Depression tells lies.
They say people should write from their scars, not their wounds. In other words, don’t write about things while you’re still in the middle of them. Wait until you’ve gotten a little bit of distance, so you can write with wisdom and objectivity. If you’re in the depths, get yourself to therapy and stick to journaling.
That’s what they say – but I was never much of an advice-follower.
Right this minute, I’m writing this from the bottom of a fairly bad bout of depression; probably the fallout from a couple months of holding it together while I was homeless, residual trauma from being in an abusive relationship, and the stress of trying to navigate a new relationship. Combine all that with my general tendency toward depression and anxiety, and it’s no wonder I’m having a hard time.
So while I’m here, I figured it’s the perfect time to report on some of the thoughts depression plants in your brain. See, depression tells lies – only they don’t feel like lies. No matter how ridiculous and clichéd some of these thoughts sound, they feel very true in the moment. If you’ve ever struggled with depression, you’ll be familiar with many of these internal dialogues…
1. I’ll just stay in bed a little bit longer; it’ll be fine.
I’m at my most energetic in the morning; I usually wake up smiling and excited for a new day. So when I started to have trouble dragging myself out of bed recently, feeling like there was no pressing reason to get up and hitting the snooze button repeatedly, I knew something was up. It was never just a little bit longer, and it really wasn’t fine.
2. I don’t really need to exercise today.
Regular exercise is one of the things that helps me keep depression at bay. So it’s ironic that when I’m depressed, one of the first things I do is stop exercising. But hey – I’m not alone. This is a struggle from way back in the Elizabethan Age, when Shakespeare wrote, ‘I have of late — but wherefore I know not — lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory.’
You and me both, Hamlet.
3. I’ll start eating better tomorrow.
When I feel bad, I eat worse. I don’t even want to think about how much sugar I’ve consumed in the last few weeks. Did I mention I’m supposed to be training for a marathon right now? My training diet starts tomorrow. Really. (Total bullshit lie.)
4. Is that how I really look?
During a bout of depression, I can hardly bear to look in the mirror. My hair is a wild, wiry disaster, there are dark circles under my eyes, I’ve never had so many wrinkles, and I’m pretty sure I’m developing jowls. How long have I been walking around like this?
5. It won’t matter if I’m not there.
Bowing out of plans is a sure sign that I’m sinking into the depths. So even if I think I look terrible and no one will care whether I show up or not, I do my very best to put on some lipstick, throw back my shoulders, paste on a smile, and show up anyway.
6. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
Do you ever take inventory when you feel bad, trying to figure out what’s wrong? I call it “free-floating dread,” and it’s the worst.
But sometimes, what’s wrong is that you’re depressed. There doesn’t have to be a specific reason, outside of wonky brain chemicals bringing you down. You don’t need to drive yourself bananas trying to figure out why you’re depressed. You’re depressed because you’re depressed. It can be that simple.
7. Everyone else has their shit together better than me.
Short answer: no they don’t. But it sure can seem like they do – especially when you see them walking around looking happy and functional, and it took everything you had just to get out of bed. Remember: don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. You don’t know what’s going on with them. Really. And they probably think you’ve got it all together.
8. No one ever even notices me.
When you’re depressed, you can feel invisible – or maybe you wish you were invisible. Sometimes I can’t even figure out whether I want people to pay attention to me or leave me alone. And on that note, this seems like a good time to apologize to everyone who loves me. I know it’s not easy.
9. Everyone’s looking at me.
Conversely, sometimes being depressed means you think all eyes are on you. I get hyper-aware of myself and super self-conscious, sure that every person I pass on the street is passing judgment on me. This can make it, um, challenging to go anywhere.
10. I’m so dumb.
I think depression actually does make me dumb sometimes. It dulls my senses and slows me down. It makes me foggy. I can’t do simple math in my head, I walk into things, I go blank while I’m in the middle of a conversation . . .
Sorry. What was I saying, again?
11. No one would like me if they really knew me.
A really awful thing that can happen when you’re depressed is that you tend to seek out people who seem to somehow know all your secret worst thoughts about yourself, and who will tell you those things are true (read: toxic friends). They’ll tell you you’re lucky to have them as friends (or boyfriends, as the case may be), because you’re so weird and fucked up.
Try hard not to do this. You are great and everyone loves you. Don’t talk to anyone who tells you otherwise.
12.I’m always going to feel like this.
This is one of the worst lies depression tells. It feels so real, and so lonely. But you aren’t going to feel like this forever. Reach out for help, practice good self-care, and ride it out. The tide will turn. I’m right there with you at the moment, but trust me: I know this from experience.
13. I probably deserve to feel like this.
Don’t you just love it when you’re feeling completely isolated and despairing, and someone tells you you’ll never be able to be in a healthy relationship with anyone else until you’re happy being alone, and that no one else can love you until you love yourself? Oh, I guess I deserve to be alone and unhappy then – thanks a lot!
Fuck those people. (Not literally. Been there, done that. Not good, very bad.)
14.It’s too late.
If I was ever going to get it together, I’d have done it by now. I mean, I’m 40. I should own a house, have a great career and a retirement plan, and be celebrating a landmark wedding anniversary by now. Instead, I’m a mess. Too late, too late, too late.
I don’t have words of wisdom on this one, because I’m still in it. But I know, objectively, that it’s not true.
15. Everything is ruined.
You know when you think everything is horrible, and it will be horrible forever, and there’s no hope so you should just give up? My mom calls this catastrophizing. I think she picked that term up from her therapist. I’m really, really good at it.
16. I’m failing at everything.
This is how the refrain in my head goes: bad mom, bad girlfriend, bad friend, bad employee, bad person. I can make a convincing case for every one of those, too. When I’m depressed, the good stuff I do doesn’t count at all. I’m just failing all over the place, all the time.
17. No one cares about me.
Here’s where I’m lucky: I can’t actually believe this lie for any length of time, because my friends and family won’t let me. They text me and call me and drop by and do nice stuff for me constantly. They’re relentless.
Maybe the one good thing I’ve done – the thing I urge everyone to do – is to keep on reaching out to people and building relationships, no matter how low you feel and how hard it is. Open up about your struggles. Be honest. Be brave enough to be vulnerable with people.
Particularly for those of us who live with depression, it’s vital to surround yourself with loving and supportive people. You’re only alone if you choose to be. Don’t hole up and hide from the world. And seek help from a mental health professional as well, if you haven’t yet.
It’s worth it. I promise.
Images via giphy.com and wifflegif.com.
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