Depression. It’s a hard topic to write on. It’s personal, you see? To write on depression, to try and give someone else an idea of what depression is like, you must open up and allow them to see the bad days, see the times when you are at your lowest and just cannot get up again.
Depression is a disease. It’s quiet and terrible and it gets its hooks into you long before you realize that something is wrong. If you’re lucky, you manage to figure out that you’re depressed. If not, you muddle along, knowing that something is wrong but not knowing what, not knowing that it’s not you but rather something that you have, something that needs treating. A proper illness. Eventually, there comes a day when you just can’t take it any more. Eventually, you stop functioning and it takes the longest time to start again.
Depression is nothing like it’s shown on TV or in movies. In the media, it’s prettied up. It’s rarely ever shown that your personal hygiene suffers, that you sometimes stuff your face with food because you can’t stop yourself, that you sometimes don’t eat because it’s too much effort to get up and get yourself a meal. It’s not shown that even once you start improving, you may not stay the person you were before. Your personality can change. Your priorities do change.
For me, depression is not sadness. It’s not crying hysterically or screaming or looking miserable. Depression is apathy. It’s numbness and behind that numbness is every single emotion that I know I should be feeling. It’s the realization that I’m drowning and I am frozen. I can’t save myself, I can’t even call out for help. Worse, I don’t want to. I can’t reach the fear and the desperation and the survival instinct that I should be feeling, that should be motivating me to save myself.
At my worst, I was cut off from everything. My emotions, my writing, my friends. Even my body felt strangely unresponsive. I would try to force myself to get up in the mornings. On the good days when I managed that, I would then try to go outside. Most of the time, I would fail. I just couldn’t make myself do it. It sounds ridiculous – it felt ridiculous. I didn’t know what I was afraid of, why I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I just couldn’t.
I also couldn’t cry. Scariest of all, I couldn’t write. Now, I define myself as a writer. It’s a huge part of me and writing is what I do – when I’m sad, when I’m happy, when I’m bored. Just, it’s what I do. But writing requires emotion. You cannot write when you cannot feel – it doesn’t really work. The two are intertwined.
What helped me to start feeling again, to start trying again, is praying. When I prayed, I would feel better. I wasn’t completely better but when I prayed, it made bad days a little more tolerable and it made good days good enough that I sometimes even managed to go to therapy or attend a class.
I would say my breaking point was the beginning of March last year. At the time, I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know just how bad it was. In March of 2016 I stopped being able to function. As to when I started functioning again, I’ll let you know. I’m still healing, still trying and sometimes failing. I have strategies to help me that I didn’t have before and on the days that nothing works, I’m kinder to myself. I’ve learned to accept that there will be bad days and that I won’t always reach my goals when I want to. Every day, I remind myself that the point is to keep trying because there is a victory in that all of its own.