Someone (who will remain unidentified) asked me to help explain depression to a loved one, and I was hesitant. It’s not that I lacked the desire to help them, but rather that I felt I lacked the expertise. First problem I see is that depression is different for each person, there are a few shared symptoms, but how they manifest and to what degree changes from person to person. Second, I don’t only suffer from depression. I am a manic depressive with extreme depressive states (for lack of better way to describe it), have “normal” depression, and I have severe anxiety. My symptoms read differently from people with similar problems.
The question is something that I reflected on for awhile and decided to just do this post in the hopes that it might help someone. Maybe not the person that asked, but anybody to understand.
Again, remember this is my symptoms, my life, my reflection of my mental health. It will not fit for everybody, but it might still shed some light.
-Sometimes I feel extreme sadness. I will lay in bed and cry for hours, sometimes on and off for days. Anything and everything can set me off, and I am just hit with an overwhelming sense of despair.
-Sometimes I feel more of a numbness. It’s not exactly sadness, but it’s a weight and burden that I carry that nothing is or will ever be right. I am not crushed by despair, but rather by a crippling feeling of nothing but emptiness. There is no joy in anything, no anger, no hope, no motivation, no nothing. I may as well be a husk, an empty shell of what a human should be.
-Sometimes I feel everything at once. I will be sad, then angry, then apathy, then get a burst of motivation, followed by lethargy. I cannot stop how I am feeling or what it will go to next, and I just want everything to slow down. I want to feel one thing at a time and feel it long enough to process and overcome it.
-Sometimes I feel overwhelming fear. It’s not just nerves or insecurity it’s more crippling than that. Fear that nobody loves me, fear that nobody likes me, fear that I will die alone, fear that I will never accomplish anything in my life, fear that it’s already too late and my time has passed, fear of everything I have ever messed up, fear of everything that I could mess up. Instead of motivating me to try hard, it makes me want to just give up, just quit. Then more time passes without reaching goals, and it builds further.
-All of this normally comes with a feeling of hopelessness. That I will never overcome this. That I will never be able to be happy with my life. That I will never be able to contribute or do anything meaningful. That I will one day lose in the worst way.
-Sometimes I feel resentment. I resent myself for not having more control over it. I resent myself for dwelling on things and not moving forward, just making things worse. I resent the world for talking about me like I am just a selfish person that wants to “take.” I resent that I ended up with something that I can’t see, can’t control, and sometimes can’t fight. I resent that I can’t just be normal, be happy. I even sometimes resent that I was born if this is what I have to feel and face in my life.
-Sometimes I feel like I wish I could disappear. I do not believe I am suicidal anymore. I have only had one serious attempt on my life, and it was long enough ago that I don’t think I will repeat it. I don’t think about hurting myself anymore. But I do wish I could just go to sleep one night and not wake up in the morning.
-Sometimes I feel a false sense of happiness. I get this burst of what seems like something good that comes with a small amount of drive and motivation. It hits hard and then fades quickly and leaves me to realize that it wasn’t real. I didn’t actually manage to get more done while it was there, and I I don’t actually feel any better.
It’s hard to label all of these feelings and properly box them up to explain to other people. How much of it is depression, how much of it is anxiety, how much of it is normal angst?
Either way, I want people to know I don’t always feel these things. It’s hard when I do, and it can be hard to break out of, but they aren’t all that makes up me.
-Sometimes I feel motivation. I know that certain opportunities have passed. That certain dreams of mine will never come to be. However, there are still plenty of other things I can achieve. That my life is not yet over and there are things I want to do in which age doesn’t matter, and I can still shoot for them. I just need to go for them and make them happen.
-Sometimes I feel blessed. I can be hard when you feel like your own mind is attacking you, but I am fortunate. We have a lot of work to do in this world to understanding mental health, but we have come a long way. A few people in my family, as well as friends, were not so lucky, they lost their battle to mental health, and I largely think it’s because there was just no help for them. Some people in my life don’t understand, but more people are willing to listen, willing to learn, than not. There are a lot worse challenges I could have to face, or I could be truly alone with the challenge I have.
-Sometimes I feel joy. I can break through the clouds and enjoy things. Enjoy my family, enjoy my husband, enjoy my pets, enjoy my writing, enjoy my friends, enjoy my hobbies, enjoy so many things.
-Sometimes I feel hope. That despite the fact that there will always be roadblocks and hard times that slowly yet surely I am improving. That there is a way to come out on the other side of this. I will always carry this burden with me, but over time it has become easier, and there might come a time when it only feels too heavy rarely.
There are also things that I can’t put into words, and even some of what I have written doesn’t feel like it adequately describes how oppressive some of the negative feelings can be. How suffocating the experience is. It is a difficult thing to talk about because it’s a difficult thing to sort. It doesn’t control my whole life, but it’s always there. A little tick that I can feel even at the best of times.
When I say I don’t think I can explain it to other people I am not being dismissive, it’s just something that is challenging, uncomfortable, and so different from person to person. Still, the request mattered to me, and I didn’t want to completely turn away from it.
Whatever your mental health makes you feel is valid and matters to you. The best advice I can give (and this is from a nonprofessional) is don’t run from those feelings. Acknowledge and confront them. Talk to the people in your life, even when it’s hard, and make sure they understand. Seek help when you need it and find the things that help you overcome it. Notice when you are starting to feel the bad things more than the good and be aware of the fact that it can be a slippery slope and have plans in place to fight back.
And know that you are not alone, and know that what you are feeling can be overcome. You can feel better and you will someday.
I don’t know if sharing this will help anybody at all, I don’t know how I feel putting it out there like that, I do know that reaching a point where we can all feel like we can discuss this more openly and honestly can’t hurt.