I just spent the last ten minutes writing and deleting attempts at a witty intro, but they were all crap. So I’m just going to cut to the chase today.
Wait, weren’t you already?
But aren’t you on meds to stop that?
Yes and no.
Yeah, I’m on antidepressants. No, it doesn’t make it all go away. If there was such a pill, you can bet your butt I’d be popping those little suckers by the handful.
The joy of clinical depression is that it’s never really gone. Yeah, meds can help. So can therapy. So can exercise, diet, and other more holistic treatments. But it’ll never be gone completely.
Think of it this way, a person with diabetes likely takes some sort of medication to help control it, right? But if they eat a shit-ton of sugar, that little pill isn’t going to keep them from going into a diabetic coma. They’re still going to feel the effects of their illness. They can still have relapses.
The tricky thing about depression is that there aren’t always triggers. It would make sense that if something traumatic happened in the life of a person with depression, they’d be more likely to have a depressive episode. Just like anyone would, but perhaps to a greater degree. But what about the times when everything is essentially honkey dory? Why then?
No fucking clue.
Take me for example, right now. Nothing is particularly stressful or awful in my life. I’ve been exercising and meditating more. I’ve been eliminating more damaging foods from my diet. For all intents and purposes, I should be doing well.
Only I’m not. I’m in bed right now, forcing myself to write this. Because do you know what the alternative is? Staring at the wall. That’s my favorite coping mechanism. Shut down, stare off, wait it out.
Just like every person and every illness is different, every coping strategy is different, too. Whenever I’m in the deep end of an episode, just barely bobbing above water, I find it easiest to just detach from the world. Go deep into my head, and ignore everything. Just let go and feel nothing.
And just to be clear, it’s not that I like being like this or managing this way it’s that I have to. My brain tells me to do it, and I’m powerless to question it.
Think about a nine-months-pregnant woman. She drops something on the floor, and bends over at the waist to pick it up. Do you think she’s going to reach it? Yeah, definitely not. It’s not that she doesn’t want to, it’s that her body is making it so that she just can’t.
It’s the sane thing for me. I don’t want to feel void of emotion. I don’t want to ignore everyone and tune out the world. It’s that my brain just won’t have it any other way. And all I can do is ride those waves until I reach shore. It won’t last forever, but when I’m wrapped up in it, all I can do is hang on.
And I know it’s probably hard for others to understand this, to believe that seemingly normal, happy people might be walking around feeling like this, but it’s true. We’re so good at pretending. We can put the smile on our faces, nod our heads in agreement, feign interest and attentiveness, all awhile feeling nothing.
I think one of the misconceptions about depression is that if you’re not stuck in bed in the dark for days at a time, you’re not depressed. That if you can still wake up in the morning, you’re really quite fine. But that’s a fallacy.
I have what’s called high functioning depression. So I look like everyone else even when I don’t feel like everyone else. I can get up in the morning, rally, get the kids ready for the day, even spend the whole day playing super mom, only to crash later.
I look like any other tired mom out there. But really, inside, my brain is alternating between numbness and screaming for it all to stop. I’m exhausted, but to the point where emotions would cost me a breakdown by how much energy I feel they suck out of me. My joints ache (Yes, depression has physical symptoms as well). Light is too bright. I’m nauseated. My head hurts. My muscles are constantly tensed. I’m restless and can’t sleep, even though I desperately want to. And at the slightest provocation, I will lose my shit entirely because dealing with all of these things at once is just too much.
And I keep all of this inside, compartmentalized. And I wait for it all to blow over. Because it will. That’s the good thing about my illness: it rarely overstays its welcome. And yes, the meds help with that.
So if there’s someone in your life that you know lives with mental illness, even if it’s someone who seemingly has it all under control, ask them how they’re doing. Ask them if there’s anything you can do for them. They will likely tell you no, they’re fine, they’ve got it under control. And maybe they do. That’s fine. It’s just nice to let us know that we’re seen. That you know. That you understand. That you’re there just in case.