(cross posted from my tumblr)
I decided that I want to write about depression. My depression, to be specific. And it got me thinking a lot about the words we use to talk about depression. The three I hear most frequently are battling, suffering, and struggling.
These words have such different connotations. Battling always feels weird to me. I mean, people battle against wars, not against their own minds. In a way depression is a battle, but it’s so internal. I don’t like to say I am battling my depression because I rarely feel like I am that proactive, and feeling like I should be makes me feel useless. I’m just a person, not a magical hero warrior full of bravery and a thirst for justice against the malfunctioning serotonin receptors in my head.
People say that you are suffering from depression. While this is often true, it also feels false. I have chronic depression, meaning that most people I know have no idea that I have spent the last three to five years under a cloak of sometimes unbearable hopelessness and sadness. It is not as severe as major depression, which is what I think of when I think of suffering. To suffer from something means you can hardly do anything else. Some days I really feel like that. Sometimes I physically suffer. But not always.
Struggling with, now that feels more like something I can wear. Today my depression felt like a shadow that was covering me all day. I did not feel oppressed by it, but I struggled not to let it make me too cold. It took a few more breaths of effort to convince myself to eat lunch.
I struggle with many aspects of my depression. I struggle with who to tell, who it is important to tell. My fiance and best friends know, my mother, grandmother, and coworkers do not. I feel guilt a lot of time by using the word depression because I don’t look like those forlorn women in ads for antidepressants. I am not currently on antidepressants, I am on anti anxiety medication and am seeking therapy. Depression itself is a word that is filled with images of laying in bed all day, substance abuse, black eye makeup, and endless crying. When Allie Brosh wrote her incredible pieces on depression they changed a lot of peoples lives. I was so happy to see someone describe depression in such approachable terms. But it was horrible. I felt like all the work I had done, all the time I had spent finally coming to terms with the idea that maybe I was depressed was all bullshit because I had only felt that bad in brief little blips starting in 2007 or so. I have since described myself as “emotional” and “anxious” and “HAHAH WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT LOOK HOW OUTGOING AND HAPPY I AM WITTY REPARTEE!!!!!” It wasn’t until I finally sat down with my psychiatrist and listed out all the things I was feeling that I got what I had sort of always wanted.
A diagnosis. I exhibited 7 of the 9 factors doctors look for when diagnosing depression. Because it had been in full swing for one month, she described my situation as a “depressive episode” but I know the truth. I know that these feelings never go away. I know that every completely perfect day is followed by four or five days where convincing myself I am not a complete waste of atoms can take a lot of doing. Being diagnosed, being validated, that I wasn’t just hysterical, I am not just emotional, I have something that can be cured. I have something that lots of people have. I have an end to this tunnel.
Which brings us back to struggle. To battle. To suffering. There is a lot of that left for me. Probably more than anyone around me will know about. Chronic depression means I can keep a job, I can keep relationships, I can keep my alcohol use under control, but just barely.
One thing I can absolutely agree with in Brosh’s writing is the feeling of apathy. I end my days often with a feeling of deep sadness, knowing I could watch a favorite movie or call a friend or watch cats fall over on the internet, but I don’t care enough to do that. I could be a happy person sure but who gives a shit. THAT is what depression is to me. It’s not a thing to battle, a thing to suffer through, or something to struggle against. It’s just a constant push to give a shit.