From the lowest lows to the highest mediums
I can't remember a time I wasn't depressed. I remember a time before I knew what that meant and just knowing I was different from other people, but this feeling of isolation has never gone away. This doesn't mean that I've never been happy or that I don't have moments that make me forget my depression, but it's always there.
I am currently working with someone about my depression and anxiety, so this is not a post glorifying the pain or difficulty of these diseases. This is for the people that are looking in on these diseases and want to better understand what it's like.
So, you're probably thinking something along the lines of, what does optimistically depressed mean?
Well, it means a few things:
1. I'm optimistic about what the future holds for my mental health.
I think back to what I was like when I was younger; scared and lonely, without much hope for my future. I was convinced that I was broken beyond repair and that no one was going through a similar experience.
This is not an uncommon thought process for someone dealing with mental health issues, but luckily I learned that it was not true. As I grew older it became clear to me that the disease was making me feel this way. But that knowledge alone is not that silver bullet that you might think it is.
Knowing that you can be helped without receiving it feels eerily like pressing your nose against a bakery window. You're standing on the outside seeing exactly what it is that you want/need, but it's just out of reach.
It took a while for me to be at a place where I was able to get the help I needed. In my case, that meant talking to a therapist and being prescribed antidepressants. Having both has made a huge difference, but this is not necessarily the right course for everyone.
The difference I've seen from receiving the support I needed has drastically improved my outlook on life and what the quality of what that life will look like.
2. I'm not necessarily someone you would expect to be depressed.
Ok, even though there is no one way for depression to look, a clear image comes to mind to those that don't have it. The person you imagine is probably crying in the shower curled up in a ball. Or, they're laying on the couch for months with pages of the calendar flying off as they grow grosser and grosser looking.
Don't get me wrong I've definitely been both of those people during different parts of my life and they were definiteley not fun, but they are not what depression looks like for everyone. The most common type of depression for me is the voice in my head that keeps from joining in with other people. It pushes me to isolate myself, and that is definitely the most damaging one. Isolating yourself while having a disease that makes you feel isolated becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
To people in my everyday life I seem confident, strong, put-together, and ready to face the day (or so I've been told). On the inside I'm counting the hours until I can go home and over think every single encounter I've had throughout the day.
I'm the easy-going, relatively funny co-worker/friend/family member/stranger you meet. I seem really comfortable in who I am, but I question everything about myself while I'm drinking my morning coffee.
This is a defense mechanism that several people adopt in order to keep going. This doesn't mean that those people don't exist, but it might mean they need more support than you think.
3. My depression doesn't keep me from seeing beautiful things.
Like I said before, depression doesn't keep me from feeling happiness. I am not Sadness from Inside Out. I am capable of seeing something wonderful and enjoy it like someone without store-bought serotonin can.
My depression doesn't define me as a person. It may be a big part of my life as something I carry with me at all times, but that's no different from my having green eyes. It's a part of me, but like everyone else I have other (more important) parts.
4. I refuse to let the dark parts of my brain cover the happy.
I've always been capable of seeing a positive spin on a situation. And let me tell you, this is not due to a lack of hardship. This is a personality trait that has somehow managed to survive 2020.
I know I can annoy people when I constantly mention how things could be worse. At worst it can feel like an invalidation of their feelings and at best it's just annoying. I mean no one wants some parrot sqwaking platitudes back at them when they're trying to unload their feelings.
This is yet another one of those coping mechanisms I've developed to remind myself and my fellow depressives that no matter how bleak things seem we should be grateful that they aren't worse.
I view this as a sort of rebellion against the angst that depression brings, and by pointing out the ways that it could be worse I'm pointing out to the voices in my mind that they haven't beaten me.
This is what my journey has culminated into, though its certainly far from over, and this is not to say it's what it looks like for everyone. So take care of the people in your life because they need it; even the ones that seem strong.