Depression is harder for me to write about than my anxiety. It's darker, and it goes into that territory that can be hard for people to hear. If what you read below is scary to you, I want you to know: I'm okay. And I will continue to be okay. I have lots of people around me who support me and will be there for me if things get bad. And, if what you read below is scary to you because you're dealing with similar feelings right now: know that you will be okay. Gather the people around you who can support you. Talk to them. Tell them how you're feeling and that you need support. And if you don't feel like you can talk to them, call this number: 1-800-273-8255. There are people there who, I promise, will listen to you without judgement. Above all, know that you're not alone. You will get through this. Feeling alive again is possible.
If you had asked me when I was a teenager—or my in early twenties, or a few years ago, for that matter—if I thought I would live to be 30, my answer would have been "no". I mean, I had plenty of aspirations and ideas of what it would be like to be 30, but I just didn't think it was possible. I honestly didn't believe there was a life beyond depression. I believed it was out there for other people, but not for me. I thought my brain was too broken. I thought that my depression would kill me.
You see, to me, depression is sometimes like riding a bicycle. No, wait. Scratch that. Depression is sometimes like riding a bicycle up a very steep hill when you're out of shape. You're riding up the hill, huffing and puffing, while everyone else (who is clearly in shape) passes you with ease. "HOW are they doing this?" you wonder, as you try with every ounce of strength in you to push your dumb, stiff body up the hill—right pedal, left pedal, right pedal, left pedal—in the lowest possible gear. It takes everything you have not to quit entirely. As cars and other bikers pass you, you let out small cries of "I'm sorry. Excuse me." And you feel like the people passing you are groaning at your inconvenient body blocking their daily commute. And then, as you reach the steepest part of the hill, and chirp out another pathetic "sorry," someone responds: "It's okay. You're doing the best you can," they say, "keep going." And so you keep going. You finally make it up the hill.
Depression is not just a long-term bad mood or a blue period. Depression is being completely out of shape mentally (and oftentimes physically). Your brain "muscles" don't function properly. They don't move when you want them to move; they don't work when you want them to work. They are lousy couch-potatoes and you can't control them. All you can do when you're depressed is to try the best you can to keep going, to keep "pedaling", to keep living. Most of the time you feel exhausted and worthless and hopeless. Your body may literally feel heavier and your field of vision decreases (this is what happens for me). It feels like all you can focus on is a few feet in front of you. It's hard to believe how you'll ever make it to the top of the hill and get through it. You want to apologize to everyone you see for your very existence, for fear that you're slowing them down too. And, the truth is, sometimes you are.
During this time it's painful. Really painful. You ache inside because you're forcing yourself to go up that hill when you just don't feel like you can. It feels really easy to quit. It feels like that's the only thing that will stop the pain—that will stop the exhaustion and the worthlessness and the hopelessness and the feeling of slowing everyone else down.
But, sometimes there are people that come along and remind you that you're just doing the best you can. They tell you, "it's okay". They encourage you to keep going. They see options and tools that you didn't see for yourself to help get you back into shape, so that you can keep riding. And, let me tell you, that makes all the difference.
Before you find something that finally gets your brain back in shape, it's so hard to think that anything besides not living will work. And that's because depression is a hope-squelching, lying asshole. It doesn't want you to have any sort of hope, but there is hope. It doesn't want you to know that you can get through this, but you can get through this. Fortunately, I did get through it. And it's all thanks to people that have come alongside me and told me that it's going to be okay; that I'm not alone; that getting help is an option. Those people were what broke through (and continue to break through) the darkness of my depression. If you're one of those people, sincerely, thank you.
Today, I'm the most alive that I've ever felt on my 30+ years on this planet. I didn't think it was possible to feel this way. Through trial and error with my Psychiatrist, I finally found a good combination of medications that have me feeling like a human person—a feeling that I don't remember having since I was a small child. I have the energy and ability to actually do the things I want and need to do each day. I feel motivated and optimistic about my future. I'm able to reach out to people, and value those connections. That's not something I take for granted. I know that there's still a tough road ahead, but I'm better equipped for it now than ever before. I'm going to keep riding.
In addition to getting psychiatric help, and being supported by wonderful people, there have been a few online resources that have been especially helpful to me and have made me feel less alone living with depression—two of which I mentioned before, but they are definitely worth mentioning again. All of them possess a refreshing vulnerability. I highly recommend checking them out.
On a housekeeping note, I've created an email address for this blog (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions or comments for me that you would rather not post on the page. Next week, in part 3 of this blog, I'll write about being recently diagnosed with trichotillomania, and what that's like for me. Until then, I'll let The Beta Band play us out...