What you don’t hear about depression

One of the most terrifying aspects of living with depression is that it’s nearly impossible to share your darkness with the people most affected by it. It’s hard to accept our own thoughts and feelings sometimes, let alone burden people we love with a glimpse into our world of doom. I’ve had friends reach out to me recently, sharing their struggles with depression and asking for advice. So, I’m about to share what I go through and then hopefully you won’t feel so fucked up and alone. Why don’t I write something uplifting you say? Because this is real shit and it needs to be talked about.

Symptoms

We’ve all heard about the standard symptoms: fatigue, irritability, aching muscles, digestive problems, loss of interest, feeling hopeless, blah. But what does that look like in real-life? We need real life examples. Ready for it? Let’s go there…

In a nutshell

My day began like this: hit snooze on my alarm and thought, “fuck me.” Laid there in bed feeling paralyzed, desperate to keep my head on that pillow. Like so desperate, I could have bawled. I didn’t even mind that I was laying in a pool of sweat, a fun little side effect of my medication (I’ll talk a little about that later). Somehow I got my heavy, rundown ass out of bed and made it to the shower where I stood for an eternity, wondering how the hell I was going to make it through the day. Had to make myself get out by turning the water cold.

Got an eggnog Americano on the way to work, my morning hug in a cup. That was nice. Let some chick pull into my lane and she didn’t wave to thank me, so I raged, calling her a stupid bitch. Don’t worry, she’s fine, she had no idea. Made it to work, only to avoid eye contact in the halls, so I didn’t have to fake a smile over and over. Shut my door and blinds in my office and sat there wondering if today was the day they’d figure out that I don’t know shit (for the first time I actually feel like I belong and I do know shit, so this is particularly frustrating). Then the daydreams began – visions of going home where I could sit on the couch with a soft blanket, take a deep breath, and then have anxiety about all the shit that needs to get done and what a loser I am. Yep, the big black cloud is back.

A deeper look

Depression is much more than feeling sad. And feeling sad is not depression. It’s a body and mind thing.

Body stuff

My carcass is drained, heavy, and lethargic. Like I’m a thousand-pound sloth.

Weird aches and pains give me paranoia. My back hurts for seemingly no reason. I haven’t taken a satisfying shit in over a week. I’m always hungry, but then I binge on food and wallow in guilt afterward. Sometimes I pick the hell out of my face to the point that I cannot leave the house for hours. Someone might as well be sitting on my chest, it feels so tight and heavy. Often, I discover my jaw has been clenched for so long, I’ve given myself a headache.

Mind stuff

Escaping the negativity is like trying to get out of quicksand. I feel like a failure because I can’t will myself into being more positive. There’s all this pressure to get positive – websites, apps, social media pages – all devoted to it. Positive affirmations make me feel like shit, putting the focus on how I really feel. When did it become a thing to try to avoid shit anyway? It doesn’t do any good to deny your shitty mood. I’m in a shitty mood. So be it.

My thoughts get stuck on stupid, icky, sometimes terrifying shit. So disturbing at times, that they conflict with my personality and values and make me feel like an imposter. Swirling around in my head like vultures. That’s when I’m really afraid of the dark. I’ve tried to think of an example that won’t have a psychiatrist or the cops land on my doorstep…I’ll just leave it at that.

Some basic life tasks go undone and I judge myself hard. My house isn’t clean, the laundry isn’t folded, and my hair will continue to look like shit for months to come, as I spritz it with dry shampoo and twist it up into a bun. I’ll continue to wear jeans and a sweatshirt every day because it’s what’s comfortable and I don’t have the energy to do more. My car desperately needs a wash, but it’ll just get rained on again, so why bother?

I’m irritable as a mofo. Something as simple as my husband tossing a handful of cashews into his mouth. That sound the nuts make when they hit his teeth ignites an internal rage and I instantly loathe him. And when I get over it I feel like an evil hag who doesn’t deserve love.

And the real kicker – I can’t remember shit. I’ve taken a dementia test at my doctor’s office because I’ve fucked so much shit up due to my shitty memory.

Making it better

It’s important to mention that throughout all this bullshit, on the outside I probably look just fine. It’s also important to mention that I do have a happy life. Even the happiest of people can have depression. My depression says nothing about how grateful I am.

