What it Feels Like to Have Depression

It took six hours to get out of bed yesterday.

I’m not lazy.

I’m not physically disabled.

I just couldn’t move.

For six hours, my thoughts and my body seemed to drift in a time warped stasis, feeling like they were distant and not my own.

I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t need to go to the bathroom. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I had no motivation to do anything, not even to carry out my basic functions. I was neither alive nor dead, and I couldn’t decide which one I would rather be.

Nothing mattered except for the deep depression that consumed me.

Art by Sylvia Reuter www.sylvies-swamp.tumblr.com/post/26839593665/sylvie-reuter

Art by Sylvie Reuter

All it took was one negative thought, a discordant note in the stream of my consciousness, to end up bedridden all day.

One moment I was laughing, chatting with my friends on Facebook, being a totally functioning “normal” person. If you meet me for the first time, you would think I’m the last person on earth to ever struggle with mental illness. Then a bad memory surfaced, triggered by whatever arbitrary emotional trap was present. The bad memory trickled into my thoughts, at first a murmur, then an incessant nagging, and finally a loud shout that drowned out everything else.

Then I was angry, ruminating over events that confirm my conviction of a thematic self-concept:

Everyone hates me.

Everyone is just patronizing me.

Everyone thinks I’m stupid, ugly, useless, and worthless.

Then my explosive rage burnt itself out and left me feeling hopeless and empty.

Most people think that depression is about sadness. They’re not completely wrong, but they don’t have the whole picture. It’s a perpetual loop of feeling hopeless, irritable, lonely, guilty, and worst of all – empty. Not to forget the physical side effects, such as a dull pain that seems to compress my head, tightness in the chest,  dry mouth, and numb or weak limbs. For me, depression cycles through the motions, often starting with blazing rage, and always concluding with the dreaded emptiness that drains my energy, drive, emotions, and sense of being.

Cycling of the Emotional States, art by BrazenHub.

Cycling of the Emotional States, art by BrazenHub.

I’m not sure how to describe the feeling of emptiness.

It feels like you are neither alive nor dead. You stop caring about everything, you feel numb, and you abandon your hopes, desires, and sense of being.

So can you see why telling us to buck up, pull ourselves up, and get over our “feelings” is like kicking a dead horse?

I wish depression is just about being sad. That might be simpler to handle. I wish I were just angry instead. That way, I’ll have burning motivation to do something.

Instead I have to deal with this trainwreck emotional and existential spiral and a constant yearning for death.

Oh I can’t forget the most pervasive part of depression: the omnipresence of suicide ideation that varies in magnitude depending on the situation, but never goes away. 

I’m always thinking of suicide. It’s always locked and loaded on the edge of my mind, ready to spring at the slightest of emotional triggers. I don’t have a specific plan. Thinking about death is a soothing mechanism, a mental escape, a coping exercise – some sort of messed up “Ommmmm” mantra to soothe the searing convictions of uselessness and worthlessness licking through my ashen being.

But I haven’t “offed” myself for real yet and maybe that’s a sign that things are not entirely hopeless for me.

If I really think about it, I’m lucky in a way.

At least a bad day like this isn’t an everyday occurrence, like how it can be for people with very severe depression.  At least I don’t have catatonia, “a state of neurogenic motor immobility and behavioral abnormality manifested by stupor”. Even though it took me six hours, I still managed to get up and eat something, go to the bathroom, and slowly clean the apartment. That’s progress in a sense.

The grass is always greener, although acknowledgement of my blessings isn’t always (and shouldn’t be assumed) a cure.

There’s always a tomorrow, unless some freak event happens and I’m six feet under before I know it.

Maybe I don’t need to have good days all the time in order to make progress. Maybe overcoming depression is another one of those “two steps forward, one step back” kind of thing.

And I will probably take that all back and deny every drop of hope the next day, or the day after – whenever I’m having a “bad day”.

And start all over again, clinging unto the flickering hope that oscillates between a dying ember or a blazing radiance so wild and bright that it practically freaks people out.

Someday, I will emerge from depression’s splattering pieces, leaping, roaring with laughter, and burning with ambition and light.

Because there’s always a tomorrow.