Stories About Depression
Stories about depression don’t get told very often because it can feel like there isn’t much to share. You walk around in white noise and static. Days run together in endless loops. There’s a lot of staring at ceiling fans.
You’ve probably heard people talk about “battling” depression. Usually the battle consists of doing things like getting out of bed, eating, putting on clothes. These may not sound battle-like if you haven’t dealt with depression before, but when you’re depressed, simple actions can push your body to the point of failure. But it’s all kind of a bullshit way of talking about it, anyway. Depression isn’t about fighting battles. The thing about depression is, most of the time you’re not fighting. Most of the time, you don’t even know that you’re in a fight.
I was never diagnosed with anything. I went to a psychiatrist for a few sessions once, because I thought I had anger problems. I made the appointment one day after screaming at my ex-husband (my current husband at the time) in the car. He asked me to put on my seatbelt, and he refused to start the car until I did. It felt like something in me snapped. I couldn’t control myself. My brain felt like lava, and I didn’t recognize my own voice. I didn’t know I could get that angry, and it scared me. So I went and talked to somebody, but I stopped after a few weeks. No real reason. I just didn’t want to go anymore, and it didn’t seem like anyone cared anyway.
So I wasn’t diagnosed, but sometimes you don’t need a diagnoses. The symptoms I obsessively read online seemed pretty close:
-Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
-Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
-Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
-Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
-Decreased energy or fatigue
-Moving or talking more slowly
-Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
-Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
-Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
-Appetite and/or weight changes
-Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
-Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
Check. Except for the weight changes. I wouldn’t allow myself to gain weight. That was the one thing I could still control. But, for a period of nearly 10 years I experienced most or all of this.
People who aren’t depressed often ask what Depression is like. People who are depressed ask, too, probably because they want to confirm or deny that they are also depressed. I think there are lots of people who are depressed but don’t know it. Anyway, the sleeplessness started first. I started grinding my teeth at night, and would wake up with a sore jaw. Then I would wake up several times a night because I had stopped breathing. Then I started getting dizzy spells. Gradually, other symptoms set in. Acne, digestion issues, thinning hair, pulled muscles. Those were just the physical symptoms, which are a lot easier to describe. Also a lot easier to ignore. I ignored all of them, which is what made the depression even worse, which caused more symptoms, which made the depression worse… and you get the idea. It was a slow descent, so that by the end I was lost in the dark. I isolated myself. Eventually, after may years of feeling beat down and worthless, I was planning suicide. I couldn’t admit that to anyone at the time, because as soon as you do, there is protocol to follow. Hotlines, doctors, hospitals. I see the justification for it. Suicidal thoughts are like a cancerous growth. Once they appear they are really hard to get rid of, and they spread aggressively.
Through some traumatic experiences, I was pulled out of my depression. That might sound funny, because you might expect trauma to make depression worse. But actually, the trauma forced me to look at myself, really look, for the first time in a long time. I couldn’t hide anymore. I had to see who I was. That, for me, was the first step in stepping back into the light. My journey back started with work, love, and divorce.