I would appreciate it if you would stop holding me to the bad decisions I made while I was depressed. Maybe you don’t understand what depressed is. Let’s discuss what it is not, and dispel a few misconceptions, shall we?
It is not a pity party. Sure, everyone feels sorry for themselves at times. You feel angry, resentful, and fed up. It happens, but it’s not depression.
It is not a bad attitude. Certainly, when you feel terrible inside and out, top to bottom, and feel completely helpless your attitude can suffer. Anyone can have a bad attitude, but it’s not depression.
It isn’t being sad. Sadness is as much a part of life as happiness. You can’t have one without the other. I don’t think it’s even possible to appreciate one without the other. How can you know what sweet is, if you don’t also know bitter? Sadness is not depression.
It’s not self-absorption. When your world is upside down, and you feel like you’re inside out and just wrong, you do what you can to fix it. This requires introspection. When you have a hurt you just can’t ignore, you’re going to pay attention to it. When everything hurts, it’s difficult to ignore it to focus on something or someone else. Many people have chronic pain, but it’s not depression.
It’s not a choice or something you can just “get over.” Everyone has bad days, terrible days even, and we all have choices as to how we handle them. We can choose to handle them with grace and dignity, or give in to juvenile temper tantrums. Having a choice, and making bad ones, is not depression.
What is it for me?
Crying on the floor for no reason at all, curled in the fetal position, biting my finger so I don’t make a bunch of noise and draw the kids’ attention.
Waking up every morning, swearing to myself that today will be better, and it just isn’t, no matter how hard I try.
When I pray and pray for comfort, when I give it all up to a Higher Power, when I lay prostrate asking when this trial will end, but no relief comes.
When no one and nothing brings me comfort, except sleep.
When all I hear, all day long, is the sound of my own screaming in my head.
When everything seems pointless, even though I try to try to see the good.
When I forget who I am, so I try to remember who I was, but I just can’t get back on track.
When the best decision is impossible, so I sell out and take the easy route, because it’s better than ending up curled up on the floor in the fetal position, scream-crying and dry heaving.
Depression isn’t something you can see, because when people are depressed they tend to hide it. We are as deluded about what depression is and isn’t as you. We fake it because it’s shameful because of all those misconceptions about what it is and we think if we only tried harder we could fix it. We fake it all day, until we can’t fake it anymore, and then we hide. In a book, in the computer, in a closed room. What you see, your friend, family member, or co-worker who changes, who is too negative, who withdraws, is angry, or hard to be around? These people might be depressed, and they might not even realized it.
I know I didn’t realize it for a really long time. I knew I couldn’t stand myself anymore, but depressed? That was for someone else. Someone who couldn’t cope. Turns out it was me. I made a lot of bad decisions, a lot of bad calls, took the easy route far more often than I should have for quite a long time. I’m trying really hard now, to break out of that habit, knowing that I can, indeed, cope and handle life’s situations with, if not grace, then humor, or at least without anger.
Forgive me for being a crappy human for a while. I was trying. Harder, maybe, than I am now. The fight has changed, so have my tactics. When I was depressed I was fighting for my life, to have a life, to find my way out of a terrible place. Now I have to fight against all the bad habits I developed in the interest of saving energy and maximizing my limited coping ability, as well as fight against what seems to be a natural inclination for my body to exist in that state of being.
I will not back down. All those things I listed that depression isn’t, I now understand can take me there if I allow myself to wallow. It’s a trap, at least for me. I have a choice now, to not go there and that is what I choose. Every. Single. Day. You may dislike that I seem to have changed my tune. You are welcome to call me on saying one thing before, and another thing now, but I will not back down. I am fighting the good fight. If I give in, I may as well jump straight back into that mire I climbed out of.