This Is How I Know Depression Is Back
Did it ever leave?
It happens from time to time. On occasions, it kind of makes sense: something terrible has happened, or I’m under a lot of stress. However, other times it just happens that I find myself in the middle of a depressive episode. Just like that.
Depression has come again (did it ever really leave?).
It can be days before I notice. Days before I start to ask myself “what the heck is going on with me?”
That’s when I look for the signs:
- General weakness: I notice it, particularly on my hands; it just gets very difficult to even move. Seriously, even typing becomes a challenge.
- Sleepiness: I never take naps (I have heard of the benefits, but they end up giving me headaches); however, when I’m depressed I swear I could rest my head on my desk and fall asleep.
- My movements become excruciatingly slow. It truly becomes almost impossible to walk (or do anything) at a normal speed.
- No appetite: must I eat? Really? Nothing appeals to me; I find myself simply going through the motions required to ingest food so people won’t notice that I’m down. Since I’m recovering from food addiction, this would usually mean that, once the depressive episode was over, I would overindulge (not good either).
- Or eating non-stop: as in “I can’t stop being hungry”. The fun part: I'm not really hungry, I just need to stuff something into my mouth.
- A bubbling rage that goes from my stomach to my chest, erupting in harsh words that I’ll regret forever.
- An unbearable desire to lock myself in a dark room. This would preferably include throwing away the key.
- Thinking of feasible methods to kill myself without getting other people physically hurt.
Notice how crying it’s not on the list? Well, at least not on my list. That’s because, for me, crying is a good thing: it means that I’m close to coming out of the hole. It’s the release that helps me step out into the light.
Some of these signs are exclusively in my head. Those are the hardest ones to recognize since they cloud my perception of reality.
Others are physical. Because they make me notice that I’m not OK, I think it is safe to say those are the ones that have saved my life so far.
What do I do when I find myself in the hole? I do the yoga, I do the meditation, the listening to music, the eating lots of fruit, the cashews, the pieces of dark chocolate, the watching something funny, I do the relaxing, I do the talking to someone…but depression doesn’t care, it keeps coming back. It will always come back. And I will be there…ready to fight it. Over the years, something has changed: now I know what the bastard looks like…
It’s funny (not funny “hahaha”, obviously), but sometimes these episodes feel like something foreign. Something that’s happening to someone else.
Suddenly I find myself realizing, “oh, I’m depressed again. Damn it”.
I do not intend to trivialize it; it’s not like having a cold. But being able to see it, to put a name on it, to realize that what’s going on in my mind is a disease that will accompany me every day of my life…it just somehow shifts things around. I surprise myself saying “here you are again, you bastard… ok, let’s get to it”.
Some people say: hey, get help! Make a phone call!
Let me try to explain to you how useless and insensitive this advice can be: Imagine a kidnap victim. She is tied up in a dark room. Her captors are on the other side of the door. Would you tell her to “just call for help”? Of course, in the case of depression, the captor eventually gets distracted…or the police find you, but, in the meantime, it is pretty much impossible to just “ask for help”.
How can I make that life-saving phone call when I barely have the strength to sit straight, let alone grab a phone? How can I ask another person for help when (at least in that moment) all I want is to sit alone in the dark, preferably forever, preferably to never come out again? Am I supposed to engage with another human being under these circumstances? Really? So, keep in mind that, when someone does ask for help, it has probably taken ALL OF THEIR STRENGTH to do that. Just picking up the phone, knocking on your door… just forming the sentences in their minds, and getting themselves to open their mouths to talk to you…all of that has, most likely, left them exhausted.
So, please, when someone asks for help, don’t judge. Don’t say “but you have everything to be happy”. Don’t say “it’ll pass”. Don’t tell them that “everything will be OK”. Sometimes they just need you to sit next to them in silence. Sometimes they need you to listen. Sometimes they will need you to hold them, without asking questions, without offering solutions…just…hold them. Some people may ask you to call their doctors or to take them to a hospital. In such cases, do it…but don’t judge, and don’t demand explanations either.
Would you help me even if I don’t tell you all of my secrets? Even if I never share the reasons behind my rage and my sadness? Even if there are no sensible reasons, just an illness that not even I can fully understand? Do you really need to know every single detail? Have you come here to be my friend or to entertain yourself with the boring gossip of my life?
The point is, there is no “fix”. No “cure”. There is, however, permanent maintenance labor. One must always be vigilant. The bastard likes to sneak around. Like a rat, it can come into your home through the smallest of openings. But unlike a rodent, you would do better not trying to smash it in the head (good luck with that, by the way). Instead, be patient, show kindness, keep your arms and your mind open…and be willing to share a bit of the dark chocolate you have been hoarding.