Normally I keep my site pretty light, creative and fun. Because honestly most of the time I'm a pretty light creative and fun-loving person (I like to think). But today, in the aftermath of Valentine's Day, I'm going to hit pause for a second and talk about something really personal and painful for me: Depression.
Clinical depression is something I've struggled with my entire life, something that even though I fight and fight hard, will always be a part of who I am, and interacts with every facet of my life. Part of the reason I appreciate fun so much is because having fun, feeling happiness, and the ability to create are so incredibly precious to me. I know what it's like to live without them.
This list is for those of you who live with someone like me, or love someone like me, and who maybe hasn't gotten help yet. Because from the outside it seems (and it is) so illogical. You can have the perfect life on paper and still be miserable. It looks like entitlement, ungratefulness and sometimes laziness. It's important to understand how it feels from the inside.
1. It's hard to think.
You are literally concentrating every second on how bad your feel, and trying not to be miserable. When your body is physically injured, pain is what brings your brain's attention to the fact that there's something damaging happening. Emotional pain functions much the same way. When you're depressed you spend a gargantuan amount of your time and energy just ignoring your brain's insistent demands that you NOTICE HOW BAD YOU ARE HURTING. Everything and anything else that happens gets registered as halfway muffled messages and far away voices.
2. It's really hard to even get out of bed, let alone shower and make breakfast.
You hear this a lot when talking about depression, but it's literal. There are days when you look down at the floor and it looks...so far away. You know you need to move the blankets off of yourself but it's just easier to close your eyes and pretend it's time to go back to bed. When you do get out of bed, there are days when all you can think about is laying back down and making the world go away because it's too hard to handle. A shower? It feels like climbing a mountain. Breakfast tastes like sand, so why bother eating? Some days, shuffling to the couch is all you can do.
3. You really believe no one likes you, and never will.
The thought distortion here is immense. The idea that you have no friends, that your family is avoiding you or hates you or just doesn't care is pervasive and becomes almost too easy to believe. Even when you know in your heart it's not true, that empty feeling of being alone follows you everywhere. You can't escape it. Because when you can't even muster up enough to like yourself, how can you believe other people like you, let alone love you? After all, you're broken.
This is made much, much worse by people who do assume you're faking it for attention, coddling, or just lazy, or ungrateful and entitled. Everyone suffering from depression has at one time been told to just 'snap out of it.' WE KNOW. We get it. It's hard to be around. I'm trying, I promise. But my victories sometimes include getting off the couch, which doesn't look like much from the outside.
4. "Happy pills" don't make you happy.
True story. "Happy pills," or antidepressants don't make you happy. It's a common misconception that an antidepressant is a quick and nearly lazy fix to just feeling sad, man. But happy pills don't actually make you happy. They make you feel nothing.
Why, you ask, would you take a medication that makes you feel nothing? Well feeling nothing sure beats the hell out of feeling like you want to die. You know that feeling of having a physical injury causing you sharp, horrifying pain, then having it quickly fade? Know how the absence of pain can almost become a feeling of it's own in those moments? That's what happy pills do. Not feeling anything after months or sometimes even years of feeling awful can be such a relief it feels like happiness at first. Even feeling numb can be an improvement. Sometimes, if you're lucky your medication slowly lets you heal, and begin to feel things again. But it takes a while.
5. The act of taking medication is in and of itself, depressing.
For me, every morning I get out my meds, set them next to my coffee cup and kind of stare at them for a minute. I hate taking them. Hate is actually a mild word for it. To me, despite the fact that my body needs these little pills to function properly, the sheer fact that I have to take them to function makes me feel weak. Broken. Like I've failed at being a human being somehow. My body literally does not function the way it's supposed to, and that insanely complicates my life.
Sometimes your meds don't just make you numb, sometimes happy pills make you anxious. They kill your sex drive, and frequently make you gain weight. For me certain medications make me so emotionless and flat that it's hard to connect with my children, or feel love for my family and friends. Yes, it's better then being in pain all the time, but it's also a struggle to find a drug that helps more then it hurts. I've found one that works for me now with minimal side effects, and that's amazing. But it's continually in the back of my head that I will always have to take them. Forever. And ever and ever.
6. You are acutely aware of how much of a downer and a burden you are to everyone around you that you love.
No one likes to know they're causing the people they love pain. And when you deal with depression you see it every day. When you kids look at you with big sad eyes because you don't have the energy to play with them. When your friends ask you to go out or come over and you just...can't. Again. When your spouse comes home, looks at a messy house when you're sitting on the couch and you can hear them thinking 'what did you even do today?' Depression makes you sad, not stupid or blind. You know how hard it is to live with you, and it hurts to know you're causing pain to the people who mean the most to you.
This is why you can't ever assume that you're not helping if you can't seem to make a dent in someone's 'funk.' You can't, but damn if it isn't good to hear that people still care and still want you around, even when you're feeling like a failure pile in a sadness bowl.
7. Clinical depression is a legitimate medical issue and a mental hurdle.
My best friend, one of the wisest women I've ever met, said it best. You may ask yourself "why am I so sad all the time? My life is great, what do I even have to be sad about?" But that's like asking yourself "why do I have cancer all the time, what do I even have to have cancer about?"
Depression is a chemical issue, that sometimes even the best self care can't fix. There are genetic and environmental factors involved that sometimes you can't change. It IS OK to ask for help. It is OK to admit you can't just 'cheer up' on your own. Just like with any medical issue, the first step should be reaching out and figuring out what's going on with your body. Don't ever let a stigma keep you from getting the help you or your loved one needs. Keep trying. Be encouraging. And above all else try to remember that the person you love is still in there, looking out.