A few weeks ago a friend asked me what depression meant for me. At the time, I remember saying that I didn’t think I’d be able to answer it satisfactorily, and to be honest I’m still not sure. This isn’t a post about how to recognise depression, and by no means is this a universal statement of what depression is, it’s simply what it means to me.
I hate when people say “real” depression, as though there is a concrete point where your run-of-the-mill sadness turns into some full-blown ominous dark cloud; as though it’s super clear that you’ve crossed over. I’m not negating that there is a difference between depression and sadness, but I don’t think we do anyone any favours by deciding what “real” depression is. It just means that if you don’t fit into that particular box, the fact that you’ve hit depression somehow doesn’t matter, and that’s the last thing we need to tell people. You’re just sad, not depressed. Thanks.
For me, depression is when the voices that continuously tell me I’m not good enough, that I’m unlovable, that everything is a lie get to screaming volume. They’re always there, but for the most part I can listen and rebut and win. When the depression sinks in, the other voices, the ones that let me hold onto the love and caring in my life, they get drowned out. And every time someone tells me they love me, that I matter, all I think is, “You’re lying.” Logically I know it’s not true, but that doesn’t change how it feels. That’s the first part. Those voices, they colour everything else. Memories surface, even good ones, and all I can see is how I’ve fucked up or how it was just an act. And then I feel worse because I feel like I shouldn’t be sad and I wonder if I just enjoy being this way. The point when I know it’s bad is when I wake up and there’s nothing. It’s when I’m driving my car, and I just happen to look down and realise I’m at least double the speed limit and want to go faster. It’s like something explodes and then sucks in on itself and then everything is too intense but also muted. It’s all a constant contradiction, and no matter what anyone does or says the voices scream over them. I can look around and see a million different ways I could die, and all I can think is that it wouldn’t be the worst. I think about how easy it would be for everything to stop. Motivation, hope, everything is just muted. There’s nothing. I can barely feel anything except overwhelmed. Anything is too much, and I just want to sleep until it goes. The smallest thing explodes into Vesuvius and reaffirms how truly alone and pathetic I am. Nothing is constant or consistent, and even the smallest shred of hope is ripped savagely away. The only thing that stays is the voices screaming that this is all my fault and this is what I deserve.
Sometimes, I wonder if they’re right.
Most days, I can fight through, and eventually things work out. I haven’t always been able to do it on my own or under my own steam, and I frequently wonder if I’ve dealt with it correctly. I guess that’s the thing though, there isn’t a “right” way of dealing with it. There is a way that works for you, and if it gets you through that’s all that matters. When I’m depressed, it doesn’t matter what anyone says or does, I don’t believe you love me or that I’m worth love, and maybe that’s the same for a lot of people.
I never know exactly what shifts it, but one day I wake up and it’s not as overwhelming. I can do a little more, and sometimes just the knowledge that I’ve been through this and that I’ve been okay gets me through. It comes down to time, luck and some hidden well of strength I forget about. Sometimes it’s a well-placed word with a friend, but it’s never the same thing.
People trying to make me happy or telling me how to make myself happy doesn’t work. It’s not an easy fix and it never will be. Sometimes I need a swift kick up the arse to get moving, to remember to eat, but don’t do it because you want me to be happy. Don’t help with an agenda, just help because you care.
I don’t believe in a right answer or a right way, and I won’t tell you how to deal with your depression or your friend’s or your family’s. It’s messy and complicated and draining for everyone involved. And that’s okay.