It’s making plans and not being able to fulfil them. It’s calling a friend and pretending you’re fine for an hour, only to collapse on the floor crying afterwards – they’re going back to their life, imperfect, stressful, complicated, as it may be. You on the other hand, are just back to your non-life – or had you ever left it?
People speak to you and you can hear the words and you can feel the pain of the people around you. You hear them scream, cry, argue with each other because they don’t know what to do about you anymore and you don’t even manage to care for them. You feel detached. Or so you think, as the guilty feeling that arose when you realised you were the factor to your own destruction sinks a little bit deeper; you know they’re hurting because of you. Yet another thing you’re destroying.
You lie in bed gathering the necessary energy to make this day a good one, and as soon as you’ve stepped out of your room the only thing you want is to get back to bed – in there no one can hurt you and you cannot hurt anyone. This is not true of course, you hurt the same anywhere, but at least in here you can be who you truly are: the shadow of the person you once were, locked up in your own pain and despair.
You feel foolish when asked the reason of your illness, surely something big happened to you. You were well fed, had a loving family, pursuing brilliant studies, you are twenty and there’s so much you could do in your life. There must have been an awful reason that justifies your current state. But there’s not. And even if there were a reason people could relate to, it wouldn’t mean they would understand what you’re going through.
You avoid the pain as much as you can. Depression is insidious; when it first starts you avoid it by performing your daily activities, ignoring your demons that are eager to resurface. Until you cannot any more. Until you cannot pretend that you’re fine. Until the pain creeps through every one of your activities. You look for other ones, actions that will help you numb it. Not get over it, or get better, just shut the pain. For a minute, or an hour, even for days. Just ignore it for a while until only a few things can make you forget (reading? Watching tv? Doing crosswords? – All those useless and unproductive activities that will lead you nowhere but at least keep the suffering out of your mind for a moment). You fight the pain, stress, anxiety that sinks a little deeper everyday. You fight it until you’re out of breath, until it’s so big you cannot hide from it anymore. You fight it until it takes over and you’re left with nothing but your sorrow.
You can’t fall asleep and often cry yourself to sleep. You don’t want to wake up, only go back to bed, for it is in your sleep that your brain tricks the pain the best. You try and fall back asleep hoping that if you sleep long and often enough, it will make it go away.
You are surrounded by caring people, they talk to you, they write to you, they text you and call you and you would like to tell them to stop – you can’t handle it, it’s too much. Since when has talking to your friends become too much? You don’t know exactly. You don’t feel entitled to feel that horrible, because you have no good reason to do so. You wish you could just go back, convinced that if you knew what was ahead you would have done different choices.
Confronted with the incomprehension and skepticism, you sometimes, selfishly and foolishly, wish that you had a “real” illness. A tangible one. Something people could see, could relate to. Something that would make what you’re going through real, make you feel like less of freak and more of a person.
But it is real. Depression is an illness. It doesn’t need reasons good enough for other people, or even rational ones. All it needs is for these reasons to be good enough for you. Is it written somewhere that because you’re not starving to death, or because you’re smart and have a loving family you have to be happy? Does this mean everyone who doesn’t have those things should be unhappy?
The pain is real. It’s not laziness, it’s not procrastination, it’s not a caprice. Just like after a hard fall, you’re unable to move. Only, no one can tell you how long exactly it will take for the injuries to be fixed and for you to move on with your life.
However dark the place you’re in may be, never forget that so many people suffer from the same illness. Depression is real, your pain is real, and it was never said anywhere that you were not allowed to be unhappy.
Lastly, depression is not who you are. It is an uncontrollable wave of emotions, a disease that is hard to fight and sometimes makes you wonder if you are made for life, or if there is something profoundly different between you and the people around you who are not suffering from it. It is hurtful, and violent, and destructive. But it is not who you are. If you feel like you’ve lost yourself, you will find it again. If you don’t recognize yourself in your looks, or your actions, it is not because you’re becoming someone else, or nobody at all, it is because depression has taken over all the space.
I try to remember those things every day. My disease does not define me. But it is a disease. I need to stay hopeful that things will get better. I need to work at it. No matter how bad I feel, the only way I can really fail, is if I don’t even try.