I wrote this piece while I was experiencing a particularly bad (for me) depressive episode. Thankfully it didn’t last long, but I needed to write my thoughts down (somehow I found the motivation to do this) in an attempt to make sense of them. So, I apologize in advance for how… well, depressing this post is, but I think it’s important to share these thoughts and experiences; it’s the only way we can break the stigma.
Up until now, I have discussed anxiety a lot more than depression. It’s because anxiety is a constant companion; it’s always there. Not one minute goes by that I’m not anxious, just some days my anxiety levels are more manageable. I guess I’m so used to it being there, it has become my “normal.”
But depression is different for me. Depression appears when I’m exhausted. It appears when I let my guard down. It appears when I least expect it and it comes on so suddenly and with such force, it scares me. I can be excited and happy one moment, and utterly miserable and desperate the next.
Depression takes the fun out of everything, even the activities you love and the people you love to spend time with. Everything feels muted and dull. Depression is exhausting and all-consuming; it’s impossible to focus on anything else. Depression is isolating; you feel alone even when you are surrounded by friends. Well-meaning friends and loved ones may do things to try to make you laugh or cheer you up, but the truth is your depression is yours alone. It’s your burden to bear. I’m not saying other people can’t help you. I appreciate the attention and care others focus on me when I’m depressed; I need to know I am loved.
Depression is frustrating because you often have no idea why you are depressed. Depression makes me feel weak, pathetic, a failure, a burden. Depression makes me feel unloved and unlovable. It amplifies even the smallest problems to make them feel like they are impossible obstacles to overcome. Depression makes me angry, bitter and resentful. I have no patience with myself or others. I overreact — small things that wouldn’t normally bother me feel catastrophic when I’m depressed, like it’s the end of the word. I’m short-tempered and irritable. I lack any motivation, which isn’t like me at all; in fact, I’m normally quite the opposite. But when I’m depressed, I just can’t be bothered.
It’s a cliché to say a dark cloud consumes you but that’s exactly what it feels like for me. A dark, heavy, black cloud of smoke that clings to every atom in my body — the cloud is so dense I feel like I can smell it on my skin. The dark cloud seeps into my mind and makes it impossible to think clearly. It warps my thoughts. I have an overwhelming need to cry, yet I don’t have the energy to cry. Even sobbing is too much of an effort — I just can’t be bothered.
I love to read but even that is too much of an effort when my depression hits. I don’t care about anything — I just can’t be bothered. I can lie for hours in the same position, lacking the motivation to move. Time passes unnoticed. Events mean nothing. Everything moves in slow motion. I feel like the life has been drained from me. I become self-destructive when I’m depressed — I personally don’t care if I come to any harm. I don’t care if something bad happens; in fact, I welcome it. I seek out dangerous situations and participate in destructive behaviors because I don’t care if I live or die.
Depression is like a parasite feeding off your insecurities. It eats you from within. It drains you. It steals your self-worth and your confidence. It zaps every ounce of energy and motivation from you. It takes your life. My mind goes to some very dark places. I experience dark thoughts. Images flash into my mind — images of horrible things happening to me and loved ones. It seeps into my dreams so I don’t even get a break when I’m sleeping.
I personally find depression worse than anxiety but I think it’s because I’m not as well-equipped to deal with it. I’m not used to dealing with it 24/7 like I am with anxiety. It’s also so far removed from the person I normally am. Depression turns me into a stranger; I don’t recognize myself. I don’t like myself when I’m depressed. I don’t like the person I become. I would like to get to a place where I can accept the person I am when I’m depressed, rather than be judgmental or critical, but I’m not in that place yet.
But depression does allow my body and mind to have the well-needed rest that anxiety makes impossible. So I try not to fight it and just accept the depression is going to be around for a while. It’s not a nice feeling but if it’s here to stay, I might as well get the rest I desperately need.
I experience such extremes of emotions. My highs are very high but my lows are depressingly low. I can get excited like a child on Christmas day but in a second I can fall into deep despair. I’m always going to be an overemotional person but that’s not always a bad thing as I’m able to empathize with others. I am able to truly enjoy the happy times and I’m able to love deeply and unconditionally.
For me, anxiety and depression are opposites. With depression, I feel very low. Everything feels slowed down, including my thoughts and reactions to things. Everything feels muted and dull. With anxiety, everything feels heightened. My thoughts speed up and I experience everything at 100 mph. My reactions to most things can be extreme and I’m on edge and jittery — my whole body vibrates due to the adrenaline coursing through me.
But they are both just as debilitating. I am lucky in the fact my depressive episodes are a lot less frequent now than they used to be. My depression is a lot milder and therefore easier to cope with than a lot of people I know. I admire anyone who has the strength and determination to continue to “live” despite struggling with depression every day. If you are one of those people, please don’t underestimate the achievements you have made just to survive. And never feel ashamed to tell your story. Take care.