As for advice, check out an older blog post that still rings true for me on 7 ways to help yourself through seasonal depression. And I have something to add to it:

Meds can be your friend. The raging antidepressant debate continues and some people are real assholes about it. I’ve felt the pressure to get off them before and it has not gone well. Yes, they have side effects, some more than others. Patience is key. Meds are subtle. For me, they take away the scariest part of depression, where I tend to wonder what the hell the point is. I used to have this sudden onset of panic that would pull on my heart with an eerie hollowness that wanted to eat me alive. Meds took that away. For that I’m grateful.

No shame

Depression is one of the most common conditions in the world, yet it’s the least understood and most stigmatized. Please don’t be ashamed. Shame eats your soul. Too many people suffer alone because they’re ashamed to speak up or don’t want to burden anyone. Don’t be one of them.

I didn’t just share some of my deep dark bullshit for the hell of it – you must realize you’re not alone, you’re worthy, and you can do this. The more we deny that we have a dark side, the more power it has over us. There’s light all around and within you. “You can’t shine your light without darkness, my dear. You can’t be brave without the knowledge of fear.” Be as kind to yourself as you can. You’re doing just fine.

Hope I reached someone.

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

Debunking the Dry Drunk

Somebody called me a “dry drunk” behind my back. That was over a year ago, but I’ve carried it with me ever since. It’s probably time to let this shit out because I’m getting pissed about still being pissed. I had to do some research, as I’d never heard of a dry drunk before. Turns out, I have a BIG problem with this label, so I want to raise awareness of its absurdity and potential for damage. It’s not helpful to anyone and needs to go away.

You can Google the shit out of “dry drunk” – it’s everywhere. It might seem like a simple term, but it’s riddled with bullshit. As I understand it, a dry drunk is someone who is abstaining from alcohol or drugs, but still hasn’t found inner-peace or happiness in life because they’re stuck in their old ways of thinking. The original term referred to a rare condition that can occur during the first few months of recovery — you stumble around like a sloppy drunk, even though you’re stone-cold sober. In reality, it’s an imaginary disease invented by A.A. and has evolved into a condescending slur, suggesting that the sober person is angry, resentful, and emotionally stagnant – surely on the verge of relapse. If you don’t do the twelve steps, you will likely suffer from this “condition”, according to many members of A.A. Legitimate recovery sites play into this fear and nonsense. They advise about “how to avoid dry drunk syndrome”, “signs you’re a dry drunk”, and “treatment for dry drunk syndrome”.

soberchrystal.comI take my sobriety seriously and no one is going to scoff at it on my watch.

Labeling someone in recovery as a “dry drunk” only feeds the stigma we are all trying so desperately to annihilate. It’s insulting and shameful, and sows the seeds of fear. Everyone judges; it’s human nature. But this is taking it too far. It’s a display of ignorance and makes my name-caller look like an evil piece of shit.

Hell yes, I call people names. But it’s usually contained within my vehicle, aimed at other drivers, and more than likely true. I never said I was perfect. If you’re on my ass, slowing down to merge, honking at a traffic light (wtf?!), not waving after I let you in, or performing a 10-point parking job at Costco, you’re a “dumb ass” (totally censored) and I would like you to eat shit. I get that I should probably tone it down, especially with kids in tow, but I consider my road rage a survival tool. This way my head doesn’t explode and we don’t have a parking lot derby on our hands. And let’s be real – there are a lot of stupid and rude people. You can't fix stupid. But, you can beat the shit out of it.When someone else’s lack of awareness slows me down, I release my fury in a Tourette-like fashion – quick, loud, and vulgar. After that, it’s out and I’m done. When assholes dare to speculate about MY sobriety, it simply isn’t overcome with an epic tongue lashing. We need change.

I am privileged to be part of an amazing, brave, remarkable community of recovering addicts. We must support and celebrate each other on all paths, whether we understand.

I’ve compiled the following list of “symptoms” that dry drunks tend to portray. NOTE: I’m over 8 years into my recovery and still experience most of this stuff regularly. I don’t believe we should focus on trying to avoid it; we need to live it and learn. It’s absurd to assume that any sort of combination of these “symptoms” will inevitably lead to relapse.

