Living with any kind of long-term illness is a challenge, living with an invisible disability can feel almost impossible sometimes.
Depression is a debilitating illness that affects millions of people worldwide and yes, it is a deadly disease. While many other illnesses can wreak havoc on your immune system, strength, diet, schedule, and overall greatly impact your day-to-day life, depression can do all of this and more. Yet because it’s been portrayed as something used synonymously to feeling very sad, a feeling that happens to all when going through bad times, or simply an emotion we must learn to control – in private- makes depression incredibly hard to treat and hard to live with. But here is how I’ve lived with depression as an invisible disability, proudly.
One of the most common signs of depression is feeling complete apathy for things you used to enjoy. This is one of the hardest things to cope with when the very same things that would bring you incredible amount of joy and laughter suddenly don’t produce the same response in you. It’s as if you have to figure yourself out all over again, what you do and don’t like but then you go and find out you don’t like anything.
You end up discovering you don’t want to do anything besides sleep or just lie in one position indefinitely. It’s debilitating and a continuous struggle to continue to fight it, fight yourself and your thoughts daily, hourly sometimes every single second is a struggle… but this is why it’s okay in spite of all that, to be proud of yourself.
I’m going to use my story as an example.
I’ve been in a lot of therapy for the past few months since I disappeared from this blog for a bit. I’m still by no means okay or ready or stable even. However, some days like today, I feel a little bit okay, just a little bit and I remind myself that this shit is hard.
There are books and entire doctrines dedicated to teaching individuals how to fight, how to be masters of war, how to defeat physical threats but what about the threats inside your own mind? How do you fight yourself? You see, when you’ve had depression for as long as I can recall, my depression is not just an inanimate object.. it’s more than a diagnosis.. my Depression is that, Depression with a capital D because it is very much its own entity, it IS me. At least it’s a side of me, there’s ‘Me & my Depression’ everywhere I go.
That even sounds like a bad TV show but if it were made, it would definitely be an action packed and very well-rounded show because it would depict my Depression, the bully, me hopelessly clinging onto it for dear life. What an entertaining paradox, right?
It would show how in the best of times, my Depression is what can keep me grounded and guarded, sometimes to an extreme that keeps me indoors all day but when there’s terror and real reasons for me to be afraid my Depression is the thing that keeps me safe and helps me navigate stressful situations so that I can just BARELY scrape past them alive.
Each and every time there’s a new obstacle my Depression, while perhaps not the first resource I should turn to, My Depression has been my Best Friend, even my Only Friend at times.
There have been countless times in my life where I felt unsafe, where I was a victim of some kind and the only reason I was able to get by was because my Depression kept me safe by giving me the ability to dissociate from the things around me so I wouldn’t feel the trauma of them or the pain.
My Depression kept me safe by forcing me to over think every move I made, every thing I said at times because that would help me blend in, it would help me make sure I didn’t say something that would put me in harm again.
My Depression kept me safe by imagining an escape to a difficult life when it knew I couldn’t hold on much longer.
So can you imagine trying to go into therapy because now you’re realizing your Depression is also giving you physical phantom pains, it’s messing with your digestive tract, it’s taking away your enjoyment of food because you’re never hungry.
My Depression also gave me severely distorted perceptions of what people think of me, of the worth I have, of what it means to be close to people.
My Depression taught me how to avoid getting close to people, how to be sociable without ever being vulnerable and actually sharing anything of value.
My Depression showed me how to become a stone-cold at the drop of a hat if I needed to adapt to a new situation.
Somehow sudden, yet I’ve always expected this, my Depression started ruining your ability to go to school, to participate, to complete assignments, to go to work even though I did nothing except sit and maybe file papers.
Suddenly I can’t climb the stairs, I start noticing how getting out of bed and putting on clothes becomes a chore, showering is impossible to get started some days, my room is a mess, my hair hasn’t been brushed in a week probably, and then one day I can’t get out of bed so I crawl. I crawl to the closet and try to put on clothes but I can’t stand up. I sat there staring up at everything around me and wonder – “what broke me?”
*** (Trigger Warning: The conversation depicted between Me and my Depression below includes triggering topics like depression, Suicidal Thoughts, self blame/hatred, ED thoughts/eating disorder common trigger words and phrases)
Me: “How did I get here?”
Depression: “It’s obviously your fault, you did this, you’re the one who couldn’t keep up with cleaning, it’s your fault you haven’t done laundry and have nothing to wear, you’re so stupid you can’t even pretend to look decent, ohmygod everyone else knows you’re a mess, you don’t belong here, did you really think you could make it? You’ve failed at everything else, no one has ever cared if you do well or not, so why should you? It’s really funny how you thought you could make it through this. C’mon, you know it’s pointless, I mean seriously who gives a fuck? You shouldn’t. You can’t do anything properly, you’re not cut out for this. Everyone around you can tell you don’t belong here. You’re not pretty enough. Not thin enough. Not smart enough. Not outgoing enough. Not kind enough. Not worth anything. You’re worthless. Seriously. You. Are. A. Mess. This is all your fault because you are such a mess. You might as well die. You already know you can’t make it in this life, you can’t complete anything, just die- right now – there’s nothing holding you back anymore. You won’t have to worry about being a pathetic piece of shit that never did anything worthwhile. You won’t have to feel this shitty ever again. All this bad stuff will go away. Who cares what happens after, people move on, you’ll probably go to hell sure, but isn’t this life already hell? It’s your life, and you know how dysfunctional it is, you know how fucked up you truly are and you know you can’t make it in this world, why not just stop the ride now?”
