When I was young, I used to throw the word “depression” around with reckless abandon. Broke up with a boyfriend? I was depressed. Fighting with my mother? Depressed. Being grounded the night of a big party? OMG, like totally depressed. I wish I could tell that girl to stop. Just stop it right now and be glad you don’t know what depression really is. Because someday I would know.
I have written about depression before, but that was more about what it does to you, versus, what it is, how it feels.
Until reality slapped me in the face, I thought depression was simply sadness. The blues. But I found out soon enough that depression isn’t simply being sad. I found out that depression is different for everyone. Sure – it can be sadness, but it can be a million other things, too.
Regardless of what depression is to you, one thing you can count on is that depression makes everything more difficult. The next smile, the next step, the next breath – they are all an effort. One you constantly wonder if it is worth making (and don’t worry, I do know it is worth making). It’s a voice telling you that you can’t. It’s a vice grip, holding you down. It’s a false face that few can see beyond.
For me, depression is sometimes something like apathy. Instead of feeling sad (or happy, or content, or tired, or energetic, etc), I feel…nothing. I don’t know that it is truly apathy. Sometimes I think I am truly feeling nothing and other times, I wonder if it is just my subconscious protecting me – shoving the feelings down deep where they can’t hurt me. Either way, it’s hard to deal with. It feels wrong to have a fight with your spouse, or get bad news, or whatever, and not feel it. Sometimes I think that no pain is worse than pain. At least if you feel it, you can be human. Instead, I sometimes feel like a robot – a human failure. And that hurts, so I guess I do feel something. Just not the right things. It’s like being a robot. Or wearing a mask that you can’t take off, no matter how hard you try.
Sometimes it’s irritation. Things that would normally make you laugh now annoy you. People you love make your skin crawl just by sitting next to you. Your kids giggle, or climb in your lap (something that you normally love) and you want to scream. How horrible is that? I’ll tell you – it’s AWFUL. You feel like a terrible person, a horrible parent, a monster not worthy of their love.
Everyday, normal tasks are like climbing Everest. Simple choices are impossible. Going to the grocery store – with all the choices and aisles and products and people – can send you into a panic, forcing you to cry, or throw a bunch of random crap in your cart, or even abandon the cart and run from the store (maybe even all three).
Sometimes it’s a feeling of being constantly out of sorts – feeling like something is wrong, but not knowing what. Like it’s right there – just out of your reach – but you can’t quite figure it out. This leads to restlessness, which makes you feel like you want to pace the floor. Or run a mile. Or run a marathon. But at the same time, depression takes away your energy – it makes you weak. You can’t burn the restlessness off when you can barely make yourself get up from the couch. This leaves you sighing constantly, feeling exasperated. Feeling entirely disgusted with yourself and what you’ve become.
Depression makes you not care. Not care how you look or where you go or who you talk to. Or even if you talk to anyone. Depression makes a get-together with friends you love seem like an insurmountable task. Getting up, getting ready, driving, parking, making small talk – it’s all just too much sometimes. Even putting a damned smile on your face – the simplest thing in the world, right? Not for someone with depression. Sometimes it’s hard to smile when you don’t feel anything.
And even if the getting up and the getting ready and the small talk weren’t too much for you to handle, the thought of smiling at people when they can clearly see it’s fake is too much. You don’t want to subject your friends to a smile that never reaches your eyes. You don’t want them to ask what’s wrong. Not because it’s a secret or anything, but because it’s just…too much.
So you pass. You pass on the parties, you pass on the dinners, you pass on New Year’s Eve (I’m sorry, friends), on shopping trips, on jumping in a freezing river, which you – inexplicably – usually love (again – sorry, my friends), on just hanging out. And then you feel ashamed. You worry that your friends will stop inviting you. You hope they don’t. Every time you turn them down, you long to say, to beg, really, “Please don’t stop asking!” because even when you can’t manage to say yes, sometimes the asking is all you have to cling to – the knowledge that when you escape the tentacles, there will be someone there who loves you despite the fact that you’re a robot, a freak, a downer, no damned fun. That someone can see beyond the mask you wear. That someone feels that you’re still worth it.