Depression is a funny thing.
It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Some days, you forget you ever had it. You forget it was there, you forget that it pays rent somewhere deep in your brain. Depression can be a quiet, easy tenant– paying bills on time, never throwing parties and always taking out the trash.
And then again, there are times when it shows up in your living room. It waits until you’re out of the house, and when you aren’t paying attention– it comes up from behind you, pushes you down, and sits on your chest.
Go back to bed.
But wasn’t I just frolicking in daisies, sunshine and rainbows yesterday?
Sorry, mother fucker. Today you get a visit from your longest tenant.
Depression: An Unwanted Visitor
Depression always comes around, no matter how long it’s been or how well life has been treating you. Lately it’s been stopping by briefly.
It comes for quick day visits. A few overnight visits from time to time, nothing major but still enough for me to slow down and recognize it. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been adjusting to a new schedule or if it’s because I haven’t been home in a while or if it’s because I’m entering a new chapter of my life and I’m going through the adjustment stage, or if it’s because I’ve been neglecting exercise, and I’ve been drinking too much– but it hit me regardless.
I wonder how many of you know the feels. It’s not “just being sad” and not situational. It’s not as if something bad and tangible and specific happened to me within the last two weeks to spark this in me– it’s deep and long lasting and has little rhyme or reason.
What Depression Feels Like
For those of you who have never felt the weight of depression, let me describe it for you.
Imagine having everything go well for you, maybe even just that day. You sleep a full eight hours, and wake up next to someone you care about. Sun peeks in through the curtains, a soft breeze blows through an open window, and there’s not a single thing that has to be done today. Your puppy or cat or mini pig hops into bed, and starts cuddling while it lays in the magical spot between two people.
All the love in the world seems available to you, at your fingertips.
But you can’t seem to reach it.
There’s money in the bank, you have decent health, and a roof over your head and no actual worries to complain about. You should be feeling grateful. You should be recognizing your good fortune.
And yet you feel crushed for no apparent reason. You feel incapacitated by a palpable grief that has found a home on your heart.
It’s there while you lay next to your partner and think about how you want to disappear.
You cuddle with your dog and think about how simple it is for the dog to love and be loved and be happy and present. And you feel guilty because you have a hard time being here, right now.
The sun feels overbearing and you wish it was raining so that you could feel comfortable hiding from the world. The sun and the sky with its fucking brightness seems artificial. It feels like a violent reminder of what you’re not– not ready to go outside, not ready to face the world, not strong, not a warrior, not excited to spend the day doing the things you love, or at least used to.
Because you can’t. And you don’t know why. But you can’t.
The guilt of your incompetence sinks you deeper into yourself.
There is a pit in your stomach as you step out of bed after battling, for hours, the desire to stay put. The heaviness of being makes it hard to function. It’s hard to move. It’s hard to pick things like your toothbrush up.
Hard to make coffee.
Hard to shower.
It’s hard to pretend you’re okay.
You can’t focus on one thing at a time because you’re trying so hard to overbook your brain with things to do so that you don’t have a spare moment to think.
The thought of being alone with your thoughts is terrifying and unappetizing, but the thought of socializing feels impossible. At the same time, you’re trying so hard to run away from yourself because standing still allows for too much of an opportunity to get stuck.
So you drink a cup of coffee, and you’re tired.
You drink another cup, and your brain feels even murkier. A low throb of panic begins because it–the coffee, the acting normal–is not working.
You drink a third cup, and the mush in your brain is still there, but now it’s coupled with a caffeine high that mimics anxiety, another friend you’re no stranger to.
Try being normal.
You keep trying to do the things that “normal” people do. The brain fog– try to drink more water.
The anxiety– just take a deep breath. The exhaustion– take a nap. The darkness– go outside– it’s gorgeous out.
So you sit. And you breathe. You drink water. And you sit outside. You lay on the couch and try to nap, but the anchor is still there, tugging at your heart and making your whole being droop.