My Depression, the thing that kept me safe and helped me get through so much is attacking now. It does this from time to time but I figure that this is what happens to anyone or anything that spends enough time with me, eventually they’ll hate me and tell me to go die.
This might be common, sometimes these attacks are easier to deal with… other times, it makes sense. Actually it makes sense all the time to me at least, but sometimes you might feel like you still have something left you could do for the world and that’s enough to bear through it. Other times, like when you’ve crawled to your closet because you couldn’t walk only to get there and not even be able to reach for your clothes because your arm is too heavy, these times the thoughts make too much sense. Living another second seems unbearable.
You see, I’ve had these attacks happen a few times and it’s never easy. The first couple times I self-harmed to ease the pain, I did things that hurt but wouldn’t kill me, thinking that if I hurt myself more I’d feel the other pain of existing, less. That I’d somehow be reminded that I’m alive and I can still be hurt more so this obviously isn’t the worse pain I could feel.
Next I learned to try to just sit with those thoughts and let them pass. I did that a few times and ended up with lots of numbness, lots of distance and dissociation. Pulling yourself out of a panic attack is hard but trying to sit with those feelings is unbearable and terrifying. Sitting with feelings of wanting to kill yourself? Well fuck.
I know these aren’t stories you might identify with or recognize at all, what I’m trying to say though is that this is a process. A hella long process. Imagine living with your invisible disability in ancient, magical catacombs like Indiana Jones or something. Every boulder that comes crushing everything in its path that comes towards you might be pushing you to run towards something much more dangerous, or better perhaps but you have no choice other than to run -or die. Depression, at least for me, has been a lot like that. On some occasions, I later found out that that boulder helped me evade some really dangerous room with poisoned arrows aimed only to maim, not kill me and it would have been much worse to go through that than to run away from the boulder. I could have let it crush me and be over with trying to escape these catacombs but I’m still pretty certain there’s a gem or something of value to me that I can find and take out of here and go show it to the outside world.
Despite this being an unfinished story with lots of walls and hidden, mile-deep pits still waiting for me to fall into in the future, I’m proud of myself. I’ve learned how there’s been good things that came from bad places. Much like the lotus flower I use on my page, a beautiful flower emerging from murky, muddy, traditionally ugly places. That’s how I wish to see my life, as a terrible start but hopefully with a surprising and miraculous ending. A lot of the work is just accepting that there has been a lot of bad.. and then trying to dig and figure out if there was anything good too.
Depression is one of the hardest and most vile disorders even when it’s just an episode, struggling through one episode of depression in a lifetime is enough to end someone’s life. So fuck yeah, I’m proud. I know I am a fucking warrior. I accept the fact that this takes a very different kind of strength that even though I feel weak, I recognize there’s something deep inside that makes me fight. I don’t even know what I’m fighting for but I’m proud of the fact that I’ve made it this far. I’m proud knowing I live with depression and still exist. For now, existing is all I can do. Some days breathing is all I do and that is a good day. Any day I don’t kill myself is still a “good” day.
Mental health illnesses are fucking shit. The strongest weapon and most readily available tool against the illness’ are your thoughts. Fighting against your thoughts, with other thoughts is the hardest thing I have to do every day. But fuck it, I have great thoughts that shouldn’t be hiding away scared just because my Depression shouts louder than them. So I need to create the space for those thoughts to have a voice.
The safest spaces for me are those where the stigma against mental health illnesses is challenged and I’m able to speak freely about my experience.
This blog is a safe space for me and for others, I hope, because I’m using my true voice. The voice I want to give to the world, the voice that doesn’t want to hurt myself or cause any undue pain.
I have a voice and I can speak up. I will speak up.
Will you speak up for yourself?
If not, can you do it for your friends and/or family, for the celebrities you like, and that author you love on Wattpad who’s struggling. If you think there’s no mental health illnesses around you, perhaps someone is trying really hard to be sure you aren’t aware of it or you just don’t know how to recognize it – OR if you can’t speak up for yourself because it’s scary, not safe for you to do so, or for any other reason you aren’t ready – if you can’t find someone to speak up for, do it for me?
In order to end this stigma, it takes courage to speak up about it, about going through it but the single most bizarre thing you can do is praise the warrior going through all this.
That warrior is You, remind yourself whenever you can that You are a badass warrior who does a bunch of ninja shit all day long in that marvelous brain of yours. Whatever empowers you, embody that, use that to push you further until it’s obvious to you how badass you really are.
Speak up. We can all do it and help each other own our mental health illnesses and talk back to the thoughts ruining our lives.
This was prompted by: