You ever spend so much time with someone that you feel like you want and need some space to yourself? I feel like this is, generally, a concept understood and accepted by most people. Now, I’d like to invite you to also consider that the person that you spend the most time with is yourself. But, for the ~300 million people worldwide (World Health Organization, 2017, and that’s just what was reported) that live with depression, this may not be such a great relationship. For those people, living with depression is like living with someone that you’ve spent too much time with and can’t get away from.
Sometimes I like to think of my depression like a mini version of myself that I can control. I watch a lot of Black Mirror on Netflix (think ‘White Christmas’ if you’re a fan; if not it’s a 10/10 so, put the blog down…back away slowly and pull up a tab and get to watching, this is not a drill). Thinking of it this way helps me externalize things and gives me a sense of control. This is what works for me. I once read an amazing Reader article on Buzzfeed by someone that likened their depression to a “bad dog”. That one can be found here and is a personal favorite.
Now, to put it this way is really watering things down. Often times depression shows herself with other, different faces, like anxiety or anger. These are the faces that are less commonly recognized as depression but are still her, through and through. Depression is cancelled plans. She is sleepless nights. She is sleeping all day. She is eating everything and eating nothing. She is screaming at your loved ones, your mail man, and your pizza delivery guy. She is not showering for days. She is hyper vigilance. She is isolating into the depths of your apartment to watch reruns of a show that has been off the air for years. Depression knows no age, she doesn’t care about the color of your skin or what vibrations your throat makes when you speak your native tongue. She doesn’t care who you pray to, what you stand for, or what you believe in.
I know what you’re thinking. How can all those things be depression? Some of those things seem to compete with one another. You may have heard that depression is an inability to sleep and eat, listlessness, fatigue, etc. and you’re right. These are many of the symptoms of clinical depression. The other symptoms however, are common of atypical depression, which is characterized by oversleeping, overeating, mood disturbances, etc.
Let’s talk stigma.
Because depression can happen to anyone, understand that not everyone seeks treatment because not everyone believes in treatment. Remember when I referenced the 300 million people worldwide that have depression and said that this was just what was reported? This is because many cultures do not recognize depression as even existing, much less being a legitimate thing that they should be seeking treatment for. My purpose for writing this is obviously because I’m sharing my own experience, but I’m also providing some education here on how to understand this from all sides.
I feel like this post would be lacking if I didn’t mention the misgivings I feel people have about those that suffer, and I mean truly suffer with their illness. People with depression often get labeled as ‘lazy’. We’re not lazy- we’re SAD. We’re SAD and we need a sense of empowerment and control. I’ve seen some of my friends get disappointed or angry if I’ve cancelled plans, but if I need to put my mental health first I need to put my mental health first. I’m not flaky- I’m depressed. I’m not ditching you – I’m anxious and can’t be around other people sometimes. Sometimes I need to partake in some #boringselfcare (this is a THING- check it out on Instagram!) and wash my face and deep condition my hair. Seriously– sometimes my depression doesn’t let me do those things. Again: Not lazy, SAD.
To anyone out there that loves someone with depression: Please try to understand this. Your friend and loved one is going to have their bad days. Even if they’re in therapy, intensive outpatient program, or on medication, this doesn’t mean they’re “cured”. You can be in recovery, on medication, and still struggle. They’re going to have days where they don’t even want to be around themselves. Normalize and accept this and LOVE. THEM. ANYWAY. If you can’t do this, my suggestion is that you excuse yourself.
To anyone out there that has depression: Be friends with yourself. You spend a lot of time together. Something I’ve been trying to do lately is add one piece of self care to my ‘To Do’ list. I took a training last month that urged us to consider ourselves and do daily check ins and ask ourselves how we’re doing in each of the areas of wellness (Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Social). Essentially, these areas create a “Wellness Wheel”. The idea behind this is to check in with your wheel when you’re feeling “off” to help you identify and address why because when one section of the wheel is “deflated” the whole wheel can’t help run the car (you). Long story short– I went home and cried. Let’s just say my “Wellness Wheel” was more of a “Wellness Deflated F*cked Up Line”. Casual. But you know what, I KNOW I’m not the only one out there with a messed up Wellness Wheel (case in point my JOB for Pete’s sake). I’m fixing it one day at a time, the best I know how, and that’s okay.
So if you’re out there and you’re a little sad, or a lot sad, you’re struggling, you’re depressed, you need a shoulder, or you’ve got an ‘effed up Wellness Wheel, I’m with you and this one’s for you. We’re okay.