*Warning: this post may contain triggers for self-harm and material which may be upsetting. Please stay safe and steer clear of this post if you have these triggers.*
I’ve written a few posts about my depression before (Love Me Til I’m Me Again, How to Save a Life, and The Rabbit Hole). I’ve talked about how my depression arose as a result of my struggle with infertility, my struggles with self harm, and how easy it can be to fall into a depressive episode again, even when things have been going well for awhile. But what is it actually like to be depressed? I’m going to attempt to lay it out. If anything, this might be a bit of a healing exercise for me.
Or lack thereof, really. People with depression are often pigeonholed into having certain emotions; we must be “sad” or “upset” or obviously, “depressed”. But what I’ve found isn’t exactly that. What I felt at the height of my depression was more along the lines of “nothing”. Yes, I hated my life and pretty much everything in it, but most of the time, I just felt a numb nothing. Perhaps glum, or I would use the term “blah”. When David would ask me a question, I would just shrug my shoulders or shake my head, never really giving a definitive answer.
February 2, 2016: “I don’t want to say anything. I don’t want to talk about anything. I don’t want to listen to music. I don’t want to watch TV. I don’t want to read. I will literally just sit and stare at a wall and become unresponsive to anything. I communicate via shrugs or head shakes. Because I don’t care what’s going on around me and I don’t want to care.”
December 29, 2015: “I had a complete meltdown when I got home. I just hate work so much. I hate my life as it’s currently going. I have these really strong urges to cut myself, not as a suicide attempt, but just to give some tangible feeling to the emotional pain…I don’t know what to do. I need help, but getting help from anywhere in this healthcare system is a tremendous hassle.”
I did end up cutting myself that night, for the first time in many years. I made some long scratches along my left forearm with eyebrow tweezers (they were the closest sharp object at hand at the time). It was the next day that I decided it was time to utilize our employee behavioral health walk-in clinic to be seen by a nurse practitioner who was able to write prescriptions for medications I needed to get back to feeling normal. But it takes up to eight weeks for the medications to be effective, so I still had an uphill battle to fight against the depression.
January 29, 2016: “I cut last night. I now have ‘LOSER’ carved into my arm along with ‘FAILURE’. I’m such a horrible person. I didn’t even tell David I was feeling the urge because I wanted to do it so badly. I’m so terrible. I guess I was just feeling so bad after work that I just needed a release, even though it was in an unhealthy way.”
Many people wonder how individuals with depression can self harm. It had been hard for me to imagine too when I saw teenagers with cuts come in to the hospital for suicide attempts from drug overdoses and try to imagine what drove them to it. But once I was actually depressed myself, it was an easy thing to fall in to, at least for me. My personality type is highly linked to emotions; INFJs are often called “The Counselor” and are described as being empaths. This is very true of myself. It’s very easy for me to actually feel the same emotions as the people around me, just because they’re feeling that way. Not to mention growing up in theater, you have to be able to generate different emotions at the drop of a hat; we actually had acting exercises geared towards doing just that. As a result, I’m a very emotional person. So when I was so full of these horrible depressed emotions, it was overwhelming; as I described above, I was considering cutting to “give some tangible feeling to the emotional pain.” I felt like I was going to burst and needed an outlet of release and the physical pain of cutting provided that, as if the release of blood somehow also released the emotions that were smothering me. I know that sounds ridiculous; to my healthier mind now it’s hard to imagine I ever did those things. The last time I cut was April 5th, so I’ve been doing well for awhile now. I hope I’m able to maintain my healthier state of mind.
Thoughts of Death
Note I didn’t title this section “suicide.” That’s because not every person who is depressed wants to commit suicide. However, I believe many depressed people wish to be dead, but there is a distinct difference between wanting to kill yourself and just not wanting to exist anymore.
February 3, 2016: “It would be wonderful to just die and not have to worry about any of this anymore. Not that I would take my life, because I wouldn’t. But if I could just somehow die all of a sudden, I think everyone would be much better off…So how would this benefit me? Well, I’d like to think I’d be in heaven. I’d have a perfect, new body; no celiac disease, no endometriosis, no bad knee, no infertility. All I would have to do is spend my time worshipping the Lord. No pain. No sadness. Just eternity as a whole, healthy being. That would be so wonderful. And again, knowing that I’m in a better place, why should anyone here care that I’m gone? So why should I even still be here?”
That day was a dark one for me. If anything, it’s the closest I came to actually taking my own life. I spent two hours writing down every reason I could think of about why I’d be better off dead and how the people in my life would so easily adapt to me being gone. I was trying to justify my own death. But after I had calmed down, I started going through what I like to call my spiritual awakening. I had just found a devotional on infertility that I wanted David and I to do together to get us both back into our Bibles and communicating with the Lord again, since we’d been in a place of spiritual complacency for a long time. So even though I was still depressed, I had God on my side to help me through it.
Before I went public with my mental health issues on my blog, I’m fairly certain that only one other individual besides David had any inkling about what was really going on, and that was one of my coworkers. I think everyone else either didn’t see it or chose to ignore it, which I don’t blame them for. Dealing with depressed individuals is sometimes like talking to a brick wall. I was able to pretty easily mask how I was really feeling because of other health issues I was having, plus pulling out my acting skills to make sure I was the smiling person everyone knew. No one would be the wiser. And I think I was able to successfully maintain that illusion as far as I know.
A depressed mind is a terrifying thing to behold if you really get inside it. Depression isn’t something I would wish on my worst enemy. It’s not being sad. It’s more like completely giving up on living life at all. You have to keep existing, but that’s all you’re doing: existing. Life seems to have no purpose. And nothing and no one can convince you that there is any purpose.
I hope this was enlightening. Depression is a hard thing to understand unless you’ve been through it. I still have bad days. But at least, for now, the good ones outnumber the bad.