This morning, you hit the snooze button seven times until finally stumbling out of bed, tripping on the pile of dirty clothes on the floor and staggering to the bathroom. No time left for a shower, you study your face in the mirror, smear product in your hair so it’s not a frizzy, matted mess, grab the first thing you see in your closet and rush to work. You forgot to eat breakfast, though you’re not really hungry, and you duck your head as you walk to your desk, praying your boss doesn’t notice you’re twenty minutes late. Finally safe in your cubicle, you stare at your computer screen trying to make sense of the emails accumulating in your inbox. You try not to make eye contact with anyone since you don’t feel like talking. Sighing, you get up and head to the break room for a cup of coffee, hoping it will save you. Three cups later, it hasn’t.
That annoyingly perky girl in your office rushes over to share some gossip, as you fake a smile and pray she will leave. Your head is pounding, but you’re unsure if it’s from the coffee, tiredness, or stress.
Back at your desk, you try to get work done but it takes an incredible amount of effort and you know you’re making mistakes. You try to strategize in order to leave early. What excuse could you use that sounds legit? How many sick days do you have left? Why do you work this crappy job anyways? What if you just quit?
Your thoughts keep spinning in these negative spirals and you continue not accomplishing anything. Your head is pounding more and more. You pick up your purse and swallow some Advil, praying it helps. It doesn’t.
Finally, it’s close enough to 5:00 that you think you can leave. In your car, you lean on your horn as you tiredly weave through rush hour traffic. You have no patience for stupid drivers, and it takes every bit of your effort to make it home.
At home, you kick off your shoes and notice you’re wearing two different socks and your shirt is wrinkled and has a small hole by your left armpit. Your head is still pounding and suddenly it feels like the weight of the world is on your back. Hot tears gather at your eyelashes. With a long sigh, you head back to the bathroom and study your face in the mirror.
Blinking back tears, you glare at the bags under your eyes, the acne that appeared overnight, and your bloated, puffy cheeks. Finally you start crying. Why does life have to be this way? Why have you become such a loser?
Maybe you know what the problem is. Maybe a doctor has already named it depression, or you figured it out on your own. But it feels like a death sentence. It seems like you used to be an okay person, and now you are this ugly mess who is barely making it. Everything feels meaningless.
You just want to sleep, to sleep long enough that you wake up and things are better.
Maybe you’re trying to get help. Maybe you’ve found a therapist, or a self-help book, or friends and family who understand. Maybe you’re trying out medication to see if it helps. Or maybe you’re trying to be tough and fix things on your own.
Whatever you’re doing to try to get better, right now you’re depressed and it’s awful. And maybe you feel ashamed. Maybe you’re ashamed of the lazy person you are right now, who cancels plans, who cuts corners at work and might smell a little since showers are hard. Maybe you’re ashamed of how your clothes are wrinkled and mismatched, how you haven’t called your mother in weeks and how you let all your plants die. And how your dog keeps whining because you haven’t been taking him on walks. You feel like some sort of loser. And you feel ashamed.
I want to tell you that you don’t have to feel ashamed. You have an illness. Would you beat yourself up for having the flu or getting cancer? They’re medical conditions like depression. Depression is just invisible and misunderstood. You have an illness, so things are incredibly hard right now, and honestly you should be congratulating yourself for getting out of bed and making it through work at all. You are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. And you’re still walking.
I want to tell you that this isn’t going to last forever. Things will get better. Maybe it will go away on its own over time, or maybe you’ll find things that help. The things that you are feeling, the ways that you’re acting – it’s normal for depression. You have a lot on your shoulders right now, but you’re still getting out of bed and dealing with it. Even if you call off work for a week, and live on cereal and takeout because you don’t feel like shopping, you’re a survivor.
You don’t have to be ashamed. You’re a regular person dealing with a mental illness. Depression is awful, but you’re surviving. Look in the mirror and see someone who is fighting a small war, but still getting out of bed every day and not giving up.