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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
4 thoughts on “What you don’t hear about depression”
Don’t know about you, Chrystal, but the “I look okay, my life is fine, I have lots to be grateful for” part of the equation is one of the most difficult things for me to cope with. Much less try to explain to someone else.
Normies associate “feelings” with responses to events and environmental stimuli. Oh, someone dies, that’s a ‘sad’ feeling. Oh, you messed up on your tax return, that makes for ‘anxiety’. Oh, your partner sent you flowers for your anniversary, so there’s ‘happy’!
A jerkbrain cuts the connection between event/stimuli and feelings, grabs the controls, and hijacks the endocrinological sources of ‘feeling’ responses. Fuck you, kiddo, you’re stuck with these feelings, your brain is drowning in the chemicals that make them.
Telling people “I’m struggling with depression” when you’re healthy, in the bosom of your loving family, employed, etc., often lets you in for people trying to convince you that all those things are good reasons NOT to be depressed.
And you can’t hit them, of course.
Thank you for sharing more honesty and experience with this particular painful disease.
You’re so right – they try to point out all that good stuff as reasons NOT to be depressed. Like we haven’t thought of that before! They just don’t get it and in a way I’m glad they don’t get it. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.
This is pretty fantastic and pretty much sums up how I feel as I live with chronic depression. I have lots of things I want to do, but the thick black cloud of loneliness, despair, and abject emptiness prevents any forward movement. Every year I write a pretty significant list of goals, but the list is nothing more than a mere wish. I know I’m not going to do anything on the list, but I like writing the list.
I have taken meds for 40 years and nothing seems to help – my doctor tells me what I already know, that I am “treatment resistant”.I have tried to end my life a number of times as all of this shit seems hopeless. There’s a scant few things I enjoy and I can’t imagine leaving my cat behind. Thinking that he’d be given up for adoption or be rehomed with someone that didn’t treat him well or he’d find his way to a kill shelter is never an option. Am I sticking around because of my cat? Seems that way.
I wish I had something to offer which was remotely helpful and constructive. The only thing I can offer is a sincere thanks. Take care and be well.
We’ve never met, yet you read and respond to most of my posts. I’ve come to depend on it as a source of validation and support. So you do have something to offer. Animals see the real you, that’s why they’re so incredible. You have one lucky cat.