I’ve spent so long thinking about what I want to say about depression that I feel like anything I say is going to be the wrong thing. I’ve spent hours drafting posts where I try to say things about depression that might help people who’ve never experienced it, understand it and people who have experienced it, feel less alone. But I’ve realised that all I can really do is share my own experience. That’s all I’m qualified to do. Although based on the hours of therapy I’ve endured I would call myself at least an “Amateur Mental Health Expert”.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt like writing about depression on this blog might make me seem, I don’t know, unstable. Which is incredibly sad I suppose, being scared to talk about something that you literally have no control over. But my experience with depression has been that once people know you suffer from it, they kind of look at you differently.
Like, you’re crazy, or possibly you’re going to cry at them at any given moment. And they often use this as a weapon against you. Actually, that is the exact reason why I’ve always felt like writing about depression on this blog might make me seem unstable. Also, I am unstable.
But anyway, I think the time is right. I think we need to speak more about depression. I think that the reason people have such a tough time understanding it is because we don’t talk about it enough. We shy away from it.
People tend to treat depression like an insult. Like asking someone if they are depressed is like asking them if they have a body odour problem. Like saying “tell me more about depression?” is the same as saying “tell me more about that embarrassing and awful broken little brain of yours?”
I’m fine to talk about it in real life, and I often speak to my friends about it. But we all know that the online world is supposed to serve as a highlights reel of your life, right? Who wants to read about the times where you literally cannot fathom leaving your bed for 3 days?
Well, I do. I would love to read more about people who have depression and how they deal with their depression, I heard from a friend that they used medical marijuana online to manage their issues. I would like to read about what other people are feeling and have felt. Because as anyone who has even been through a period of depression can tell you, it feels like the loneliest thing a human can have to go through.
I was first diagnosed with depression when I was about 13 years old. At the time, I’d just started high school at an all-girls boarding school and I was desperately unhappy. So unhappy that a doctor gave me some light anti-depressants just to get me back to a normal state. Because I just couldn’t get there by myself. Even once I had left the school where I was so unhappy, I couldn’t get back to the way I thought normal was supposed to feel. I was at the bottom of this black hole full of unhappiness and I was drowning trying to claw my way out.
Over the next 10 years, I tried about six different medications, on-and-off. The unfortunate thing about anti-depressants is that they are kind of trial and error and the results can be a bit hit and miss. What works for one person might not work for the other. You just have to keep trying till one day you feel like maybe your chest feels a bit lighter and today might be a good day to wash your hair.
So I tried different ones. Ones that made me feel like I was someone else. Ones that seemed to not do anything at all. Ones that made me pick up loads of weight and one that made me code red bat-shit psycho. There was one that actually had me end up in hospital. Which is where I spent quite a bit of time with a doctor who has been treating my dad for depression. Which can be hereditary by the way, did you know that?
It was a tough time. And it took me a long time to finally find the right mediation and more importantly, understand depression. Like, why do I have it? And what exactly is it that I’m feeling? And especially, how am I supposed to explain this to anyone? I think that’s where the loneliness comes in. How do you explain to someone that you feel so lonely your body feels empty, but you also don’t want to see anyone?
I woke up really early this morning and stumbled across this post of Buzzfeed. It’s funny because it’s so true. I feel like I’m finally ready to try to explain how depression feels. I feel like I’ve been thinking about it long enough and I’m going to try to verbalise it.
This is what depression feels like to me.
– No matter what you are doing or who you are with, no matter how amazing or beautiful everything around you is, nothing, nothing makes you feel anything. Like, you can see it and appreciate it, but you never feel excited. You never even feel nervous or anything else. You just feel like you wish you were sleeping. All the time.
– Sometimes, you are with your best, best friends in the world, and you feel like you can’t join in the conversation because your head is in a cloud and you can’t really hear or understand what everyone is talking about. I actually imagine it like a grey cloud around my head. It makes it difficult to see and hear and you feel so disoriented a lot of the time. You can’t really remember things. Like conversations or what that important thing was that your friend was worried about. There are large portions of time where I look back on my life and I know I was doing stuff but I can’t remember what. I look back and feel like I was in robot mode.
– If someone said to you “do you want to sleep for the next 6 years or carry on trying to live your life?” you would go for the sleep option. There is never enough sleep. There’s isn’t enough sleep in the world or even the galaxy. And everything else on earth feels so overwhelming that you have no idea how humans have been tasked with something as impossibly difficult as being alive. The only thing worse than this is when you can’t sleep.
-It’s hard being in robot mode. But it’s all there is to do. So you try really hard to be normal and happy and funny. People probably get along with you easily and like you when they first meet you. But after a while you need to take a break from acting normal. So people tend to often come in and out of your life quickly because they don’t understand why you are so weird. This is the whole “unstable” thing.
