Thursday, December 18, 2014

This Is My Depression.

de·pres·sion

 noun \di-ˈpre-shən, dē-\
: a state of feeling sad
: a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way

It sounds simple enough. Depression is the state of feeling sad. But that doesn't begin to explain it. Depression is so much more. And this is my depression.


It's subtle in the beginning, like a shadow appearing just out of the corner of my eye. I have a vague awareness that I'm off, somehow, but it's nothing concrete. I just don't feel like myself, exactly. And this may last an hour or a week. There's never any consistency to it. And there's no obvious trigger, either. It can come after a great experience, a horrible loss, or nothing memorable at all.

The next stage is much more noticeable, to me and to other people. I become easily irritated, snapping at everyone around me for no reason at all. Interruptions, changes to plans, even simple requests bother me. I know my reactions are unreasonable, but that isn't enough to snap me out of my mood. It's like watching a slow-motion car crash but being unable to do anything about it.

And then, it's on me. Completely. Perhaps I'm driving my car home from work. Maybe I'm sitting watching television. I might be in the middle of a long run somewhere. Or even surrounded by a group of friends.

It's difficult to describe the darkness that envelops me. It distorts everything. It changes the way I interact with everyone. And the worst thing of all, it separates me from the very people who are best able to help me fight it.

I feel alone. I feel like a failure. And I feel like a fraud. The more people reach out to me, the more I want to pull away.

"If they only knew who I really am, they'd be gone."
"They're all connected and I've never been part of that group, not really."
"I know they talk about me when I'm not around. I know they judge me."

Depression is wicked that way. It plays on every insecurity, every weakness. It takes a small sliver of doubt and turns it into a wall I can't get around. And I do what I can to silence all of those voices, drinking too much, sleeping all day, or busying my mind with nonsense. Whatever it takes to shut the negative off.

I respond physically, too. I stop running. I stop exercising at all. It all seems pointless and I have no energy, anyway, so why bother? Instead, I became sluggish and lethargic, my body matching my mood.

The spiral effect is horrific. Emotionally, I feel like I am all alone, so I don't want to connect with friends. I don't connect with friends, so I feel like I'm all alone. Physically, I have no energy so I don't workout. I don't workout, so I have no energy. Both of these things fuel themselves. And they become never ending cycles.

Sooner or later, this all passes. Like a storm cloud, it remains just long enough to make its presence known, and then it's gone. But the damage remains. And each round, it gets harder and harder to make amends with friends, get back on my workout schedule, and fully recover emotionally.

I do it, though. I fight my way back each time. I make a plan to get back on track with healthy eating and working out, and that helps. I create long-term goals and short-term strategies to reach them. And I reach back out to one friend at a time, sometimes explaining what has been going on and other times just putting it behind me. But connecting pulls me back into my life. Because the only alternative is to give up, to give in to the depression. And that's a step too far for me.

So why write all of this up? What is the point of sharing all of this with everyone?

Because writing it all down and posting it may help other people understand what I am going through. Maybe they'll be able to help others in the same situation. Heck, maybe other people experiencing the same dark moments will feel better knowing they aren't alone.

Mostly, though, I share it to remind myself that dark days are not the end of the line. There is an other side to this, and I just have to keep moving forward to get to it.

There isn't anything rationale or reasonable about depression. It is brutal, powerful, and sometimes overwhelming. But it isn't fatal as long as I see it for what it is, a temporary problem that I will survive.

For those reading along who struggle with the same feelings, I encourage you to speak up yourself. Tell your loved ones what is happening. The more they know and understand, the more likely they will be to recognize the symptoms and be there to help you through your own dark moments.

If it all feels like too much, and you don't trust yourself to find a way through, reach out for help. There are hotlines. There are volunteers. There are family members and friends. There IS someone out there who knows what you are dealing with and can help you find your way through it.

Suicide is preventable. Call. Text. Speak up. Shout and scream if you must, just don't give up or give in.

You matter. You are loved. And we need you to stay.