It’s back. It has crept up on me. I recognize it. I know the difference. The difference between a tough day. A sad day. A frustrating day. The things ‘normal’ people have and feel. And depression. There’s a big difference. I don’t even know if I can describe it, yet it exists. I know because I have felt both. I know what it feels like to be a ‘normal’ person and feel sad. Feel angry. Feel lonely. And on and on. I also know what depression feels like. I know intimately. I have suffered through extremely severe depression which nearly took my life. Mid-level depression which was numbing, defeatist, and hopeless. Towards the end of my acute depressive period I became acquainted with mild depression. So different from the other two. A realization that you might get better. A wish to get better – most of the time. And fear of the future. With severe and mid-level depression the future does not really exist. As recently as March I knew that I would be dead within six months. I was sure of it. Well that’s up in two weeks, and unless I’m hit by a bus, through no fault of my own, I’ll still be here. While I was that high level of depression I did not care. About anything. I relished being depressed. It became all I knew. I wanted to stay in it because I couldn’t fathom being ‘normal’ again. It was a ridiculous idea. It became comfortable. It sounds ridiculous that wanting to die, drinking to stupidity, cutting to the level of needing a two-unit transfusion of blood could become mundane. Normal. It was just life. It came to the point where that was my life. I was in the hospital for 22 weeks out of 52 in 2017. All but one of those were on the psych ward. The other one was on the cardiac floor being diagnosed with coronary heart disease. That week was in the middle of an eight-week stay, the other seven being on the psych ward. The point to all this is to show how aware I am of how depression feels. À la Simon and Garfunkel – “Hello Darkness My Old Friend.”
I’ve been doing relatively well the last three weeks. Some very stressful things have been going on. I am worried about many things. I have, however, been taking it all in my stride. And actually felt happy (what’s that?) and functional. Going back into the workforce seemed possible. Then about a week ago I had a couple of tough days. I shrugged it off. So what. Two rough days. Can’t be anything. Everyone has rough days. Now I’ve had three more days like that in a row. It’s not so much the length, but the way it feels. It doesn’t feel ‘normal’. It feels like depression. Walking four blocks to meet a friend for lunch was so tiring and soul-crushing. While we had lunch I was fine. That’s the way I am though. Even in the depths of the worst of it last year, I was able to joke around on the ward. It’s so much easier to talk to fellow sufferers. I met my lunch friend in treatment. I can talk and joke with her. After lunch I went to get gas. When I had set up the hands-free pump I sat on a ledge beside the car. My head automatically rested against the car. I did not want to hold it up. I sat there with a sense deeper than sadness. The familiar – I just can’t do this. I cannot pick up the pump. Put it in its holster. Close my gas lid. Get in the car. Put on my seat belt. Turn the car on. All of it just seemed too big. That’s depression. I would have gladly sat there with my head against the car with barely a thought in my head. The main problem was that I was at the insanely busy gas station at Ontario and LaSalle. I drove over to Michigan (Avenue, not the State) and parked. I sat in the car willing myself to get out. That’s when all this hit me. The realization that this truly felt like depression. The realization that this time I didn’t want to be depressed. It wasn’t like before. I had experienced a few weeks of being better, and I wanted that. There was no will to stay depressed. I walked two blocks to the Starbucks I am sitting in now. Those two blocks were painfully long, tiring, and well, depressing.
So when I talk to my therapist and my psychiatrist, I’ll tell them that I’ve had several rough days and that they feel like depression. Can you have depression on an off on a day-to-day pattern? Is that a thing? Is that just ‘normal’ ups and downs of life? Have I forgotten how that feels? Am I coming from the perspective of someone who was so depressed for so long that I cannot connect with ‘normal’ yet? No. I know this. This is that. That which will not be named. I’ve been learning lots of skills in my DBT group each week. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy helps you deal with your emotions rather than trying to ignore them and not deal with them. They’ve been working lately. When I am in a terrible place I just describe what is going on. Out loud. I don’t add emotion to it. Example: “I am on the highway. The traffic is terrible. I am worried I will be late for work. If I am late for work my boss may be angry. I cannot make the traffic disappear.” In the past I would have been spinning. Freaking out. Getting angry and frustrated. The other way really works for me. Yesterday in therapy I was processing a lot of self-doubt, self-loathing, and body image issues. I started bawling crying. My therapist tried to pull me back into the room and stop me from spiraling down and down. It usually works. Yesterday it didn’t. I kept being pulled away. And thus came the suicidal thoughts. They lasted for a few hours. That hasn’t happened for several weeks. Maybe 4-6. So it was saddening, but I was glad it had been so long since it had been a problem. It also was depressing. Do I mean that in the colloquial sense, or the medical sense? I don’t know. Today again. As the days build so does the fear, and maybe the resignation. The “here we go again.” The “whatever.” The “I knew I’d never be ‘normal'” etc. etc.
Today is yet another day. I’m not writing as quickly now. Depression and tiredness are distracting me. A couple of weeks ago this paragraph would be written already. I don’t think that there’s much more to say. There might have been… A couple of weeks ago. I would have been able to articulate my thoughts better… A couple of weeks ago. I would have had some witty ending to my post… A couple of weeks ago. Instead I sit here knowing things were different… A couple of weeks ago.