First it starts off as a little haze. Maybe a day where you feel “off.” But then the fog gets darker and more dense and more suffocating. But it happens so gradually, it’s hard to really know what’s going on…until you’re buried.
It starts with things that can be explained away. “Wow, I’m so tired all the time.” Or “I don’t have any interest in x,y,z that I used to LOVE but maybe it’s because I’m too tired to care. Because I’m so tired. All the time.” Then it turns into “Wow, you’re pathetic. Can’t even get out of bed like a normal person. No, you don’t deserve to eat. You’re ugly and disgusting. Hide away and don’t let anyone see you.” “You will never accomplish anything, so stop dreaming. Dreams are dumb, especially YOUR dreams.” “Why can’t you be like a normal person? What makes you such a special snowflake?”
Then the guilt comes. Which makes the voices even more vocal and loud. And you just get so damned tired because the voices want something, your spouse wants something, your kids want something, everyone wants something and you just want to crawl under the covers and hide.
Your emotions… all the “bad” ones, anyway, are right at the surface. Everything makes you want to cry. (But you won’t because that’s weak and uncalled for.) You get upset over anything. You’re snapping at people, you’ve lost patience with everyone else and their problems because you’re so wrapped up in this fog, and the fog is like a smoke screen. You don’t want them to pull you out of the fog which makes you feel so far removed from them. And from the world. Nothing seems real. YOU don’t seem real.
Getting out of bed, let alone getting out of the house, becomes a major accomplishment. Putting on pants is really a BFD. But all of this comes along so gradually, so sneakily, that you don’t even notice it before it’s too late. And then you’re more tired because when you have to go out, you have to pull out ALL OF YOUR ACTING CHOPS to convince everyone that “Everything’s great! Everything’s fine! Please don’t ask me any more OK because I am truly fucking great!” And you get overwhelmed because you know that any time you’re around people, even those closest to you, that you have to pretend you’re OK to avoid the questions because you’re ashamed, so ashamed that you’re HERE again when you have no fucking reason to be sad because everything is going great, so fucking great. So really, there is no need to be nearly hysterical with the effort of holding back those tears that are right at the surface, and there is certainly no need to be crying in the shower, so get a grip already for God’s sake.
So you start to steal what little moments of happiness you can. You latch on to those things, and maybe you laugh too loudly and too long at a mediocre joke, or you become obsessed with a world you can escape to (movies, books, tv), except when those things start to hurt as well because you look on the screen and think “I’ll never be as pretty/successful/amazing as that actor” or “I don’t know if my writing will ever be this good or make the kind of impact on someone that this has made on me.” “I’m surrounded by all these people who are chasing and catching their dreams, and I can’t even get out of bed. What a loser I am.” You start to engage in unhealthy habits, you start making stupid decisions, you start to think of doing something extreme because you just cannot fucking handle feeling so much and yet feeling nothing at all.
And the loneliness. You feel SO ALONE because you don’t think anyone will get it or understand. You just know that if you try to explain, you’re going to get shot down or overrun by someone louder, bigger, more vocal than you are, and you’re going to be shuffled off to the side. Or that people will tell you what you’ve been telling yourself: “Get over yourself.” “Snap out of it.” “Plenty of people have it worse than you, so quit being a baby.”
Inside, you’re screaming “Do you think I WANT to be this way? I CAN’T snap out of it! Go away, leave me alone. But please don’t go. I’m scared.”
The reality of depression is that it’s not something that comes out of nowhere because something made you sad. It comes from inside, and it sneaks up on you. You can try to keep it at bay, but it almost always wins. Medication helps, but knowing that you can’t stop taking it or else you’ll be a wreck is not a nice thing to know. Because it’s so shameful that you need medicine for your brain and your emotions to work “right”. Because you feel like you should be stronger than this, better than this. But you’re not and for some reason, it’s not OK to be not OK.
Friends, if you know someone who is dealing with depression, please, please, please be patient with them. Please give them space, but let then know you are there if they need you. Love on them in the way that they’re most comfortable with. They won’t come to you but they’ll be desperately wishing you could see something is wrong. They’ll wonder why no one can see, even though they’re expending a tremendous amount of effort so no one can see. Then they’ll try to hide it from you because they are ashamed. Realize that they are not doing this on purpose. They can’t help it any more than someone can help having diabetes or something else it’s OK to take medicine for. It’s just how they are. Please don’t tell them to “snap out of it” or “get over it.” Please don’t tell them that they’re possessed, that they’re letting Satan win, or that they don’t have enough “faith.” Please don’t point out all the good things they have. They know. It’s part of why feeling this way sucks so much.
If you’re lucky, the fog lifts and you can see clearly again. The medicine actually helps. The sun comes out. You no longer feel the need to beat yourself up for being so messed up. You start appreciating all the blessings again. And you start to think you’ve beat it. That it’s OK. You enjoy the ride for as long as possible, because deep down you know it’s going to come back. But you cope the best you can. Because that’s the reality. That’s my reality.