Looking back, I think I have always been depressed. Not actively and not constantly, but always. I remember every night convincing my mother we “had to watch something happy” before bed. Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, anything that would lead me directly to slumber at the climax of my internal serotonin. I was not an unhappy kid, but I always felt different—recurrently down.
In elementary school, I told the teacher I had to go home because I was sick — days in a row, more than once. My mother took me to the doctor and I remember him asking me if I was being bullied. I shook my head no. I was 11 — how could I tell a grown-up that my head just felt sad? I wanted the bath, my bed, and a book. I wanted to feel safe and alone.
I can remember my “happy place” being in the bathroom. This sounds stranger than it really is.
I would run the tub and lay on the bathroom floor, covering myself with a towel, just listening to the water run.
It was calming, and to this day I still do this if I ever feel like I’m having one of “those days.” The white noise of the tub seems to drown out the feeling in my brain that keeps telling me that everything is “blah.”
By absolutely no means was my childhood bad. I consider myself to be a normal, happy person.
Still, I genuinely have moments where it feels like my brain wants to sit back and relax on a bean bag chair — no matter how hard I might want to partake in something of the social variety, or really, do anything besides feeling this way.
I’ve come to realize that I have four different “dimensions” I can enter in the depression realm. Being on a low-dose Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), these experiences have been immensely reduced in the frequency that they occur. I am learning with every incident how to battle the realm and get myself out of that bean bag chair, back into the life I know I can live.
1. The “I may as well get back into bed”
This one sucks. I also know that this is the grade-A classic depressive state that we all hear about. I have always been an early riser. I love to wake up at the crack of dawn — my husband just loves this quality about me.
When I get into this specific zone, though, I somehow find my body crawling back into bed at around 10 a.m. I can stay there, doing essentially next to nothing, until it is that point of the day it is acceptable to go to sleep and start again.
Here, in this place, this is crucial — I need to check in with myself. Am I run down or is something truly off?
This state is a “classic,” but it is also dangerous. These days may feel like they are “reset days,” but when it is your brain and not your body telling you this, for me at least, something is off. I have found that when I get here, I need to get out there. Go for a walk with the dog, go for a run, call a friend while I goddamn pace outside. It doesn’t matter as long as the location is forcefully changed.
Personally, I need to sweat or laugh. These two special states can usually overtake anything for me. You need to find what works for you.
2. The “Everyone hates me and I have no real friends”
Ah, another paradigm. Haven’t we all been here, regardless of what mental illness we have or don’t have? I truly believe that at some point in our life, no matter how confident we are, this feeling will occur. I have an old friend that would call or text me sometimes and say, “Sara, I have the ‘feeling.’” This feeling was exactly this problem. We would reiterate to one another that we loved each other and that it would just pass.
It will pass, and you are loved. Remember that.
When I reach this state, I need to ask myself and truly answer again, “Why do I feel this way?” If the roles were reversed with a friend, what would I say to them? Reaching out to loved ones is important in this instance, as is doing something for yourself.
Newsflash, chances are pretty good that no one hates you.
Once your mind becomes distracted by something actually important in life (besides this wicked feeling) or comes to terms with what the real you is having trouble with, this is going to resolve.
3. The “I physically and mentally cannot stop thinking!”
I am convinced I get it from my father.
There are some nights where I can lay awake until (of course) one hour before my alarm goes off. I could worry about anything!
From money to whether or not the color of my hair is right for me. Did I turn the dishwasher on? Do you think the dog might have to pee? Wait, do you think that the dog will ever fall in love???
It doesn’t matter how mundane (or usually, idiotic) of an issue it is — it can keep me up.
These are the nights that I make lists to fall asleep. Mental lists that are just so boring I cannot bear to stay awake any longer.
Grocery lists that only involve the produce aisle, a packing list for a trip to the moon, a list of all the different wonderful textbooks I own. This works — most of the time.
I have learned that avoiding caffeine past a mature time is also cool.
4. The “Will I ever feel normal again, or is it forever this time?”
I am convinced this is a mixture of all three of the above. It’s when your mental status just can’t take it any longer! Your brain has fallen asleep on that bean bag chair, leaving only the intern brain cell to do the work that the whole team needs to be present for. You are stuck, down, low — the world feels pointless. I am uninteresting and paltry!
This is when you need to speak to someone. I found that speaking to a therapist, a friend, or a loved one can be the best medication out there. This may sound witless, but it’s the bold truth.
I am a firm believer that everyone needs a physical someone to vent to every now and then. Find your people. I don’t care if they are hired and anonymous or your grandma over zoom.
You will not stay down forever, but we need to help ourselves first and make the right choices. I truly believe this.
I am aware that I am lucky to feel better with the medication that I have been prescribed and the techniques that I have been privileged enough to pick up in therapy. I am an anomaly, but not every day is the same.
These variations are meant to be humorous. I understand that not all of us are able to joke about a topic such as this and that is okay. Depression is real and something that most people experience at least once in their life. So for those of us who live with it chronically:
Things will get better.
You are enough.
Breathe in, hug your dog (or a really good pillow), breathe out.
Life is worth it — you are worth it!