It has been a difficult month. A dark and dreary month. A wet, impossibly cold, and impossibly painful month. My bones ache. My joints ache. My mind is racing, and my heart is heavy. And, as such, I have drawn the curtains. I have hidden under the covers. I have closed every door, and I have shut down. Completely. And totally.
Don’t get me wrong: Most days I manage to function. I get up and shower. I make my daughter breakfast and get dressed. And we go grocery shopping, or I take her to school. But some days, I face the world because I have to — not because I want to. I face the world because I have no choice.
I am functional, but not fully aware. I am moving, but not feeling. I am surviving, but not living.
If you’ve had the “pleasure” of seeing me this month, you may know what I mean. You may have noticed my fake smiles, the way I have been busying myself with menial tasks — things like reordering our kitchen cabinets or scrubbing baseboards and wiping down ceiling fans. You may have noticed I will only talk about topical things, i.e. the weather, pop culture, and current events. And you may have noticed my insane work schedule, i.e. I have too many deadlines; I have taken too much on.
This distracted, autopilot version of me is the only way I know how to survive. Sometimes, this distracted, autopilot version of me is the only way I stay alive.
That’s the thing about depression. It isn’t a list of textbook symptoms. I mean, in some ways it is. I am apathetic and feel hopeless. I feel worthless. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat. I am screaming inside. And every night I am crying. But I am more than a smattering of “bulleted points” and “warning signs.” I am more than the DSM-IV outlines, and I am far more than WebMd specifies.
I am an individual; a living breathing a person. A person with depression.
You see, the truth is, depression feels surreal. Sometimes I am full of feeling — angry, volatile, and overly emotional — and other times I am void of it. I am completely numb. Sometimes I feel like I am suffocating and drowning. I am flailing, kicking, and screaming but no matter what I do I cannot catch my breath. I cannot even take a breath. And other times I feel stagnant and still, like I am stuck in a well — cold and alone. I feel stuck in a well full of sludge and mud.
Time appears to stand still. I sure as hell stand still. But life continues. Life goes on around me.
In the grips of a depressive episode, it takes every ounce of strength in my body to “keep it working.” To keep myself functioning. To keep writing. To keep running. To keep breathing. To keep my heart beating.
Because it hurts — it physically hurts — to move. Because it hurts to think and to feel. Because I am devastated. I am broken. I am but a shell of myself.
And nothing makes sense. Everything I knew and know and once believed now seems silly and stupid in this newfound state of mind. Even this article.
Even these words.
And yet I sit here writing because — as a writer and a depression sufferer —I don’t know what else to do. Because I don’t know what else to say. Because I do not know how to say it.
I’m numb, yet completely overwhelmed. My mind is paralyzed, yet I can’t stop it from racing. The thoughts keep coming. The negative, self-talk is getting louder and louder — so loud, it is deafening. It is so loud I cannot hear anything, or anyone, else:
I am hopeless. I am worthless. I will never get better. I can never get better. So why bother? Why should I keep fighting? Why should I keep going? Why should I even try?
And today I don’t know. I know I don’t want to die — I can’t die; I can’t leave my daughter without a mother, my husband without his wife — but depression is so suffocating and exhausting it feels like I could.
Depression makes me feel as though I am living in a house of cards: One misstep and it all comes down. One missed breath and I will fall down.
But I cannot give up, I cannot be silenced. I have to keep fighting. Because that’s what life with depression is: a fight. An honest fight. A scary and painful fight. A difficult, self-critical fight, and seemingly impossible fight.
But it is a fight worth having … because my life — and every life — is a life worth living. With depression, and without.