“Symptom” Logic
Old patterns remain. This shit takes time. And some things never change. Patterns are hard to break and recovery requires patience. This does not mean you are on the verge of relapse.
Struggling in sobriety. If you’re struggling, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing anything wrong. If it’s not a struggle, you’re probably a robot. I struggle often, which is the purpose of this blog and my Twitter account. For those in recovery there are endless resources, such as treatment centers, websites, books, and counselors – proving that everyone struggles in recovery.
Romancing the drink. This is when we remember all the good things about our drinking past. We push the pains we experienced as a result of our booze binges aside and daydreams dance through our heads like happily drunken rainbows and booze-soaked cotton candy. Who the hell doesn’t reminisce?! It’s totally normal to get caught up in these “enhanced” memories. They are moments that we all must work through and I don’t expect them to ever go away completely. Plus, I had some damn good times. I always get back around to embracing the reasons for and benefits of my sobriety.
Anxiety. If you don’t have anxiety about shit, how do you know if it’s important to you? I think anxiety is a necessary natural force that has alerted me of potential dangers, especially in early recovery. NOTE: There are a ton of alcoholics that have other shit going on, like other mental health issues they struggle with, as well as their addiction. Describing these people as dry drunks is stupid and makes me want to punch someone in the face.
Angry and resentful. Clearly, this is me. Often. Sometimes when my husband is drinking, talking about drinking or spending money on drinking, I want to chop his egg-shaped head off. Sure, anger and resentment blow, but they’re a work in progress and are stepping-stones. I’m not on the verge of relapse because I have domestic fits of rage. I may drive my husband to drink, but that’s a different story!
Jealousy. You can bet your sweet ass I’m jealous of the “normies”. It’s ugly, but it’s part of the deal. In some ways, I think jealousy has helped push me in the direction I want to move toward my own goals. In other ways, it makes me want to shove a half-drunken beer bottle up someone’s ass.
Being impatient or pursuing whims. I tend to exaggerate the importance and urgency of things to the point that I’m hostile. If I miss out on something because of someone else’s stupidity, it pisses me off. It’s not going to make me polish off a fifth of vodka, though. And I consider the ability to pursue a whim a beautiful thing.
Inability to make decisions. The only things I truly know are how I like my coffee and that I’m always hungry. I couldn’t decide on whether or not to comment further on this.
Detachment and self-absorption. These are survival skills! I think self-absorption is necessary while we’re relearning how to approach just about every single thought and feeling in our lives. Sobriety is an intense personal journey. I have to detach at times to keep my sanity.
Mood swings, trouble with expressing emotions, feeling unsatisfied. I’ve been a moody son of a bitch all my life – it is part of my charming personality. I have trouble expressing my emotions to others because I am socially retarded. And any time I feel unsatisfied, I see it as a kick in the ass to change something, no matter how long it takes me to realize. None of these are going to send me crawling into a liquor store.
Less participation in a 12-step program, or withdrawal from it completely. Suck it! Suck it right now!

We have the right to judge and say whatever we want, but I expect a healthy heart and mind in recovery to be a little more accepting and a little less spiteful. Maybe this name-calling is a coping mechanism because she (my name-caller) is scared to consider another path. The freedom of my 12-step-free journey requires self-awareness, self-empowerment, and accountability that she may not have the balls to explore. It’s natural to try to make sense of things that we don’t understand. She has been sober for over a year and still goes to two A.A. meetings per day. That shit boggles my damn mind. I’d be whacked to keep that up – my knuckles would probably glow in the dark! But I don’t know what it’s like to live in her world and I don’t need to understand. I am still proud as hell of her for staying sober all this time and support her journey moving forward. I expect more compassion and flexibility of my recovering peers. I expect more accountability.No one understands and that's ok

We all work really hard in sobriety. One more day sober is another amazing feat. We don’t know what anyone goes through every day. We don’t know how anyone feels. We don’t see the work people are doing on the inside. And we are not psychics or mind readers. Sometimes just staying sober is ok. It has to be – we’ve all been there. Recovery is likely the hardest thing we will ever have to live through. Can we please be a little gentler with each other and lose this label? There are lots of mysteries in recovery – focus on your own. If you don’t have something nice or supportive to say about someone else’s recovery, please keep your mouth shut. And maybe I’ll work on my road rage.

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal