When I was 16, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. After the diagnosis, my uncle slapped me on the back and said, “Welcome to the family kid,” while my family all compared drugs around the kitchen table. I’m extremely lucky that my family not only accepted that depression is a real, serious issue, but they understood it. (I come from a long line of clinically depressed people.) They were mindful to make sure that my depression wasn’t used as a crutch or an excuse, but thankfully, I never once heard the unhelpful “Just suck it up and deal with it,” and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
Depression is different for everyone, but over the years I’ve noticed a few things that don’t seem to waver. They hold fast in their level of suckiness and they seem to apply to most everyone I’ve talked to that’s dealt with depression.
1. I’m not choosing to be depressed. This isn’t a choice I’m making. My cat dying or my car being totaled aren’t the reason I’m depressed. Those things are tipping points, they push me over an edge I was already standing at. Depression is a chemical imbalance. Yes, there are things I can do and medications I can take but at the end of the day this isn’t something I’d choose for anyone and certainly not myself.
2. Your brain is the enemy. For me, having depression is like walking around with a mean, petty, awful little friend in my brain all the time. It’s constantly telling me how awful I am, how I’m not good enough and how nobody likes me. And just like the negative comments on a blog post, those thoughts stick. Trying to convince yourself that your brain is wrong is no easy feat.
3. Telling me to “suck it up” makes me stabby. Don’t tell me to “suck it up.” Don’t tell me to watch a sunset or exercise or appreciate the joy that is being alive. That’s about as effective as me telling you to go walk it off after you’ve broken your arm. It isn’t going to fix anything. Depression isn’t logical. You can’t reason with it or apply coconut oil and suddenly be better.
4. Nobody can fix it. And that sucks. There are medications and there are things that I can do that will help midigate my depression, but they won’t fix it. There’s nothing anyone can say or do that it is going to fix my brain. I wish more than anything that there was a magic cure-all that would tip the scales back to center for my brain, but there isn’t. What works for one person might not work for another. What works for you might suddenly stop working. That’s the thing about depression, it’s an ever-evolving disease. Once you think you’ve got things under control, it’ll contort and poke at a tender spot you didn’t even know existed.
5. It’s going to suck for the person dealing with the depressed person, too. I’ve been on the other end of things and not being able to help someone I love when they’re in the middle of a depressive episode is awful. Just know that there’s nothing anyone can say that a depressed person will believe or that will pull them back to surface where reason lies. This reality is very tough.
6. Relying on a pill sucks. I came to terms a long time ago that every night I’m going to have to take a little white pill. Having to rely on medication for anything is hard but relying on it to make you feel normal, whatever ‘normal’ is for you, is extra difficult.
7. Finding the right meds makes me feel like a science experiment. Finding the right medication or in some cases medications that works is daunting. I’ve had to switch meds a handful of times and every time left me feeling like a husk of my former self. Even with proper weaning, coming off some medication is like detoxing. Outside of the physical effects, there’s just something about the whole process that makes me feel like a high school science experiment.
8. Depression makes me selfish. This was one of the first things I noticed after I was diagnosed. I spend so much time in my own head thinking that I rarely have the ability to look out and think about others. It’s also one of the things I hate most about my depression. I have a damn good group of family and friends and not being the friend they deserve is hard.
9. I take away the things I love when I’m depressed. Everyone has signs when their depression hits. For me, I start taking away the things I love. I stop writing. I stop picking up my camera. Depending on how deep it is, I’ll stop feeding myself or bathing as often as society would like me to. There’s no point in my mind. Everything sucks and it’s going to continue to suck whether I write about it or take a picture of my cat.
10. Sometimes not being here sounds like a great option. The reality is, most people who’ve dealt with depression, especially long-term, may consider suicide. Some will form a plan and think it over for months. Some will decide on the spot. For me, there was never any plan. I never wanted to die, per say, I just wanted to not be here. I just wanted to stop constantly feeling like I was feeling. Because the thing about depression is, you can’t escape it. You can’t set it down in the morning, go to work, and pick it back up when you get it home. It’s everywhere. It’s at your best friend’s wedding. It’s at your desk at work. It’s at the gas station when you’re pumping gas. You take that little terrorist everywhere with you and sometimes you just need a break.