The Anchor of Depression
Depression is the anchor. The anchor is what weighs us down. It sucks your energy into a deep and complicated web of feelings and voids and thoughts that shouldn’t be believed.
You’ll never accomplish anything.
You have no will power.
Stop trying, you won’t succeed.
You made all the wrong decisions and now you must sit with all of them.
And you did this to yourself.
You’ll die alone. Die unhappy. You’ll die unsatisfied and without having ever brought meaning to this world.
The anchor is a liar but the lies are easy to believe.
The anchor is a continual feeling that something is very, very wrong, and something really bad is going to happen. But you’re not really sure what it is.
It’s nothing, and non-existent, but it feels like it’s everything and everywhere.
So your brain tries to give you answers. It tries to help you out. It’s desperately throwing out suggestions. If you find the source of the problem, you can find the solution, right?
It’s the guy you’re hanging out with. He doesn’t get you. He’s nice but it’s weird. He’s not your type. Get rid of him.
You’re just dehydrated. Drink more water. Stop complaining. Buck up. You’re cranky, not depressed.
You need more alone time. Well wait– no. You’re lonely. One of the two.
It’s because you’re not exercising enough or in the right way. You need to join a gym with group fitness classes that will really make you work.
It’s because you’re unsatisfied. Because you’re never satisfied. It’s because you don’t know what you want. Because nothing is never enough for you. Be happy with what you have!
It’s because you think you know what you want, and you’re wrong. Or it’s because you’re not going after what you want. One of those.
The contradictions fly at you like mosquitos trying to take a bite. Some, you manage to swat away. Others land, and sting and suck. Some disappear on their own, and then some stay, get infected, leave scars, and you believe them with conviction.
So, how do you stop it? How do you live with something like this since for as long as you can remember and still function? And still find joy? And still push back when the thoughts make you feel like the juice isn’t worth the squeeze?
Well. There are lots of options.
You Can Say “No” to the Anchor of Depression
At times you can force yourself to say no to the thoughts. You can force yourself to stand up for yourself toyourself. You hear the thoughts and you say– fuck that shit. Sometimes you say it out-loud. Sometimes you look yourself in the goddamn mirror and say I AM FUCKING PROUD OF YOU. I AM SO FUCKING PROUD OF YOU. Sometimes you scream it.
So you fight.
Everytime, you force yourself out of it. You remember, this is the depression. This is not Chloé. This isn’t me. And so you fight back, and you get up.
You go to the dog park.
Talk to people.
Get some vitamin D.
Take time to do the things you like even if you don’t want to.
You lean on friends.
Go to therapy.
You do the work.
While you don’t forget that the anchor is there, you recognize that that’s not a reason to stop living.
You watch some TV, make some lunch, and take a nap.
And the anchor is still there.
You go for a walk, ignore your phone, and try to appreciate your surroundings. You make plans with your Dad, and you remind yourself to remember his birthday.
And the anchor is still there.
You go to the market. Talk to the cashier. You smile. Cook dinner. Cry a little. Avoid drinking.
Yet, the anchor is still there.
You text a friend, and you tell her about the tears that were instigated by something that you KNOW is ridiculous and trivial. She tells you, me too. Lets you spill your contradictory thoughts. She reminds you of your strength and your brilliance. And she listens. And the anchor gets lighter.
After talking, you make plans with her, and decide you’ll both sign up for a 15k run because you both know you need it. You both want to be running towards something.
And the anchor gets lighter.
You tell her you’ll text her tomorrow, and you can barely feel the weight anymore.
So, you meditate, and you write, and you know that the anchor is there, but you don’t notice it as much anymore. You go to bed, and you know that it will be smaller tomorrow.
The anchor, for some of us, will always there and it always has been. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. There’s nothing mystical about it– it’s a thing that can be managed, and learning how to manage it takes work. It’s always there.
You can run from depression. Or you can self-medicate and hope depression goes away. You can let it consume parts of you and give in. Yet then again, you can also put in the work and fight back like your life depends on it.
At the end of the day, doesn’t it?