Some (not-so) breaking newsSome of you already know, and some of you probably suspect that I've been struggling with depression. The truth is a lot of people are. Trust me, a ton of your friends struggle with it. It's very common, and it's a quiet disease.
Depression: an overviewIt may be quiet to you, but to us it is the constant or exceedingly frequent downpour of loud negative thoughts and feelings. There are varying degrees of depression, and if you asked any of your friends that deal with it they would tell you it can be a bit erratic. Sometimes you're managing fine, and sometimes you just want to cease to exist. Sometimes you want nothing else but to be alone, but other times it's so lonely. It's wanting people to understand, but not wanting anyone to know.
When it's really bad, it is battling your own mind every waking moment. For me, when it is at its worst, it's an excruciating unhappiness/emptiness where I'm feeding myself an endless stream of harmful thoughts, sobbing so hard I can barely breathe and I feel like my lungs are going to collapse, and I find absolutely no solace in anything—not friends, not family, not talking, not serving, not socializing, not watching movies, not reading scriptures. The only hope I have for any peace at that point is unconsciousness. Sleep is the only respite—if I can even fall asleep through the storm of negativity. And even when that episode is over, it was so hurtful and exhausting it takes days and/or a lot of coaxing to get back to "normal." Before or after an episode like this happens, I turn off all feeling so I can cope. It is lonely. It is debilitating.
And I hate it.
Depression and spiteI hate depression so much, sometimes I do things to spite it. For example, one night there was a party. I had agreed to go weeks earlier, but my day was flipped upside down by a little spat with Kyle, and I really didn't want to go. (My emotions can be flipped from alright to super bad at the drop of a dime.) But I was tired of feeling lonely, and I wanted to follow through with my plans. I refused to let depression control me. I wanted to go with Kyle originally, but I went alone instead. I lied about why he wasn't there. I lied about how I was doing. I smiled and laughed and I tricked a fraction of myself into thinking I was having fun. Me with a healthy mind would have had fun. I love those friends. I miss them.
Depression is isolatingMy friends don't know that I miss them because I don't reach out. I don't reach out because I'd rather be alone. I'd rather be alone because I feel terrible, and I am uncomfortable sharing that fact, or I just don't want to. I don't like dwelling on my own misery. What does it help?? I have always felt like the Debbie Downer, and I really, REALLY don't want to be that person. But I also don't want to pretend I'm happy and fine when I'm absolutely not, so it's always easier to just stay away from people.
Sometimes I really worry that my friends will think I'm not interested in their friendship anymore by the way I act. I try not to stress too much about that.
Depression is irrationalLast winter was a very depressive time for me. Baking was one thing I found that gave me purpose and made me feel good. One day, I decided to make a pie. I started making the crust, which needs vinegar. I knew I had some but I couldn't find it anywhere. It wasn't where I had seen it the day before. I LOST IT. I folded onto the ground and sobbed my eyes out. By that point, I had finally learned I could trust Kyle, so I reached out to him and asked him to bring some over. He did, and he comforted me too. Is it normal or okay to have a meltdown over vinegar? No. Did I know that? Yes. Could I control it? No.
Recently, I've been emailing a couple of girls who also struggle with depression. I told one of them about this story, and she told me about a similar baking experience she had, and that now she makes sure to buy extra ingredients for anything, just in case. I do the same thing, whether for baking or anything else in my life. I always try to account for any possible surprises and hiccups. It's about keeping control. We grasp for the little control we have.
Depression is overwhelmingFor me, it's been something I've been able to manage alone somewhat successfully for years, but I just have so much going on right now, I honestly cannot handle it. I'm lucky to still have a job. And the only reason I have a job is that I am extremely disciplined and I can, for the most part, put my emotions aside for work. I know if I lost my job, it would be catastrophic to my psyche, so I do my best to not put it in jeopardy. However, I won't lie—I have cried at work more than once.
Depression is foggy/indecisiveWe're just muddling through our days sometimes. Our brains get all foggy. It's hard to recall things—things that should be simple to remember. It makes it hard to think straight when we're asked a question. Sometimes it's almost impossible to make even the simplest decisions.
Where should we go for dinner—Zupa's or Cafe Rio? *paralysis*
Lately I have been talking to so many doctors, and they are constantly asking me questions. When did ___ start? Do you ever feel ___? How about ___? How would you describe ___? How would you rate ___? What is ___? Does this hurt? How about this? Do you feel better? Sometimes I just want to yell, "Oh, for heaven's sake! I don't KNOW!" I spend so much time trying not to think about how I feel so I can survive that I honestly don't know the answer to many of these questions. Frankly, it freaks me out that I don't have the answers.
Depression breeds guiltWe feel guilty a lot of the time. We have so much to be grateful for, yet we're still unhappy. We know it's not right, so we feel guilty about it. We get the message at church that if we just had enough faith—if we just prayed—our problems would go away, but they often don't, so it must be our fault, so we feel guilty. We don't want to hang out with our friends, and we feel bad about that. We feel guilty for not performing as well at work as we know we are capable of. We get abnormally upset when things don't go the way we planned. Then we feel guilty for having lashed out. In relationships, we feel guilty for not reciprocating—for not loving like we should. Plus, we feel guilty for being an emotional black hole to those we love. We stop caring in general, and we feel bad about that. Perhaps we can't function in our calling and have to say "Will you please release me?" We then feel guilty for "quitting" instead of serving. For any single individual, the list could go on and on. And it never helps when on top of your own condemning judgments of yourself, others heap theirs as well.
We want helpWe want help, but we're terrified of being vulnerable because we already are always. And if we are rejected or ignored after asking for help, it's crushing. So deep down we hope someone will magically figure it out and help us. I am desperately seeking love, kindness, and help, but I shrug people off when they try. It's such a paradox. It could be because I don't believe they can help, I don't trust they have good intentions, I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to be patronized, I don't want to seem needy, I don't want to be a burden or have people say unkind things about me behind my back, etc. So I am really good at deceiving people and making people think I'm just fine.
We have happy facadesIn order to survive, I have to trick myself into thinking I'm ok most of the time. In so doing, I trick others too, including Kyle. When I tease him more than usual, and reject any loving physical gestures, that's when I'm not feeling very good, and he's gotten better at recognizing it instead of taking it personally. It's not easy on either of us.
People romanticize death when they are actually suicidalI recently came across a post on one of my favorite websites that harshly talked about how stupid it is to romanticize death and how selfish suicide is. I couldn't believe it. I had to respond! I had to speak up for the depressed. Here's what I said.
Can we think for a moment about how depression directly affects the person suffering from it? It controls your life. It keeps you from feeling happiness, and eventually anything at all. Your self esteem is gone. Your motivation too. You don't remember anything with fondness, and you have nothing to look forward to. Life is survival. And when you are forced to live in a world where it seems like everyone is happy except you, when you're painfully struggling to get through a normal day, expending the little energy you have on minute social interactions, forced to live a double life, trying not to cause any more harm or pain or sorrow to anyone else, then the idea of death doesn't seem so horrific. It seems like a place of relief.
You want to know why a symptom of depression is oversleeping? Because it's like death without the commitment. It's the only place a depressed person can escape their own poisoned mind. True, suicide is not the answer, but you have to understand how afflicted a person is to kill themself. Unconsciousness is the only rest of the severely depressed. Or at least, that's how they see it. I don't think depressive suicide is selfish. It is tragic.