If you’re more of a visual learner, please enjoy these comics relating to depression. Maybe it will help some people realize that the symptoms of depression are a part of a medical diagnosis that people can’t just “snap out of.”
I wanted to save what I’m about to pour out and use it as a climactic chapter in the book that I eventually want to write, but writing is one of the only healthy outlets for what I’m about to discuss and I can’t hold it in anymore. Drinking wine makes things worse.
My life was set up in a way that I went from adversity (being raised by a single mother in a low-income household) to a possible success story. To set this up (because these expectations will play into the story later) I was raised by a single mother for basically my entire life. Sometimes she worked two jobs and took night classes, other times she worked one job and, I have no idea how, but she managed to pay for me and my school clothes plus a place to live and transportation for me from school to the private practice where she was a CMA (Certified Medical Assitant). Only a few second and third cousins on my Dad’s side went to, or are going to, college. Some cousins on my Mom’s side through marriage have had alternate hiccups in life.
Basically, I have been dealing with the pressure that my family naturally assumes that I am the “successful one”, the “golden child”, and the cousin-granddaughter-daughter-niece that will turn out successful and normal.
I’m saying all of this because these expectations have a huge impact in what I’m about to explain.
Depression. Anxiety. Mental health.
I don’t know what to call how I feel right now, but I can say with certainty that I feel like I am being suffocated or that I am drowning; not physically but mentally. If I were to fire off words or phrases that immediately come to mind they would be:
Basically, I believe that I am depressed but I do not have a professional opinion. Before whoever is reading this fires off the alarm, I would like you to know that I have expressed how I feel with my roommates, my close friends here, and I have scheduled a mental health counseling session for next week. Just a disclaimer.
The reason why I am sharing this is that today I realized that I am coming to the end of my rope metaphorically. I can’t keep controlling my feelings and emotions from day to day because I mentally cannot anymore. In basic girl language, “I just can’t even.”
I’ve spent years doing what I thought was expected of me because I am supposed to be the one who turned out “normal and successful.” I say this because one of my fears is that by admitting that I may suffer from mental health issues, it means that I have ruined any family member’s expectations that I am perfect and the one who did things “right”. It’s a fear that echoes that deep down I am worried that by admitting I need help, it means that I am broken and just as fucked up as the rest of my family.
I’m sharing this because I want to fight the stigma that surrounds mental health and depression. I don’t want to contribute to it and I don’t want to fear it.
I’m not okay.
I don’t think that I have been “okay” for a while; as in since I was at least 15. A few months ago I found old notebooks that I had kept in a small memory box I like to stash under my bed. While flipping through I found poems and short entries that I had written almost ten years ago and those entries read as if I had written them today.
To me that signals that something is off in myself.
While talking to a now ex-boyfriend he stated that while we were together, and especially for the year that we lived together, he spent so much of his time and energy trying to pull me out of my sadness that it threw him into his own depression. Apparently, I spent so much of my time sleeping and being unenthused and uninterested that it really was a problem in our relationship.
I couldn’t see it and I definitely couldn’t fix it.
I remember last November and December as a dark pit. I would go into auto-pilot during the week and put my personal emotions in their own box with a lid that I never opened until the weekend. When I did let those emotions out they manifested themselves in intense exhaustion. My body hurt. It didn’t (and still does not) feel like the sharp pain of an intense hangover, instead, my joints ached and my bones just hurt. I wanted to throw up and my head felt hot. For two months I spent every weekend sleeping because no matter how hard I tried (and I did try by getting dressed and going down to my car) I couldn’t get myself up and moving. I just needed to sleep and lay down.
I realized lately how much it bothers me when people casually throw around the phrase, “I’m depressed.”
Example. “The Cleveland Indians lost the World Series and it makes me so depressed.” This, of course, is said with sarcasm in the inflection. What I mean by casually throwing the phrase around is when it’s used as a placeholder for “temporarily bummed.”
Now, again, I haven’t seen a specialist yet. I won’t until next Monday, but I do have a very strong instinct that I have not been, suffering from being temporarily bummed. I also do not want to paint myself as a victim in any way just for attention.
What I’ve been experiencing for a very long time can be described as a form of sadness that is so every day it becomes the new normal. I honestly cannot tell you what I would define normal as. I wake up every single day, and I have for longer than I can date, assumed that everyone else in the world feels disappointed to wake up alive and that everyone wakes up feeling like their world is falling apart even when it literally isn’t.
I’ve started to realize that the world isn’t falling apart, I am.
To me, depression can be described in the following metaphorical scenario.
Depression is a beast that pins you to your own sadness. A sadness that is so common and overwhelming that it becomes your own idea of what a “normal” life is supposed to be. You feel like you are suffocating or being drowned mentally but you can’t fight it anymore because you never will find the surface and you will never breathe again. Depression is a beast that is next to you when you wake up and it reminds you that you are disappointed to be alive. It showers with you, rides in the passenger seat in the car to work or school, and then follows you home at the end of the day where it eats you. When you’re at home, Depression can finally choke you again because you are vulnerable and you don’t have distractions to keep it away. The only way to survive day to day is to shut off the parts of your brain that are easily stimulated by events so that you don’t emit emotion.
