I can’t remember a time when I haven’t suffered from some form of depression and anxiety.
I’ve always felt everything intensely. My highs are really high, and my lows are dangerously low. I love and give of myself intensely. I feel everything so intensely that sometimes my husband jokes that I have no feelings when we watch a sad movie and I’m not crying, because I’ve spent years trying to not be intense.
Elementary school was rough. Middle school was even worse. High school is when the self-harm thoughts began. That stone wall I built into my personality was my attempt to cope and protect myself from the world. I’ve spent decades trying to not show emotion. To be the calm, cool, collected person society wanted me to be because that’s an easier person to understand and deal with. Putting up a strong front to bear the brunt of the hurt I always felt. The world is a cruel, harsh place and I internalized that to my core, doing everything I could to put up a stone facade and pretend that I’m fine.
Except no one is ever fine. At least not for long.
I’ve tried for years to get a handle on it. To figure out what might trigger it, if anything. Sometimes it’s a depression that is hormone-driven (PMDD, in fact). Other times, it just… happens. It starts with feeling overwhelmed. It starts with meeting the needs of those around me while I ignore my own. It’s trying to pour from a bone-dry cup. It’s having a packed-full schedule and a mile-long to-do list with no sign of a break for rest, even though I know that I’m such a sensitive person and that I require lots of breaks, lots of rest, and lots of refueling.
Most times, no one even knows what’s going on save the people inside my cozy four walls at home. Most days I power through. Or I give myself permission to just go with it, knowing that, in a few days when my hormones shift again, I’ll perk back up. It’s just something that we all know – once a month, I’m not myself for a few days.
And then, sometimes, things fall fantastically apart and my world just kind of implodes in some grand way. Major depression sets in. Most people think of depression as someone who can’t bring themselves to get out of bed, or to get dressed or put effort into their appearance, unending sadness, or a myriad of other stereotypes. And, for some, that’s absolutely the case. For me, though? I shut down. I isolate. It becomes impossible for me to do anything other than the literal bare minimum. Or I just drop everything entirely because my sole focus has to be on me. Nursing my wounds and finding literally any way at all to survive day to day.
In those early days of depression, I don’t even know I’m heading for a breakdown. I keep doing what I’m doing, trying to maintain all the things and consistently feeling more and more overwhelmed. It isn’t until a week or two passes that I realize what is going on. I’ll stand there crying on Sean’s shoulder asking what is wrong with me, wondering why I can’t just be normal, asking why I can’t just function like a normal person. Or sometimes it’s Sean that catches it and says that he’s worried about me, and checks in to make sure I’ve been taking my anti-depressants (and they’re helpful but not 100% effective). Or sometimes you can see it on yourself – you try to post a picture or a video to try to fake your way through something only to see for yourself that you’re just not “right” right now.
And usually, around that time, that’s when things get so intense and miserable that I just… can’t do anything anymore. That stone wall falls apart and, if I’m not still in the process of spiraling downward and crying at every little thing because it all feels too damn hard, I’m there, but my brain has literally checked out. Numb might be a good way to describe it. I show up but I’m going through the motions. I don’t follow through on things I should, and I let people down, and I know it – but I can’t do anything about it even if I wanted to. It takes an incredible amount of willpower to do anything when you’re depressed, and a lot of that willpower and energy gets spent taking care of your kid, or making sure you showered so you don’t show up to work looking exactly how you feel. Your human battery is running on 1% and, despite being plugged into a charger, you’re never charging past that 1%.
And, sometimes, things get so bad that you contemplate… other options. Running away from home and creating some new identity because you start to think that maybe if you had a fresh start it would magically fix everything. Closing your business down because maybe that’s what is causing you to drain so quickly. Or… worse, if you know what I mean. To be perfectly honest, there have been a few times in life – especially when I had postpartum depression – that kiddo of mine was the only thing really keeping me here.
Right now, I’m hovering in that post-spiral numbness. I’m just… here. But here is good. Here means I’m (slowly) clawing my way out of the hole I slipped into. Here means there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Here means I can feel a bit of warmth again, even if it’s just slight at the moment. Everything about depression sucks. And, at least for today, I’m reminded that it’s not forever.
I never know how long this part of the process will stick around. A few days? A week? A month? And I never know if I’ll fall back in the hole before I ever truly get out, either. Healing isn’t linear, after all. And then, when the sun starts shining again, that’s when you do what I’ve referred to as your “apology tour” – you have to do all of this extra work to catch back up with everything in life and make amends with those around you in hopes they understand that you’re not just flakey or unresponsible or a terrible person and that it’s literally your body and brain chemistry working against you on a daily basis.
I write all this partly for the therapeutic side of writing and getting all these feelings and thoughts out, but also because I know I’m not alone – even when it feels like I am. Depression isn’t your fault, or my fault, or anyone else’s fault. It’s just something that happens to us. It’s something we live with on a regular basis. Our brains lie to us and tell us we’re things we aren’t.
And it’s OK if you, like me, are not OK right now. It’ll eventually be OK again, even if your world is dark and stormy right now.