– It feels like everything you do or say or experience is only ever on the outside of you. Everything in the whole world only ever happens on your skin.
– Washing your hair, opening your email box, eating…these things seem like they are some of the most difficult things in the world to do. And they are. When you are in the dark place of depression, it feels like your body is melting and you can’t keep it together. Imagine trying to wash your hair if your body was melting?
– Sometimes depression makes you really scared. Like, so scared that you can’t even answer a phonecall. Everything makes you scared. Especially people. And the dark. And nighttime. And also everything else.
– Depression makes you feel so lonely. It feels like you are the only person in the history of mankind who is broken in this invisible way. Everyone around you seems to experience such genuine feelings like joy and excitement and the only emotion you ever, ever feel, is this deep, deep sadness in your bones.
– It’s really exhausting. I think that a lot of the exhaustion comes from trying so hard to seem ok the whole time. People only want to hear “I’m having a really tough time” maybe once or twice. For the post part, they want to hear that you are doing great. And they want to see you feel things. People want to see you happy and trying. They want happy things for you. Actually, this is definitely where the exhaustion comes from. Man, being alive is tiring.
– The last thing I have to say about this is that being depressed means not being in control. Your brain just does not have the capacity to allow you to “pull yourself together”. When you have depression, you don’t have the chemicals in your brain get happy. Which makes you feel even more depressed.
My friends and family are very supportive and I think they’ve all educated themselves, to some degree. But there are a lot of things that people say to depressed people that are both hurtful and unrealistic.
Here are a few things that you might think are helpful, but will probably make someone who is depressed feel more isolated.
“Come, just get up and have a shower and then you will feel better.” – I literally will not feel better because showers don’t sprinkle drops of endorphins on your brain. But I’ll shower anyway. Because I know you feel helpless and I want to show you that I am ok even if I’m not at all.
“I think that you let yourself get depressed. You just need to keep busy.” – In a sense, this is true. Keeping busy does give you a reason to wash your hair and leave the house and it does distract you from lying on your back for 28 hours straight, but that doesn’t mean you’re not depressed. It just means you are going through life counting the hours till you can sleep again or maybe be alone. (Which of course, you will hate)
“I think people use depression as an excuse. You’re not depressed, you just want an easy way out of things.” – I’m sure this is true sometimes. People probably do use depression as an excuse. But to be honest, I wouldn’t risk it. People are already so judgemental of depression that using it as an excuse to get out of something is just going to get you labelled as even more “crazy” or “unstable”. It’s hard enough admitting to depression as it is, I’d rather use temporary blindness as an excuse than give people more reason to judge my mental state.
“Can you have kids? What if you get postpartum deprssion? Will you give your kids depression?” – I don’t know. What if that does happen? I suppose I’ll just have to deal with in the same way I’ve been dealing with the last 25 years of life; one day at a time. (I actually had a serious boyfriend tell me that he didn’t think he could risk having kids with me because of my depression. I want to say something funny or sarcastic about this, but it was actually too hurtful)
“But you have so much going for you, what do you have to be depressed about?” – Frustrating right? Can someone tell my stupid brain?!
“What can I do to make you feel better?” – This is probably the most difficult of them all. It warms my cold little dead heart and it means a lot when people want to help. But it makes me fee so guilty. I hate seeing you wringing your hands as I lay there trying to act normal and happy while I’m drowning in this fucking cloud. I want to make you happy and feel like I am going to be ok and that stresses me out so much. This is probably one of the reasons people going through depression often want to be alone. It’s easiest.
That’s kind of all I have to say right now. I hope that maybe, if you do have depression, this post made you nod your head and feel at least some of the feels. And I hope that if you’re one of the lucky people with all the chemicals you need to be naturally able to deal with life floating around in your mind, this post has helped you understand a little. It’s actually helped me to come to a few realisations about my own depression.
This post is deeply personal and comes straight from my own experience. About two years ago I basically couldn’t hold it together anymore and I started taking a drug called Wellbutrin. It has literally changed my life. Of course, I still feel everything I’ve mentioned in this post, but not all at the same time anymore. And at varying levels of intensity; just below the surface, always there, but thankfully seldom engulfing.
And now, when things happen, normal things that most people can deal with but would have sent me into a black hole for days, I can kind of deal with them. My brain kicks in and starts making those things I need to survive every day when I take my little pill.
Don’t be scared to take medication. It might be a tough little roller coaster ride but it’s worth it. And don’t be scared to talk about depression. We need to desensitise people. Otherwise they’re just going to keep on thinking that we’re all unlovable, unreliable and unstable. It will also help you to get to grips with it yourself if you are struggling. When you teach you learn.
So anyway I think the key takeout from this post is that washing your hair is really tough.