In layman’s terms: To me, depression mentally suffocates you with sadness and darkness and you can never escape it so you start to believe that everyone else feels the same way. And then you realize that they don’t.
I don’t like when people casually throw around the phrase, “I’m so depressed” because that is a phrase that I am too scared to admit because I’m afraid that if I do share it, it means that I am broken. How I feel is not a joke or a casual statement or a meaningless phrase of sarcasm. How I feel is crippling and I want to cry and go home.
Writing that makes me cry.
I have been slowly starting to wonder if I do have what can be labeled as clinical depression and I am slowly starting to wonder if it can be fixed by medication. But again, if I share that then I fear that others will see me as broken and I will be unwanted.
All of this is what feeds Depression. I am personifying it because it feels like it is alive and sitting next to me right now. How I feel, and the hypothesis that I have regarding my own mental state, have developed into a real physical entity that I would deem essential to my current identity.
What I want to say is that I just want to feel normal and stable. Today, when I shared with my roommate that I feel like I made a mistake with accepting my new job, she said that she was confused because just last week I was saying how happy I was with my job and how happy I was to stay in Iowa. That’s the thing though about MY depression. I’m high and then I’m very, very low.
I have so many days where I say, “Finally. YES! You’ve figured this out. What you’re doing is the right thing and it makes you happy,” and I really do believe it for that hour or half a day that it lasts. But those highs are always followed by a low that yells, “You’ve made a really bad decision. You need to go home and run away. It’s pointless. Everything is meaningless because we will all die anyways.” All I can say is, literally, I see the world as pointless because we WILL all die and we can’t take our money or our accomplishments with us and who knows if those will impact our afterlife so there really is no point. Honestly. Life and this physical world have no real metaphysical meaning.
I can’t stop it. At least, I haven’t been on my own. I feel brave enough to say that I feel like I am suffocating mentally.
I wish that finding a psychologist or therapist was as easy and as commonly discussed as finding a general practitioner. It was easier for me to find a doctor to take a pap smear and insert a birth control rod into my arm than it is for me to find a therapist.
I haven’t found any packets or helpful brochures discussing where to look and I definitely have not found any information that covers how to pay for therapy.
I think that those reasons were why I put off finding help for so long. I just didn’t know where to look and I still don’t.
I literally wake up every morning disappointed that I am still breathing. I put those feelings and my overwhelming feelings that my world is ending into a box and lock it. I get dressed, do my makeup and hair, and commute to work with those parts of my brain turned off. I do my job taking minutes and scheduling calls and then commute home. Once home, I take care of my dog and then finally I unlock that box because the overwhelming sadness can’t be contained anymore. I don’t do all of this because I want to. I do it because it feels like my only way to keep going. What I want to do is drive home to my Mom or be with the one person I romantically want to be with right now, but those two options cannot happen because I have professional expectations to uphold.
During good months or weeks, I can keep it locked tight until someone or something (usually a question) link my mind back to those feelings and the floodgates open.
As one of my exes and one of my aunts reminded me, I don’t show emotion in situations where emotions would be expected. Instead, I bottle them up tight and store them away until the pressure builds and my sadness, anger, jealousy, etc can’t be contained. When that happens it’s a tsunami of everything and it’s unhealthy.
Tonight my roommate and one of my friends asked me what I wanted for myself. If I excluded my personal relationships (which play a very large role in my sanity) and if I exclude what I think others expect of me (stable job, career, money, responsibility) what would I say I want? I said I want to feel stable.
I feel like I have been walking the deck of a sailboat in a storm. I haven’t felt steady and safe in so long that feeling off balance, confused, and overwhelmed has become my normal.
That’s not okay. I want to feel stable. I want to wake up each day and not want to throw up because I am stressed. I want to not fluctuate daily between feeling like I am confident and have made the best life decisions for myself and feeling like I am literally being shredded alive.
To do that, I need help. If I want to finally feel sane I need professional help. If I want to eventually have a stable and loving relationship with someone I need help.
If I really want to live to 30, I need help.
I’m saying all of this because mental health, especially in my family, is something that has never been as commonly discussed as going to the doctor for a physical. I’m saying all of this because I can keep what I feel is my unloveable flaw private or I can share it in case someone else is feeling the same way. I’m saying all of this because I’ve finished the only two mini, single-serve bottles of wine I have and writing is the first outlet I have found on my own that makes me feel okay.
Finally, I’m sharing all of this because I don’t want my fear of being diagnosed as clinically depressed to be considered a flaw to others. Everyone needs help at some point in their life.
The one thing I want more than anything is for someone to love me (not in the paternal or maternal idea of love, sorry Mom) but romantically and if I want that then I need to glue myself back together finally after ten plus years and I need help.
I hope that someday soon that US society will make mental health resources as commonly available and accepted as finding a general health practitioner. I hope that when people sign up for health insurance that mental health coverage is listed higher on the benefits list and that the coverage options are as extensive as the ones you see while signing up for Delta Dental.
I can keep how I am feeling between myself, my roommate, and my friend here but I can’t because I think I am finally cresting emotionally and I don’t want to feed the fear.
It’s hard and I feel alone, but I take some solace in the idea that there are others who feel more than just “casually depressed” like I do. Depression shouldn’t be a part of daily existence and I don’t want it to be a part of mine anymore.