The Complexities of Depression

Please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255 if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal.

True to form, I’m late: Mental Health Awareness Month was May, but I’m writing about depression in June. Who’s surprised? Not me!

Anyway, so let’s talk depression. Although most people just picture a sad person when they hear the word “depressed”, there’s a lot more to it. Depression isn’t just sitting in the dark crying.

Sometimes it’s getting through a work day with no energy. It’s feeling flat and uninterested in life. Other times it’s feeling angry one second and then anxious the next.

Out of Nowhere

There is no one criteria for depression – it affects everyone differently. I’ve dealt with it off and on throughout my life and I’m currently being treated for it. Most of the time I’m fine; I’m not happy-go-lucky, but that’s not my personality anyway. I’m content, sometimes happy, but mostly I’m okay. But then something happens and I spiral.

Last Wednesday began a new spiral with no obvious cause. I had been having a great day. I’d met my husband that morning for an appointment and we went out to lunch together. I was happy. Then I got home and boom! It hit me like a ton of bricks. All of a sudden I was depressed, anxious and exhausted. My pain levels increased and I found myself on my couch, phone in hand and the TV on in the background – all of my plans for the day cancelled.

Then came the thoughts. I fight them off and on, but I hadn’t had to deal with them in a while so I was unprepared when they showed up. They went (and occasionally still go) like this:

  • You’re useless. (I know I’m not – I work and hold my own for the most part.)
  • You’re a burden on everyone, but especially Tate (my husband). Why would he even marry you? You’re such an awful person; you must have manipulated him into it. There’s no way someone like him could love someone like you. He deserves so much better. I’m surprised he hasn’t divorced you yet. (He wouldn’t still be with me if he didn’t love me, and he shows me that he does every.single.day.)
  • Your pain isn’t real. You’re just a hypochondriac who likes attention. (My medical history tells a different story. At 29 years old I was told that my neck MRI was ‘what we expect in a 50 year old’. Plus, there’s a reason I hardly leave my house – I hate attention.)
  • People hate you and they should. You’re such a terrible excuse of a person. You’re lazy and childish. Why do you even exist? You’re a complete waste of oxygen. (This one I don’t have a positive about. Unfortunately I think this even when I’m not in a depressive episode.)

The list (unfortunately) goes on and on. They hit me, one after the other, relentlessly, without stopping.

I had a mandatory meeting that day. Because I was so depressed I lost track of time. I got about halfway to my workplace when I had a panic attack because I was going to be late, so I turned around to go back home. I couldn’t stand to face anyone.

Fighting It

So, I went home and decided to see if some self-care would help. I took a long bath with lavender bath soap and used my wax warmer with some spring scented wax. As I sat there I tried to think about all of the positives in my life.

I thought about how six and a half years ago I was essentially homeless and now I own my own home. How I was always broke and struggling and how I’m now considered middle class. How even though I’m constantly in pain, I am able to manage it and can at least work part time.

From that point on, the depression stopped being relentless and came in waves, instead. I would have one thought that would lead into another, which would then lead into one of those thoughts up there.

Depression isn’t an all or nothing type of issue. It comes and goes and depends on what chemicals you’re making at the time, as well as what your external situation is. But it doesn’t discriminate.

The Importance of Support Systems

Other than my chronic pain, I live a good life. My husband and I are happy, we have a great home and good friends. I have a support system that would never let me down. I like my job. So, on the outside it would seem I have nothing to be depressed about, yet here I am.

My husband is my biggest supporter. The day I had that panic attack and went home, I texted him to tell him what was going on and he called me from work to get more details. I told him I didn’t know what was happening, but that I was depressed and missed my meeting, which made me even more anxious.

One thing that depression does – and the one thing that makes it so dangerous – is it makes you feel like a burden on those around you. This leads to keeping your pain to yourself in order to avoid bringing others down.

I already feel like a burden because of my chronic pain and inability to work full time, so when you add depression onto that, I’m almost hopeless.

This guilt led me to say, “I’m sorry, babe. I’ll be better once you get home.” His response is only one of the reasons why I love him (and often don’t feel like I deserve him).

“Stop apologizing. I hope you’re better, but it’s okay if you’re not.”

Simple words which made a massive impact. He knew that I didn’t want to be depressed and that it’s not something you can just turn off, and he knew that I felt guilty about it even though I couldn’t control it.

He’s also been with me and dealing with it long enough to know that he can’t fix it, all he can do is support me as I get through it.

Never underestimate the power of just letting someone be, of not trying to fix them.

Final Thoughts

Don’t believe that just because you “don’t have a reason to be depressed” that you can’t be, or that you should hide it from people for fear of them pointing that out.

Don’t believe that your loved ones don’t want to hear about your depression, or that you are going to be a burden on them if you show it. They do. And they would rather you tell them now than hide it, allowing it to fester into suicidal thoughts, ideations or attempts.

Don’t rely solely on your support system, either. Although they are wonderful and helpful, if your depression is lasting or making you think of hurting yourself, you should get professional help. Even if it’s just counseling. Your support system cannot replace professionals.

Understand that depression comes and goes, and that this moment won’t last forever. You might be sad or anxious now, but give it some time. It’s rarely as bad as you think it is, or as bad as your mind makes it out to be.

As cliche as it seems, dwelling on the negative will only bring more negativity. It’s not a cure-all, but when life is beating you down, as it is wont to do, focus on your silver linings, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.

Please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255 if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal.

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