Everything isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, and when you are battling depression a rainy day or a shitty week can snowball pretty quickly in your mind. It becomes an all consuming thing that can warp your entire mindset. I’ve told very few people about this struggle because it is so taboo and there are immediate judgments made. For this reason, I have always wanted to do my little part to help educate people because so many struggle silently and are ashamed. It is also incredibly difficult to put into words when half the time I have no clue why my brain is thinking what it is.
I was officially diagnosed with depression in high school and have been dealing with it since. By definition:
(1) : a state of feeling sad : dejection (2) : a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies
Every person suffering from depression has their own experience with it. I personally never had a big traumatic event in my life that caused this, or anything that I can pinpoint and say – THIS is what brought it on. I think it is just a part of my make up, something chemically in my brain that is off. It comes and goes in waves for me, but when it does come, it’s pretty bad. Not bad in the sense that I’ve ever been suicidal (thank God for that), but bad in the sense of it being all consuming, lasting for months and months at a time.
Some medications have helped, some have been a nightmare with side effects. Therapy has definitely helped, but therapy=money and I don’t have money. I won’t even go into the disgusting lack of insurance coverage available for therapy and even then, the out of pocket costs when they do cover a whopping 10-20 sessions.
So, to describe what it is like is tricky but I’m going to try…
There is a constant weight on my shoulders where based on my current circumstances in life I see no light at the end of the tunnel. And who knows, maybe that’s not even my depression but me being realistic. My mind takes little things and blows them out of proportion or my mind warps things. So something small like, I messed something up at work goes in and out comes ‘I’m doing a horrible job at work, I’m probably going to get fired again, why can’t I get this right?’ Or because we are having trouble with money, I assume it will forever be that way and no matter what we do, we will never have enough money to get by and will struggle for the rest of our lives, never getting the house we want, or the honeymoon we never had, or the child we are hoping for. It’s almost like everything is dramatized for lack of a better word.
It is a battle to experience happiness. I know that might sound crazy but I rarely feel happy. Or if I am happy one minute, it can flip quickly when something goes wrong, and then all I can focus on is the thing that negatively happened. There is definitely a feeling of hopelessness and dread that looms like a cloud over my head. Very horrible, negative thoughts will cross my mind, and I think to myself ‘where in the hell did THAT just come from?’ And it will come out of nowhere. Scenarios play out in my mind where the ending is always bad and I’ll stop myself and say ‘why are you thinking this right now?!’ It really is a feeling of not being in control of your thoughts.
I would generalize and say that most people who have depression are more sensitive, emotional people. I can’t watch the news because it bothers me. If I hear about child or animal abuse it makes me sick to my stomach and I can’t ever get it out of my head. I will get infuriated and be incredibly sad about it for hours, or even days after. When people I care about are feeling down, I feel it right with them.
I know when my depression is worsening because I cry at the drop of a hat, find it extremely difficult to feel happiness in any situation, am exceptionally angry all the time and become withdrawn. I also feel incredible exhaustion, where all I want to do is sleep, or sometimes just to sleep to shut my mind down.
Stress often worsens depression and it can also come out in other ways that aren’t all in my head. I have constant stomach issues that I am pretty sure is 95% related. It can also cause back pains, headaches, confusion, lightheadedness and more.
Many people do not understand that I cannot just ‘snap out of it’ or ‘stop thinking that way’. It’s not that simple and believe me, if I could, I would. I am always getting lectured on not being so negative. It is exhausting trying to ‘play happy’ and not to let people’s comments and actions bother me. It is also confusing when I constantly hear others saying negative things, or being negative in general, and yet I’m the only one lectured. So I often ask myself ‘how is my negative different from their negative’? I wish I could understand the difference. And maybe that is a part of it…it is SO consuming in my brain that I don’t even realize half the time when it is showing to others.
The worst part about all of this for me personally is that I am a genuinely loving, caring and compassionate person and that rarely comes across unless you know me well. My best friend described it best at my wedding when she said ‘Anyone loved by Jen is a very lucky person. She only knows how to love with all her heart’. I do care a great deal about those around me and would do anything for those I love. But that side of me rarely shines through the negative.
What people with depression need more than anything is an ear to listen, even if you don’t understand what we are going through or don’t agree with our point of view (keeping in mind it is a warped point of view most of the time). We also need support, encouragement and love. Help us change our thinking with encouraging words, show us the positive in the situation (I love using silver linings), remind us it will get better, and that there is hope.
I hope I can comfort others experiencing this so they know they are not alone and also shed a little light on a dark subject.