Depression always strikes from out of nowhere. When it decides to show up it takes over everything and you feel small, tiny. You want to cry all the time but for no reason in particular. Nothing matters anymore, and the world is filled with a thick black smoke and you have a lack of interest in anything, not even the things that normally make you smize. I’ve struggled with depression my whole life, but my depression has never been so bad that I’ve ever wanted to take my own life or get on a regiment of drugs that only takes away your sex drive and makes things worse. And for that I’ve been lucky.
Instead I saw a therapist because my college offered free mental health to students, and I thought that would be a much rounder way of dealing with the depression. Seeing a therapist can be one of the most frustrating experiences if you’ve never done it, because you’re opening up to a person you don’t really know, and when you talk to them they just sit there and look at you, shaking their head/squinting their eyes when all you want is for them to tell you that, No, You’re Not Crazy and, Wow, Here Are 15 Things You Can Do To Change Your Life Right Now. Seeing a therapist is really about you coming to your own conclusions by talking it out with yourself, untangling your brain on your own accord.
My biggest breakthrough in therapy was when my therapist asked me to describe what my depression felt like. I told her there were moments I felt extremely confident, where I can instantly turn “on” and give a fabulous performance. But there were other, darker times where, virtually out of nowhere, I felt disappeared completely, where I felt insignificant, listless, invisible, unable, not there.
I told her that the feeling of disappearance always cropped up whenever I entering a room of people I’d never met before, which includes almost every social interaction you could have. I told her that when I walk into a new space I immediately feel disappeared at the same time I feel judged, like everyone is laughing at me, pointing, even though they’re likely not paying me any attention whatsoever. And as they laugh, I’m just getting smaller and smaller until I completely disappear. I told her that I feel a dark cloud of shame over my head every time I walk into a new space, that the cloud of shame was so palpable that it forces me to hold my head down in a panic of total embarrassment and denial of self.
The feeling of disappearing completely is probably one of the most significant aspects of dealing with depression. We live in a world of attention, and in those moments you feel like you don’t exist, like nobody’s listening, like nobody cares, like you’re dug so deep into a tunnel and nobody can come dig you out. But naming what my depression felt like was a breakthrough moment because I was finally able to talk about how to shatter that “cloud of shame.” Naming how I feel when depressed allowed me to be totally aware of the feeling whenever it hit, so I could actively try to shatter the cloud.
Now when I enter a scary room I try to say to myself, “Just avoid the cloud of shame.” I know it seems crazy, but our moods are controlled by how we inhabit and move through the world. I can’t say that I don’t still feel like I’ve disappeared completely when the depression hits, but at least I now have a way to talk about it that isn’t as abstract as feeling “sad.”