Some thoughts on depression.
Complicit in its agreement, my stomach tightened, pulsed and churned.
It was a random Wednesday night. I lay in bed, staring through the window that returned only darkness. As my depressive, inky thoughts began their downward spiral, they recruited my heart, veins and breath to continue the suffocating, manical dance. My chest banged and echoed with a tympanic drum beat, rousing the dormant anxiety throughout.
Everyone is better than me. God do I suck. What the fuck do I get done in a day? Everyone else gets so much more done–essays written, shelves dusted, time volunteered, promotions accomplished, memoirs completed, situations mitigated, emails read AND responded to. I suck. I don’t give my kids enough and I should be doing more for them and why can’t I even get a meal plan together?
I consider self-flagellation and moody, bad days normal. Everyone feels this way at some point in their life. Sometimes for many long days. Because, of course, sometimes life is rotten. For me, depression picks up the slack where a normal bad day might usually end. I don’t, I can’t, snap out of it. Or, in other instances, my life might be amazingly peachy and depression will step up to slap me around. I think, perhaps, this is the most agonizing aspect of the disease.
Depression renders flat an otherwise full, rich life. Depression sinks its fangs into delights and wonders of delectable moments. Depression renders gratitude null and void. Depression takes a granule of routine self-doubt or recrimination and maneuvers it into a personal anthem–a powerful, damning dogma. This last bit is truly critical to the understanding of depression. When depressed, no amount of logical maneuvering or mental canoodling changes the fact that I am depressed.
Depression litters normal conversation with secret, buried landmines which await the smallest infraction to detonate.
What did you do today?
These benign comments seem like depression’s co-conspirators, poised to further push me down the continuing spiral of self-loathing. My mind hears something else entirely. My listens through a veil of depression:
She can see that I didn’t do anything of substance today. Everyone can see that I’m not efficient and that I really don’t add anything of substance. They all see me for what I am–a skimmer, coasting from one thing to the next.
Ultimately, this is how depression works its maniacle machinations on me: it makes me believe in a truth that isn’t, but feels otherwise. The depressed truth is very, very real. These tenets of my depression gripped me for years and are so powerful that even today, they continue to attempt to dictate. Now, at least, I can quickly recognize the disease and its vaporous inclinations.
That night, when the inky thoughts infiltrated, my knee-jerk response was to wallow, tense and rail against the depression. Why now? Go away. Fuck Off. I did that for awhile and then,
I breathed. And then exhaled.
I gave light to the dark spaces.
I’ve learned from yoga that you can’t tense a muscle while you’re stretching it. I’ve learned that I must relax the muscle to take care of it, to bring it light and oxygen. I believe that my depression is much like that tense, dark muscle. I try to relax into it and give it light. Then, I keep moving. It’s not easy. Many days this proves to be really fucking hard–and I believe, with a burning intensity that I really do suck. But I continue to practice and I get better.
About a year ago, a dear friend, who has never suffered from depression, asked me what it is like to live with depression. When she asked me, I was in a depression and wasn’t able to answer her question with any clarity. Her question is a good one, and one that has echoed in my thought chamber for some time. This post responds to her thoughtful question.