My pal “depression” and I have been acquainted for quite some time now… but that doesn’t mean I fully understand it.
I feel like my depression is constantly evolving and once I feel like I can finally recognise its effects on my body and mind, something changes and I have to re-evaluate it all.
For years, my depression had a huge impact on my mood and overall happiness. I hadn’t learned how to rework my thoughts, which allowed my less-than-ideal living situation to really wreak havoc on my state of mind. I cried a lot. I contemplated suicide a lot. I felt like I was at a loss; nothing was enjoyable, I absolutely dreaded everyday things, and my future looked like a dark and cold tunnel of nothingness.
I certainly had good days – even weeks – strewn throughout the years of misery. But, despite that, feeling so down for so long led me to believe my depression was a sentence to eternal sadness.
I equated depression with feeling sad. I used it as an excuse. I stopped noticing the triggers. Whenever I felt sad, I blamed it on my depression. I excused myself from learning to recognise and regulate my emotions and slapped that label on instead. I gave myself a free pass to sadness, because a big part of me genuinely believed it was inevitable. Essentially, I let myself be sad because I was afraid of failing to be happy.
I’ve since realised that my depression is not always to blame. And, on top of that, my depression does not always (or only) manifest itself in misery. I’ve practiced taking a step back and not immediately blaming depression for my normal reactions to everyday situations. Am I feeling sad because of my depression, or because something sad just happened?
Does this mean my depression is never to blame? Absolutely not. But, by trying not to use it as a crutch or an explanation so often, I’ve learned to take more control over my mind. Recognising and accepting that I am sometimes sad due to events, and not solely because my mind is chemically imbalanced, has loosened the grip I felt depression had on me.
On top of all that, things are going very well for me. I am feeling the happiest I’ve felt in a very long time. I am surrounded – both physically and virtually – by fantastic people and a whole lot of love.
… But I’m still depressed.
It still affects me in other ways. It attacks my body when it can’t attack my mind. I have to push myself harder to find motivation. I still feel exhausted and want to stay in bed for days – not because I feel anxious at the thought of people, but because I am so tired. And sore. I get headaches. I sometimes have to remind myself to eat – and fight the nausea as I try to feed my body.
For a while I didn’t realise these were the effects of depression. Of course, when I thought about it, these were all things I experienced back in the days of my miserable depression, too. I just didn’t realise it without the sadness to accompany it all.
I’m always learning something about the power of my mind – as well as the ‘illness’ which has made it its home. And this last little while has really put into perspective just how invisibly versatile depression really is.