I wrote this a few months ago and I’m feeling a lot better now. But when I re-read the post, it felt important to share. Just a few honest thoughts about how it feels when I’m depressed. If you feel this way too, I see you.
Lately, my depression has been rearing its ugly little head.
Which is a funny thing to say when a lot of things are going “right” as far as the rest of the world can tell. When I’ve got the residence card, two book deals, a series of big wins.
But that’s depression for you. It doesn’t always hit when you think it will.
And lately, it’s been hitting. And hitting. And hitting.
* * * * *
It’s hard to explain depression to those who haven’t experienced it.
Often, they think you simply mean I’m sad.
Or I’m really sad.
Or Seriously, though, I’m the saddest girl in sadtown.
But depression isn’t a synonym for sadness. I’m often not sad at all. I’m mostly numb. Disassociated. I can remember having feelings, but I don’t have them now. Unless anxiety about explaining that I don’t have feelings and anxiety about performing feelings wrong counts as a feeling.
My main feeling, if it counts as a feeling, is exhaustion. I want to go to sleep and not wake up until my feelings find their way back to me again, like how Peter Pan lost his shadow. I want to nap until someone sews mine back on.
My other main feeling is a creeping sense of dread. Because my lack of feelings makes me weird, and I know it. I can feel myself not reacting right to things I should have feelings about. I can feel other people’s confusion about why I’m not excited, why I seem flattened out when I should be screaming from the rooftops about something good that just happened to me.
It’s easier to perform the right feelings online, where no one can see my face. But face-to-face, I can tell my performance isn’t landing.
* * * * *
It’s hard to explain without examples. So here’s one:
Some months ago, I was in France, sitting in a cafe with my computer, re-writing the back cover copy for my YA novel that comes out next year. And I was soaring. Even through a heatwave, a bumpy few travel days, an unexpected work task in the middle of vacation. I struck up conversations with strangers. I talked about having two novels coming out. And I reveled. I felt the joy, the giddy anticipation. I laughed and made jokes and reacted like a normal human who had achieved a lifelong dream.
Several weeks ago, standing on the edge of a dance floor, then sitting on a stool with a glass of wine in hand, I had those same conversations. Two books coming out in a year! One tied into a Netflix show! I’d wanted to write fiction quite literally since I could remember. I wrote and illustrated my first book before I hit my tween years. I was 63 novel ideas in a trench coat by the age of fifteen.
By all accounts, I should still be reveling. Basking in those conversations. Reacting to congratulations with enthusiasm.
But I couldn’t.
People asked those same questions. Same conversation. Same lifelong goal. Same me. And yet, I couldn’t feel the things I had felt before. Only apathy and a humming panic about the fact that I only felt apathy and even more panic because I know I’m not acting normally and I want so badly to pretend.
“Congratulations! How are you feeling?”
I try not to lie, so I settle for “overwhelmed.”
“I’m sure the joy will hit me soon,” I say. (Code for: don’t worry about me.) “But right now it feels surreal.” (Code for: my feelings didn’t show up to work today, so there’s an empty space where I know you expect me to have some emotion.)
* * * * *
It’s not just the numbness.
For me, depression also socks my motivation right in face. Then kicks it in the stomach for good measure.
The worse the depression, the harder it is to do anything.
Before I left for France, I did my physio stretches at least three times a day. I spent 30 minutes to an hour on my Portuguese consistently, every day. I set aside my writing time. I got things done.
Now, I struggle to stretch, to focus on my Portuguese. Making a phone call or running an errand takes twice the time it should, three times the energy. I go through the motions but it all feels hard, unfocused, pointless. Even though I know none of it is pointless. All of it is nudging me forward toward my goals.
But I can’t feel the nudge. Can’t feel the joy of things that normally bring me joy.
Allie Brosh’s corn kernel story speaks to me. I hope soon I’ll find my own proverbial corn kernel, the unknown magical thing that will snap its fingers and sew my shadow back on.
* * * * *
The good thing about getting older is that I know the shape of my depression now. I know that it passes.
In my twenties, I genuinely wasn’t sure it would pass. And the unbearable heaviness of thinking you may never feel anything again…that’s the worst kind of depression.
Now, I believe I will feel things again.
I just don’t know when.
* * * * *
There is no conclusion to this story. Just some truth.
I am depressed.
Well described. Big hugs. I was born into a lot of trauma that has continued to this day, so I’ve had to physically remove myself from it. But that doesn’t entirely stop it’s impact. At all. PTSD. Anxiety. Depression. A lifetime of familiar words. I’ve noticed how much it helps me when I have a cup or two of lavender chamomile tea upon waking. What a difference. Before that, it was matcha tea. Both are good, but some days I need one over the other. Keep up the effort to support your best health. You deserve it. And your sharing helps others.