how it manifests itself. my first encounter with it was in high school, the first time my dad moved out [yes, it happened more than once. but that’s another story]. I did nothing but sleep. I would get home from school around 3:30, fall asleep, and wake up at 5:30 the next morning. I would go about my day normally; friendly, mildly productive, good face and all that. but as soon as I got home it was sleep. forever.
this second round of depression was more serious. from october of last year until around april of this year it was significantly more serious. I couldn’t do anything. some days I would tell myself I was going to stop all this nonsense and start living again. I’d take a shower, get dressed, and…decide that was enough for one day. it’s really a curse, this inability to function. I suppose I had good reason, but that didn’t make it any easier.
I surprised myself with how much my tv/internet activity spiked in these lonely and sad times. internet [i.e. facebook and other places that people brag about their lives] only added fuel to the fire, but I couldn’t seem to stay away. this, combined with my talkative, negative-nancy brain created distress—so much so that I would begin to feel physical pain, as though my insides were being torn apart, like I was being mauled from the inside out. tv was different; it was completely numbing. I immersed myself in episode after episode of tv shows; shows that weren’t particularly interesting or entertaining, but that were such a solid distraction. I delved into the lives of fictional people and would feel those pangs of unbearable pain when the seasons came to an end and I had to return to real life. [sound dramatic? that’s my life, yo.]
I think the most common misconception of depression is that is a solid pattern of seemingly troubled actions—someone who sleeps forever or doesn’t shower for days, but then gets better and acts normal when it’s all over. this is not the case. there were days when it wasn’t so bad; when I’d get up and go about my day and laugh and have fun like nothing was wrong. but it only lasted a few hours at a time, and then I was back to the recesses of my dark hole. it’s an in and out, up and down sort of thing. the distinguishing factor, for me, is the inability to control the frequency or timing of these ups and downs.
the worst part of it all is that depression isn’t just a bad mood or a bad day. it can’t be solved by making a list of things you’re thankful for or taking a nap. it’s an intangible thing that is oppressive and crushing. it can even be a little terrifying, knowing that you’re slipping into this hole with no real knowledge how or when you’re going to get out. it’s a hardened heart, it’s an absence of desire to be happy, a resistance to happiness even.
I was never really alone in all of this. there were, of course, people standing by had I chosen to reach out my hand and ask for help. but that’s not how it worked for me. there were exactly three people that I desperately wanted to reach out to, to unload on, to trust, to ask them to save me from this terrifying darkness. but naturally, those were the three most unreachable people [which only made their appeal greater]. so I chose to turn away others, because they weren’t one of the three, and this resulted in a constant, desperate loneliness.
when I think of depression now, I picture myself bent under a globe [similar to atlas, except with pants and without muscles], except rather than a single world there are two. one is easy to hold, easy to stand under, but hard to acquire. it’s peace and calmness and happiness. but it has to be reached for, it has to be worked for, I have to reach up and grab it. the second, of course, is depression. it weighs heavy on the shoulder, blocking all views of light or sunshine, crushing and exhausting its bearer. but this one requires no effort. it forces itself onto my shoulders, making the lighter, better world completely inaccessible.
making the decision to not be depressed is hard. taking the first step to shut it down is hard. I always know that holding it off will be better for me, but I frequently can’t bring myself to do it. it’s just so comfortable inside that dark, grimy, sad hole.
depression is quite the opposite of chicken pox; once you get it I feel that you are more vulnerable to it, not less. though I feel like I have a better handle on my life, there are still hard days. the difference now is that I can see the storm coming from a distance and I can prepare myself accordingly. I set my alarm clock a little earlier, choose my words with greater care [things I say to myself as much as what I say to others], and make sure to do more productive things than browse youtube. it makes it a bit easier to fight the battle.
having hope and optimism used to be completely out of my reach. I submit that that feeling is the worst—worst than tragic car accidents or head injuries. I am relieved and so humbly thankful that this awful period has passed, that the waves of distress and restlessness seem to have abated and that every day doesn’t seem bleak.