Disclaimer: this will not be a funny or satirical post. I’m going to talk about some real shit. Depression. Unless you’ve had it, it’s highly unlikely that you will understand it. I’ve realized lately that when I blow people off or can’t make myself do simple things because of my depression, they just don’t get it. “Just choose to be happy today!” is one I’ve heard. Hey, if I could choose how I feel like picking out wine, I’d go for manic any day.* Do you know how much shit I’d get accomplished? I’d be on fire. Excuse me sir, did you choose to be an asshole today?
Depression is not a feeling like sadness, joy or anger. Depression is a state of being. Different people operate on different levels. Some people operate on a more manic level. That crazy hyper friend you have who you can only hang out with for an hour until you’re exhausted? Yeah, like that. Then there’s the people who are just “happy,” for lack of a better word. Below that is dysthymic, which I think is the suckiest because you aren’t happy and you aren’t depressed enough to be actually depressed. But you’re still operating on this low-level depressive happiness. It’s hard to get out of. And of course, below dysthymia is depression. It’s the lowest state of being. Depression doesn’t leave. It’s a consuming disease that eats up your life and who you are as a person. No, depression does not define you as a person, that’s not what I meant. I meant that it can take away everything that makes a person who they are. It’s like cancer. Slowly at first, and then before you even knew it was happening, bam, you have a diagnoses for depression and you are thrown into the throws of dealing with doctors and medication and everything seems like it’s ending. But like cancer, you are not your disease. Just as one would say “I have cancer” and not “I am cancer,” one has depression, they are not depression.
Here’s a better metaphor**. I told my therapist about the cancer/depression metaphor, to which she replied “I’ve had cancer and I’ve had depression, and I would rather have cancer.” Bold statement, L, but ok. Depression is a ditch that you fell into and it’s so deep that you would have to take every effort in your body to get out of it. Some people decide that this ditch is okay and so they make themselves comfortable figuring that it’s impossible to get out. It takes a strong person who is willing to become uncomfortable and push themselves out of the ditch. Depression becomes comfortable over time. Once you fall into it, you become comfortable and the longer you stay, the more comfortable you become.
Having dealt with depression on and off for nearly a decade now, falling back into depression is comfortable. I push myself out of the hole as quickly as I can so that I don’t become comfortable. Like cancer, the sooner you treat it, the more likely you are to get through it. However, I can’t deny that depression always greets me back with cookies and comfy pillows. But that’s no way to live.
When your brain is so consumed by depression, everything is a struggle. Your body and mind are depressed. If you look at a PET scan of someone with depression, their brain will not be as lit up as someone without depression. It’s not that they’re brain dead; their brain is literally depressed. It’s biological. I’m not using this as an excuse, it’s just something to consider. The other night, I entered a depressive episode where it felt like I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move, couldn’t talk. All I could do was lie in bed and stare at the wall. That’s depression. Everything becomes a struggle to the point that you shut down completely. Most people think that people with depression are always suicidal or self-harming, etc. This is totally not the case. Do you think someone who has been consumed by depression to the point that they can’t move is at risk for self-harm? Probably not. From my experience, no, it does not. That kind of thought can’t even enter the brain because you’re just that detached in that moment. Of course though, depression does not always manifest itself in this fashion, that’s just me. I am not diagnosed with major depressive disorder or any type of mood disorder (I don’t consider “Mood Disorder NOS” a real diagnosis, and quite frankly, I don’t really care. Focus on how you feel and not that DSM code! DSM codes are self-fulfilling prophecies and are purely meant for insurance companies).
I am not a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist. Yeah, I am a psychology major and I can tell you some of the chemistry behind depression, but I cannot provide treatment. I enjoy helping people when I can, but ultimately, I cannot fix anyone, and the only people who can fix a person with depression is themselves. A person with depression has to choose to get out of their comfort zone and climb out of the hole even if it takes multiple attempts and a lot of blood, sweat and tears (that might be metaphorical, might not, but I like the expression). I’ve climbed out several times only to fall back in weeks, months or years later. There is no end. Depression is the hardest battle you will fight with your head, if you happen to have the misfortune of having it. Depression is forever. I don’t mean this as a “give up now, there’s no point.” Just know that there will be good days, there will be bad days. You might go months or years feeling alive only to fall back into feeling dead.
I’m not sure how much clearer I can be with describing depression.***I know that I can choose to be furiously happy today and be glad that I got up at 5:30 this morning so that I can have a more productive day. But these are the good days, and they do and can happen even to those who feel like nothing is good anymore. Look at the good things. Smell the flowers. Stop complaining. Do something that will make you glad you did it. You say you don’t enjoy anything anymore, but I know you do (I’m talking to you, Mike). Find one thing you can do today that will make you happy. Treat your body right (seriously, you’ll feel better, not just about yourself, but physical health has been proven to correlate with good mental health!). Don’t hold grudges. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Laugh at that really dumb and annoying customer you had to deal with today. In the end, it doesn’t matter.
Not caring is the best thing I’ve ever decided to do.
*It takes me a good hour to pick out wine. Maybe I should reconsider that metaphor.
**I used this metaphor on Blob last night to help him understand because he’s a sociopath. He got it. If he can, everyone can. Again, sorry Blob.
***I would love to hear your thoughts. Most of them. Not the mean ones. Don’t tell me that depression is fake or tell me I’m weak. You will be blocked. If you have had depression or know someone with depression, leave your input in the comments! Assholes can take their business elsewhere.