I have been depressed, with high-functioning (concealed) depression for over 50 years.
It wasn’t until I spent 4 days in 5 East that I faced my depression. Until then, I had gotten through each episode and never looked back. There was no critique, no sense that I should do something different. It was over so let’s just move on and forget all about it.
Sadly, I lied to myself by thinking only I saw how low I was.’
To everyone I met, I would put on my, “I’m fine” face. I would ramp up my enthusiasm for the job, the after-school events, and social interactions. There was no way anyone was going to see what I was feeling inside. And most of the time I was feeling nothing. Having what I now can say out loud is depression, I was afraid to let anyone see that.
And the energy consumed daily to put on that show left almost nothing for self-care.
In fact, even the words self-care were foreign to me. I know there are things I do that are self-care. I had just never thought of self-care in that fashion. Working in the yard, mowing, trimming, and edging are all relaxing activities for me. And getting in the garden has been very therapeutic over the years.
Over the past three years, I have finally decided that I can say the words self-care out loud.
I read an article recently that got me thinking about depression. I am so mad at myself for not copying the URL of the article. So, I have searched my saved files and looked at all the Word files I have open. Generally, I am very good at capturing the link to the article. For one thing, it allows me to return to the article and re-read it. I always find something I missed the first time I read it.
More important than what I learned from reading is the fact that I cannot give credit to the author. (If you recognize this and would leave a reply message, I will update this blog post to include the author’s name and the URL to the original article.)
But now I have these two paragraphs on an open Word document, with no clue as to where I saw them.
Here’s what got me thinking about being depressed.
“I had mentally conditioned myself to bury myself in constant work,”
It is no coincidence that I have buried myself in work since I was 10 years old. Keeping busy makes it trickier for depression to find me. After all, it is much harder to hit a moving target. In my own version of reality, I too was conditioned to “carry the weight of the world with grace and a smile. Even when I felt helpless, there was just no room or time to be depressed or show sadness.”
My depressed, helpless state was a state of feeling nothing.
I understand better now why people would cut themselves. They are trying to feel something. And while I have never thought about or did cut myself, it is one form of feeling alive. People do a lot of things to feel alive. Extreme anything; car racing, scuba diving, mountain climbing, all can be a way to feel alive.
Each time I am depressed, I lose all of my emotions which makes feeling anything unimaginable.
Of course, now my depression has me using an unhelpful thinking style in the form of all-or-nothing thinking. I don’t lose all emotions 100% of the time when I am depressed. But it is true most of the time. I think about the change triangle and where I am on it at that moment when I am not feeling anything. Often, I am blocking my emotions.
Depression tells me it’s better if I don’t feel anything.
My depression will tell me it knows best, and I should only listen to it. Depression will encourage me to keep secrets. This is very true when I am depressed. Using another form of unhelpful thinking, I can be a mind reader. This allows me to play out the scene in my head, and reach a conclusion, Then I can move forward without the messiness of actually speaking to someone.
Depression and I have made what have turned out to be terrible decisions using secrets and mind reading.
And as I have said before, when I am depressed, I have my depression’s full support. I can tell it anything. We’ll mostly it tell me things and I listen. Even if I am not a big fan of the idea, depression will wear me down eventually. And then as I execute the plan, I see less and less depression. While depressed, my depression is my loudest cheerleader.
Yet I do not see or hear depression when it is time to pay the bill.
I relied on depression when I was at my worst. It is stressful not having depression dropping hints, tidbits of an idea, or sharing its (always one-sided) information.. And then I am all by myself when it is time to pay. I had a $9,000 hospital bill for my 4 days at 5 East.
Did my depression pay any of that $9,000?
Of course not. So, I alone paid that off. Now I must stay busy. After all, I need to keep busy at all times or something might happen. What that something could be isn’t very clear. And “I realized that every time I decided to slow down or attempted to rest from exhaustion, I immediately felt like a failure or that I wasn’t doing enough.”
I feel guilty if a sit for 30 minutes and watch a TV show.
This is why, with the exception of NCIS, if I do watch a TV show, it’s educational in some way. This allows me to spend up to an hour watching TV, with only a few minutes’ worth of guilt. I can always tell myself that it’s educational.
So, I am back to not calling myself depressed.
I did not acknowledge even to myself, that I was depressed. This is more out of fear of what they might say. That plus the stigma attached to any sort of mental illness makes those who are brave enough to share even braver in my estimation. Better to practice concealed (high-functioning) depression than to admit I have a lifetime partner who does not play well with others.
I am going to need to spend more time exploring this.
If you know the author of the quoted text, please let me know. I want so much to give her credit for sharing her challenges when she is depressed.