If you could take all the grief, sadness, shame, insecurity even, that you have ever felt, mash it all together and keep feeling that over and over again at random, inconvenient intervals, that is what depression feels like to me.
I never know when it will hit. The weather is gorgeous out and perfect for hiking or playing in the sun, but I’m trapped in a barrage of emotional trauma. I know it is nice out. I’m just not feeling it.
Depression is different for everyone. It can hit you like a crashing wave again and again or overcome you like a fog. It can consume you, hit at any moment, in any place, in any situation.
Often we hear that ‘he seemed so happy’ or ‘I just spoke with her and she was doing great!’ ‘What triggered this, I never saw it!?!’ Or, ‘Why didn’t she tell me?!?’
Honestly, because I have been living with this for so long I figure I have this thing under control. I’ll be ok. Just as before, the fog will pass or the waves will subside. But, each time it does get harder.
Personally, I don’t talk about it. I have finally started to. Firstly because I know I will be judged, stereotyped. The last thing I want is a pity party. And second, well, because it is very personal. Depression, as sad and consuming as it is, there is a comfort in the darkness. Solace in the emotional depths.
When this comes, I feel miserable, not thinking clearly, my emotions are a roller coaster. I may function perfectly fine for many hours and everything must be done with precision. I know that wall is coming. When it hits, it may be a restless nightmarish sleep or just needing to be alone. Lost in my mind.
But, you better believe that when I do function or it is an emergency, it is with a hyper-awareness, or in my words, anxiety with precision. I have the ability to shut every emotion off and work like a machine. In this, that means the depression is pushed aside, the stress seems gone, but so is the joy, the happiness, the fulfillment. How long can we continue on like this? That is the other side of my wave of depression, the anxiety, the perfectionism.
I can attribute the majority of my success as trying to avoid my depression.
One extreme to the next. This is the roller coaster I live.
Netflix and chill? More like Netflix to drown the swell of emotions. It literally is a war within that I have to battle to just do the minimum. But, the minimum gets us by only for so long.
Maybe it is just me, but I am overhearing the catchphrases at this point. ‘Choose happy!!’ Or, ‘But you’re so strong, you’ve got this!’ Even, ‘You have so much to be proud of!!’
Fact is, I know this. Depression doesn’t make me less proud, less happy when the happy is there, or even less of a person. And, being defined as someone with a ‘mental illness’ is even more debilitating and discouraging. Suppose I just have a compromised emotional system. I do need to be more aware of things that will trigger a bout of depression like one would wash their hands often throughout the day to avoid the flu. If only it were that easy!
I have discovered that humility is a great cover for downplaying personal achievements in the fog of depression. I am a fully functional depressed and anxious woman.
But, just like an illness can become life-threatening, there are times when depression and/or anxiety hit people so hard- that is where the life struggle happens.
So what can YOU do? How can you help someone you know that may suffer from this?
-Be you. Be the friend you know you are. Empathetic, kind, and supportive. Try not to be offended if your ‘just be happy!’ mantra is dismissed. Know it doesn’t necessarily work like that.
-Be patient. It will get frustrating seeing someone in this state. Not knowing what to do, how to help. Let those you care about know you are there, the quiet presence of support and unspoken compassion can be that life ring they reach for.
-Just reach out and say ‘Hi!’ That may be enough. Simply check in on your friends. Anyone of them could be going through something.
-Some people may not do well if trying to be forced to go out. In fact for me, that may put me deeper into my cave. Include them, keep including them. Insert more patience here.
-There is no forcing someone out of this. If it is serious enough, know how to get ahold of local authorities to get help.
-Some have heard of A.C.T.- Ask, Care, Treat. This is applicable when someone is at their breaking point. Don’t hesitate to ask if they are thinking of committing suicide. Get help in this situation and be aware of emergency response networks.
-Know that there are many ways you can effectively change or save someone’s life hopefully before it gets to the breaking point simply by being a decent person. The simplest things and smallest acts of kindness and empathy go so much further than you could ever imagine. We can never know a person’s background, what they have been through, or what they are going through.
Please just be a decent human being to others.
At the end of the day, I have to own my emotional and mental health. Admitting this is the hardest thing for me. I realize that this is a part of who I am and I will keep going. Some may need medication, others, like myself, simply learn to manage. I am learning what even keel is and continually learn to avoid the extremes of perfection to the point of self-detriment.
There may never be a way of controlling this or being rid of it. I have come to realize that accepting this depression and anxiety in my life is not a hindrance or embarrassment. It means I am capable of the deepest depths of emotions and performance well above average. I can use these as a strength and am learning to get a handle on it. To let the waves hit me or the fog engulf me from time to time. I will keep going, evolving, and come out of it each time stronger than before.
If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, you are not alone. Find that life ring and reach for it.