I had a truly lovely and perfect weekend. Afterwards, I came home to instantly fall into a pit of depression, and those two sentences don’t quite make sense together. You see, depression is a difficult illness for approximately five billion reasons. For me, one of the most irritating is that I have found that even the best days can still end with me feeling dreadful, because (much to my frustration) there is not always correlation between my mental health and my experiences. While everyone has off days, for many people good days lead to good moods and bad ones lead to…well…bad ones. It makes perfect sense. Depression, however, enjoys being nonsensical.
I have tried to create a system to help myself when I feel utterly hopeless. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but I always try to give it an honest shot. It is mostly comprised of distracting myself with things I enjoy doing, talking to my friends and resting until the Dementors (more commonly known as depression) in my brain start to move on. When all else fails, I turn to a crisis hotline. The weight of my depression last night became too much, and I felt myself slipping, so I made the decision to call. A kind woman answered and after the initial questionnaire asked what prompted me to reach out to her. She listened through my entire soliloquy patiently.
Towards the end of the conversation we talked about how I might cope with this illness that I often feel I have no control of. This part of the conversation can sometimes be frustrating. I become annoyed because it can seem like very generic coping mechanisms are introduced to me, and though the others are trying their best, it doesn’t always help. I was surprised when the first thing she asked me was not, “what do you usually do to help yourself?” like I had experienced so many times before, but rather asked, “when was the last time your depression was this severe to the point of complete hopelessness?”
I was slightly stunned by this unexpected question. After a moment of thought, I replied that the last I remembered was two Thursdays ago, when I felt like a I was crumbling completely. She then followed with, “so it has been a little over a week since you last felt this terrible. That means that in between that time, there were parts that were far less horrible, and some that were even good.” This was truly a revelation to me. I had never thought of it this way, but she was completely right.
I admitted how wowed I was by her take on the matter, and that I had never had it presented to me in such a way before. I continued on to explain that because I also have PTSD and Anxiety Disorder on top of my depression I struggle to stay in the moment. We both agreed that since I cannot stay in the moment, I can try to look forward and back at more positive things rather than negative experiences that only worsen my mental health. If my mind demands to leave the moment, I can at least have some say in what it is going back to revisit, or what it is looking ahead towards. I can have at least a little more control. I really adored this sort of thinking, because it wasn’t about forcing me to get over it or cheer up, but instead encourages me to better navigate the current predicament.
When I hung up I started to feel that some of the monstrous weight of my depression had been alleviated. I wasn’t completely okay, but I began to feel hopeful about the fact that I had been given a new, truly effective way to handle my depression, and felt a spark of excitement as I contemplated how I would go about using them in the future.
Yesterday I described depression to the woman on the phone as if I was sitting in a house that was melting around me. It feels like there is nothing I can do to save myself or the house; I am completely stuck. While my depression sometimes does lead to complete apathy, most of the time it comes with an array of emotions. It is comprised of impossible exhaustion, crippling sorrow, and overwhelming fear that seeps deep into me. I despise how I am during my depressive episodes and I would do anything to get avoid them. However, I must gently remind myself that improving from any illness is a journey. I have had my depression as well as most of my illnesses the majority of my life; most of them are incurable. I may have depression for the rest of my life, and I may never be fully cured of it. But if I can learn to cope with it even at its most intense and move through it, then I have a fighting chance at life, with or without my mental illness.
Note: Since childhood I always described depression as an insidious, black, shapeless thing that takes over my mind. It only occurred to me last week that the closest thing that is similar to this is Dementors – I will probably use this imagery in my writing for the rest of forever.
I missed the last bus, I’ll take the next train,
I try, but you see, It’s hard to explain.
I said the right things, but act the wrong way,
I like it right here , but I cannot stay.
I watched the TV, forget what I’m told,
Well I am too young, and they are too old.
The joke is on you, this place is a zoo,
You’re right, it’s true.