Living with depression
I live with depression. I am treated, have an ongoing prescription, and see a therapist regularly. I stick with my daily routines as closely as possible, even when having a flare -up. Sometimes those routines are the only things I can do and having them keeps me somewhat functioning. Sometimes, in a small act of self-destruction, I intentionally break my routines. But because it’s a routine, I slip back into it seamlessly…mindlessly. I’ve lived with my depression for several decades and I’ve learned how to car for myself and manage my life with it. It’s not easy, but I have learned.
Living with depression is an ongoing challenge that doesn’t have an end. What it has is what all things in life have – highs and lows, peaks and swells. It has times when it feels like a distant memory and moments where it feels as though it will never end. When I am in the midst of it, I feel almost nothing except pain and sorrow. I struggle to eat, to sleep, to get out of bed. The world is grey, and all is hopeless. I know this is a world I do not want to live in and I constantly wonder why I am here. I ask myself whether it will matter if I’m not and I know, with certainty, that with very few exceptions that it will not matter when I’m gone.
When I am not in the midst of it, I am fine. I can’t say happy, but I don’t wish to not be alive. I don’t wish to run from my life and I don’t long for extended sleep. I don’t worry about food, it even tastes good to me. I can handle making decisions and being with others. People are a blessing instead of a burden and I think and strategize and plan for the days to come. Life is infinitely better when I am not mired in the awfulness of the world and its people. It’s lovely to feel like hope isn’t a delusion or outright lie.
These are aspects of my life, not necessarily good or bad but some parts are much more enjoyable than others. I’ve learned to embrace and accept all of it. It all passes, good and bad, eventually. It’s hard but I know it isn’t forever. The biggest problem is that I cannot shut myself away from the world when it’s bad, something I find myself wanting to do more and more these days. That’s because when I’m struggling and reach out to others, I get bullshit platitudes and dangerous feedback. Even though contemporary advice says being around others can help mitigate depression I’ve found, is one of the worst things I can choose do. We live in a society that rewards lies and punishes truth and the truth it depression doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t make those around us feel good and people really hate it when you can’t help them feel good.
So for now, I don’t try to talk to them. Not really. Occasionally, I test the waters to see how the people in my life, physically and virtually, will respond to my admission of depression and I get the same results every time.
They can’t handle it.
It is especially frustrating because the party line for people with depression is to “reach out” and let people know we’re in distress, yet when we do, we are met with toxic feedback – everything from people demanding to know WHY you are depressed, and insisting that you can snap out of it to unsolicited advice on how to manage it or get over it. My S.O. starts checking in with me endlessly and asking if I’m doing better multiple times in the same day, constantly pressuring me to reassure him that I am doing ok when I’m not. Almost every person I’ve mentioned my depression to, minus a very select few, has told me to develop new coping mechanisms to recharge and refresh when really, all I need is time and no additional pressure to get over it.
Not to mention the constant to get over whatever it is you’re feeling. That pressure they apply every time they ask if you’re ok. If you’re feeling better. What they can do to make you feel better. It’s in the way everyone insists you smile and be approachable and friendly and nice, even when all you want is to silently be in that space and be left alone. It’s the way they keep pushing you and forcing you to interact when all you want to do is be. I want to be able to participate in things on my own terms, which means without the pressure of looking like I’m having a good time. Most of the time, it’s fucking easier to smile when I don’t mean it rather than be pestered and pressured to smile on fucking command. I’m tired and I am hurting and I don’t know why I just know that I am and being coerced into making you feel good about “helping” me is actually worse than just sitting in the dark alone.
So, I sit alone in the dark because it’s easier than protecting myself from you. All of you.
I have spent the past few months alternating between joy at all these amazing things I’ve been able to plan and execute and the opportunities I create for myself and others or wanting to cry in the dark and avoid contact with everyone. It’s a constant challenge and I’m tired of meeting it head-on. I just want to stop and rest and reconnect with myself and my needs and care for myself without the burden of caring for everyone else. And that feels like an impossible ask.
When I’m depressed, I don’t have the energy to be on for you and you do not know how to stop asking me to be that. So, yes, I will isolate myself. I will avoid talking to you. I will avoid seeing you. Because it’s too hard for me not to do what I can to care for your emotional well-being. If you are in my life, it is because I respect our relationship and do not want to hurt you. But shit happens and I’d rather burrow and hide than accidentally or intentionally hurt you because when your need to help overrides my need for care, I will hurt you now to get some space and regret it later.
Your need to be a hero does not override my needs. Your need to feel better does not supersede my need to acknowledge and live in my feelings. Your desire to be my hero does not outweigh my need to process my feelings, even when that process doesn’t look meaningful to you. You don’t know what’s best for me and when I tell you that I don’t need your well-intended but actually toxic advice, you prove that you don’t care what I need. Somewhere along the way, you’ve convinced yourself that my depression means you know what I need and you don’t. Because you don’t listen and you don’t hear me when I tell you that what I need is to be left in peace.
I may not eat everyday but eventually I will eat.
I may not sleep every night but eventually I will sleep.
I may be incapable of making decisions at this moment, but decisions will be made.
I will care for myself eventually. Maybe not the way you think is best, but I will get there.
And since being here with me while I do that is too uncomfortable, go away. I’ll call you when I’m the person you want me to be rather than force you to deal with who I am when I am depressed. You discomfort with my depression is your problem. Stop making it mine. It’s selfish and self-serving in a way that hurts me. I don’t need to be fixed. I just need to be.
This is how I deal with depression. Do your friends the courtesy of asking whether they need anything and if they want help before jumping in and assuming you know what they need. Sometimes WE don’t know, and we are the people who know ourselves the best. Just…listen. Be there. Care. And shut the fuck up if we don’t want to engage. You can offer help but do not try to make us take your help. Your self-appointed heroism is not the most important thing in this situation so check that shit instead of imposing it on everyone you think isn’t doing their best.
Your depressed friends will thank you for it.
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