Depression is drowning in an ocean of despair while another part of you is cutting away your lifeline that would keep you from drowning. Can you imagine how frightening that could be? Imagine fighting that fight every day.
Depression can come and go for me. I have good days, bad days, and really, really bad days. It can be mixed with anxiety, isolation, fright, sadness, physical pain, and so many other things. It’s a silent, internal fight with yourself that I can sometimes keep hidden from the world; sometimes it’s so intense I just can’t hide it anymore. It seeps out of me despite my efforts of holding it in.
For the last couple of weeks, especially this past week, the depression has been intense. Gratefully, I’ve been able to hide it when I’m out and about with people (which is usually just at work). At work, I spend my slow time reading Star Wars because it’s better to be active in a fictional world rather than in my head. At home, I throw myself into whatever I can get into. I clean, draw, write, or watch I Love Lucy. I actively seek out activities that keeps my mind active on something else or can make me laugh. Watching Lucy get into a variety of predicaments or watching Kristen Bell in The Good Place has never failed to make me laugh.
I’ve gone out of my way to work on drawings that I’ve either been working on for months or have been wanting to work on for a while now. Over the past weekend, I was able to finish two drawings I’m proud of.
And I’d be lying if it didn’t make me smile when I share my drawings on Twitter and Eva LaRue says she loves my drawing. For me, I have to hold onto the smallest forms of happiness to help me smile. There’s nothing on Twitter that I couldn’t love more than Eva tweeting me back.
Despite the bitter cold setting in where I live and the rainy days, I found time to put myself outside with my camera. The leaves were peaking over the weekend (I’m certain the rain has torn most of the leaves away from the trees after last night). I spent 15 minutes at the train station down the road from me, capturing gorgeous Fall photos.
Getting out in nature has always been my antidepressant for years. How could I skip the chance to enjoy the beautiful Fall colors in the mountains of Western Maryland?
Despite my every attempts at leaning on my coping mechanisms to keep myself from myself, I failed in fighting off the depression. However, I survived the week…that counts for something.
I learned a long time ago that having a support group to lean on was imperative to my survival. I’m an introvert, but having a small group to lean on for support is important to me. There are times, especially over the past week, where I felt I was such a burden on the people around me that I should stop leaning on them. Even tonight in a conversation with a friend I confided I’m simply worried I’ll wear people out and they’ll stop talking to me. Heck, I would stop talking to myself if I could sometimes. Despite my worries of being a burden, some of my support group continued to be there for me. I could not be more grateful for them.
Going through college was awkward for me because I worked full-time while going to school and raising my younger brother. However, I was incredibly lucky to find a kindred spirit through my English classes. She has been incredibly supportive, and I feel absolutely grateful I found someone who understood me…someone I could be absolutely open with without negative ramifications. I’m so very lucky she puts up with me. She constantly reminds me I’m not a burden to her or anyone else, and she promised to continue reminding me of that. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry.
Despite her busy schedule, another close friend continually reached out to me when she could to check in on me.
A beloved mentor had tea with me twice in a row. I did bribe her with brownies this week, but knowing she must enjoy my company enough to have tea with me has helped a light blossom in what has been a very, very dark week. It is easy to meet with her and simply joke about my “unsurprising bad luck” in my life while still understanding how difficult it can be for me. It’s hard to find someone you can speak to about serious things while simultaneously being comfortable enough to simply laugh about it. For me, sometimes that’s all I need is someone from the outside to sit with me in my vulnerability and to help me laugh about it.
Through Facebook, another beloved professor of mine reminded me I wasn’t a burden…I am a blessing. I cried.
For me, my support is everything. My family tends to lash out at me for how I feel or how I behave. I survive by reaching out, or being reached out by, my support group. To help myself remember how much I’m truly cared for, I have worked on my “happy book.” It’s been a great project of mine since this past Spring. I’ve taped everything in there that would remind me how much I’m cared for: text messages, emails, Facebook messages, tweets, cards, and even pictures of those that care for me. I tape particular emails from my therapist that help remind me how strong I am or whatever advice she offers outside of our usual meeting times. Maybe I cry too much, but one of her emails struck so hard for me that I cried for a while after reading it. Yes, that one absolutely went into the book.
Some anonymous angel cared for me so much they are helping me reach the Dominican Republic in January on a volunteer trip with the study abroad department. I’ve always wanted to study abroad, but my situation never allowed me that opportunity. Despite my best efforts to raise the money or save it, I couldn’t afford the trip on my own. To remind myself how much this angel must care for me, I saved pictures of the places I’ll be traveling to on my computer as a reminder. Today, I got my first passport!
I’ve worked my darnedest to fight the depression. Add in the misfortunes of slicing my hand open on a can of green beans (don’t ask) and slamming my head on the bottom stair inside my apartment this morning, it hasn’t been the best week physically either. Drawing was painful after cutting my hand. By Saturday, the carpal tunnel in my right wrist (which is my cut hand) acted up and spread into my elbow. By that night, I would have been content to be put out of my misery.
I spent the weekend persuading myself no one cared. I was a burden on everyone. How could I have friends that I would just push away through my depression? Gratefully, the cut on my hand saved me from any self-harm that would have occurred over the weekend. That was enough pain for me. I was frustrated with myself for feeling so depressed. I was angry with myself for ruining my own weekend off. I had so much pent up I truly thought I would explode.
If you ever said you could go through life without friends or support, I wouldn’t believe you. Having someone around has been a blessing for me. For me, I can’t walk alone with my depression without some kind of support from someone else. As Brene Brown and my therapist reminds me, we’re wired for connection with others. I may have been jumping up and down figuratively on Facebook trying to reach out to someone, but people always found a way through to me without my help. I’m absolutely horrible in reaching out to people. Heck, asking my mentor for a tea visit today was stressful enough! How can I ask someone for what I need without sounding needy or dramatic? I’m learning how to do that. People always found a way through to me. My friend from college sent me a Facebook message saying she wanted to let me know she loved me. Yeah, I cried. So what if I’m sensitive? Small sentiments like simple messages or tea dates make me cry because it reminds me I’m not a waste of space, I’m not a burden, and I’m wanted in this world.
Reaching out to people is scary. It’s tough. It takes practice. I’ve tried to stress this in earlier blogs, but I encourage you to find your support group. Practicing reaching out. Figure out what you need when times are tough and express that to you who reach out to. Search for empathy, not sympathy. You don’t need people to feel sorry for you. You don’t want to come off as the only person in the world who suffers with this. You’re not alone in this, and this is important to remember. Search for empathy. Search for people who can sit with you in that moment of vulnerability and try to understand what it’s like for you or who can pull from their own experiences and sit with you in that moment.
I know I’ll never truly defeat the depression, but I’m assured every day, whether directly or indirectly, that I don’t have to walk through it alone.