Updated: Nov 2
I’m talking about mental health (again)
Today I’m gonna talk about depression! (Again.)
Nearly two years ago, I got diagnosed with severe depression and started treatment, and it’s been a hell of a journey ever since.
Some of the reasons for my depression were crystal clear to me right then, and others have been revealed in the time since. I’ve tried all kinds of medications to manage it, and I work really freakin hard in therapy to treat it. But the thing is, it’s just… still here.
I believe in full transparency about mental health issues, and I talk about my depression on a regular basis both for my sake (because hiding depression makes depression worse), and for everyone else’s sake (because when depression is hidden culturally, more people suffer and die).
So when I find myself sitting here trying to come up with a topic to write about—and all I can think about is how nothing matters and I don’t fucking care about this— I figure it’s best to just tell you that. (Whomp, whomp.)
The truth is that apathy, nihilism, and withdrawal from things that normally feel connective are some of my go-to depression symptoms… and my depression (like many people’s) comes in waves.
Sometimes I’m fine. Sometimes I’m even genuinely happy. I have whole days, and even weeks, where I mostly feel energized, motivated, clear-headed, connected, purposeful, and optimistic about the future. But during these times, I am still a person battling depression. I say that because:
I’m still working to deal with and heal the underlying causes for this particular depressive episode, and I know I’m not there yet.
The lows always come back.
It would probably be fair to say that I have been a person with depression my entire life, since I’ve dealt with these kinds of episodes throughout my life, just on a lesser scale, and sandwiched between years of happiness.
Anyway, the lows come in waves too. Sometimes it feels like the lights just go out inside me, and everything goes dark. I might suddenly feel exhausted, numb, overwhelmed, anti-social, or like everything is just meaningless. It might come with a lot of uncontrollable crying, or irritability, or anxiety, but sometimes it’s more like I just quietly disappear inside myself, and lay down. Often it comes with an experience I can only describe as a full-body “NO.”
From this place, being alive sometimes feels like more energy than it’s worth, and I don’t want to continue. (Oof.)
Unfortunately, I don’t usually know the reason why my lows hit–at least, not in the moment. But these depressive lows always have a reason or a trigger, and when they hit, my job is to figure out what that reason or trigger is.
Interestingly, I’ve discovered that these kinds of depressive lows are often the direct result of not knowing why I feel bad. It’s like I’ve developed a Pavlovian response to feeling bad throughout the last few years, and now depression itself has become a trigger for depression.
Seriously though, if I feel bad for a specific and knowable reason, it’s no problem. If my partner hurts my feelings, for example, or I get sick, I don’t really mind feeling shitty, because I know it’s valid, temporary, and resolvable. Being able to make sense of my shitty feelings is all I need to keep them from spiraling.
But when I feel bad without knowing why, some subconscious part of me goes “OMG THE DEPRESSION IS BACK!” and I start to freak out that my brain is broken, and I’m going to feel horrible for no reason for the rest of my life.
As you can probably imagine, this thought— that I’m trapped in my pointless, random bad feelings with no escape— makes me feel much, much worse. Which is how these moments tend to spiral from “I’m in a bad mood” to “who fucking cares if I even get out of bed?”
(If you’ve ever dealt with depression, you might relate to this.)
Anyway, this is exactly what happened to me last week. I received some pretty jarring news about my book (that someone else will be releasing a book on the same topic just a few weeks after mine!), on the same day that someone I love shared that their marriage was ending. I spent days in problem-solving and supporting mode, taking meetings with my publishing team, and worrying about my loved one’s broken heart.
I felt fine during those couple of days, to be honest. I felt normal, and even energized.
But I never stopped and considered how these things were affecting me. My own stress and heartbreak got labeled somewhere in my head as “generic bad feelings,” which then got interpreted as “my depression is back for no reason, which means I’m never ever going to be free of it,” which then led to me having a total meltdown in a grocery store because they didn’t have any more rotisserie chicken. (Seriously.)
Luckily, I was able to talk out my feelings with my partner (who helped me gracefully escape my produce-aisle panic-attack), and identify the actual sources for my bad feelings.
And as soon as I named these reasons, I felt a million times better. The sort of faceless fog of depression lifted, and I was able to see that this pain– like all pain, really– was valid, temporary, and resolvable. And from there, I was able to just… feel shitty. Not depressed, just shitty. And that might not sound like a big improvement to you, but trust me: it was.
Anyway, that’s what’s on my mind today.
I’m a person with depression.
My depression comes in waves.
Sometimes it knocks me over, and sometimes it moves to the background.
I’m currently recovering from a low.
But most importantly, I’m ok.
I’m a person with depression and I’m ok.
Can you relate?
Wishing the most positive and stable mental health,
PS: I have one private client coaching spot opening up for November, and I’m hoping to run a small coaching group on body neutrality soon! If you’re interested in either, please fill out an application here, and we can talk about the details!