The death of hope
Maybe I’m being over dramatic, who knows. It’s been a struggle and yes, today is not a good day. Not that many days around this time of the year are good, but today in particular is a bad one. Depression sucks and the thing about depression is that it’s hard to explain to others, especially if you’ve never had to deal with clinical depression or if you’re like me, had to live with chronic treatment resistant depression.
Most people think depression is just feeling sad. So you get flippant comments about just changing your mindset, looking at the world in a different way, or flat out telling you to be positive. Life is only as bad as you make it, so why make it harder on yourself than you need to? Why not just snap out of it, smile more, eat better, exercise, get more sun, go on vacation, laugh, hang out with friends? I think mental illness gets downplayed because it’s “all in your head,” but the thing people miss is that life is all in your head.
The reality is a lot different, depression isn’t just feeling sad. You can be depressed after the loss of a loved one, but you can also be depressed because you have a legitimate thing wrong with you. I lost an Uncle a decade or so ago and it hurt, it makes me sad and for awhile I had an external reason to be depressed. It didn’t feel like my normal depression, but it definitely fed into my normal depression.
For me depression feels like what I imagine being skinned alive feels like. Or being ripped apart from the inside out. There are very real physical symptoms to my depression, painful symptoms that are probably part of something else wrong with me, but we don’t exactly know what that something is quite yet. My Uncle had lupus, but I was tested and nothing came back positive, so I’m at square one with that.
I also feel drained, tired all the time. I would say no energy, but it’s not even feeling exhausted. You run a marathon and you feel like your body just went through the ringer, because it did. This is different though, when you finish a marathon you can catch your breath, you can recover, and while it may be slow, you will feel better eventually. I’m still waiting for it to stop so I can catch my breath. In fact, sometimes just the act of needing to breath feels like so much work I don’t know how I manage to keep doing it.
For me, depression isn’t about being sad, it’s about being trapped in an unseen torture chamber. I mean if you constantly felt like your heart was going to be ripped from your chest, your joints ached with fire and needles, and your skin feels like it could fall away at any moment, wouldn’t you be sad? Sadness isn’t being depressed, but being depressed most certainly can cause sadness.
As I write this, I fight to catch my breath. I struggle to keep my eyes open. I fucking hurt all over, so very, very much. When I say my life is falling apart and that I am falling apart, I mean both very literally. I literally feel like pieces of me are being ripped away slowly, in small chunks. It’s death by a million, trillion, microscopic paper cuts and it happens every second of every day.
The long-term goal I’ve struggled to hit with my psychologists and psychiatrists is to simply have more good days than bad. To build tools to help me sit with this miniature death stuck on repeat. I’ve been on every medication and combination of medication they can give me. Some made me feel so numb I just stopped trying to live. I stopped eating, I stopped showering, I stopped attending school, I just stopped caring. Some made me feel irrationally angry, or scared, or some combination of the two. Some made me so tired I couldn’t stay awake and couldn’t function no matter what time it was. I’ve even had allergic reactions to some.
Notice how my long-term goal, the one this latest and previous teams have helped me come up with isn’t to cure my depression. There’s no cure, there’s no escape, and the days, weeks, or months where I feel like this are times where I need to weather the storm. That’s the problem with treatment resistant depression, there’s no fix, not even a minor one. Instead I’m entrusted with the responsibility to call for help when I need it. To use skills I’ve been taught to manage the symptoms.
There’s no way to excise the problem, instead the only real hope I have is to come to an agreement with it. I let it run its course and I need to sit and wait for it to finish. Not exactly a great arrangement, certainly not one that benefits me in any way. But you’re absolutely right it is all in my head.
Depression really does live in the brain, but it also literally eats you alive (no really, I do mean that literally). Depression is a very real illness, just like cancer, you can’t always see it directly, but you can see the effect it has on the person. Sometimes depression can be caused by external factors, but for me there are also internal factors that play into it. No one knows for sure, probably some sort of chemical imbalance, or maybe environmental factors growing up, who knows.
This time of year is already hard and I expect the depression to come wash over me in earnest for basically the rest of the year. Unfortunately for me, for the past six weeks, and for the next few months at minimum, my life is slowly coming unwound. Things I thought were set are slowly becoming unset, meaning my home, the life I’ve come to enjoy, and the safety I’ve probably gotten too comfortable with, WILL be stripped away. Not maybe, will.
This takes the depressed feelings and the symptoms that come with it and cranks them up to 11. I’m slowly wasting away and I’m not sure what it will look like on the other side of this. I’ll survive it, I always do. I would like to be candid and say unfortunately, but please don’t worry about me. I’m just tired of being a survivor, of having to be the strong one, the rock for the people I care about. The problem with being the rock is that you don’t ever get anyone to lean on yourself, you just have weight put on you over and over until you slowly erode away.
That’s the death of hope. The realization that for all the changes I’ve made about myself, I’m still really just me. The next few months are going to be a painful reminder that no matter how much I try to escape myself, I cannot. At the same time, I can’t stop so I don’t get to be tired. I don’t get to take a break. I don’t get to have support, or love, or a simple hug that lasts longer than it needs to, but is still too short to really enjoy.
I honestly cannot predict the future, so the next few months could go easier… or harder.. than I think. I’ll survive it, I always do, but I really wish I didn’t have to.