My depression started when I was fifteen, and like many others, I find it hard to pinpoint exactly when, as it crept in so slowly that I didn’t even recognise what it was at first. It has stolen the majority of the years since. The people I have shared it with don’t always react as you would hope, but fortunately, some do accept my mental illness and struggle. A friend once asked me, while inebriated, what it actually feels like. She said that she felt sad sometimes but couldn’t imagine feeling that sad, all the time. She couldn’t understand feeling so sad that you don’t think it could get better, that you consider the alternative to be preferable.
So I decided to write this piece, to give you a little sneak peek into the mind of Depression. It won’t be the same for everyone, and I’ll do my best to offer a generalised account but no two people feel the same. Maybe you’ll recognise the things I mention, maybe you won’t, but I hope that by giving you a few minutes of the darkness, you’ll recognise how beautiful the light truly is and that everyone deserves to experience it.
You wake up, if it even is waking up, as you slept so poorly, tossing and turning all night. You wake up, and you already know that today is ruined. It’s not a thought or an idea, but a concrete fact within you. It’s in the heaviness of your chest, sinking down into the bed. It’s in your mind that begins to remind you of every awful thing you’ve ever done or said, every person that could be talking about you right this second. It’s in the thick blockage of your throat, that you keep trying to swallow to no avail.
A sigh. A sound so familiar to you, that no longer brings you any release.
You consider staying there, never leaving your bed. You’re not happy in your bed, but you’re happier than out of it. You just feel so tired of everything. What is the point in getting up? You’re not good at anything, you don’t make any difference. Wouldn’t it be easier to just never leave? At least here you’re not ruining other peoples lives.
But you get up because you know you should. You pull on clothing, barely caring what it is, and cover your face in the mask for the day. You eat food because you should. Barely tasting it, merely taking in the nutrients to do everything that you have to do. Sometimes you eat and eat, just to fill that hole inside of you, but nothing helps. It only worsens the guilt and hatred. Every step feels weighted as if gravity is conspiring against you and dragging you down. You open your front door, and you know that you should see sunshine. And you do, but not as others do. It’s like sunglasses are permanent shielding your eyes, making everything darker than it should be, tinting the world grey.
You see people, and you force a smile or even make jokes, playing the role that is expected of you. They look at you, and they don’t see it. They don’t see the pain behind your eyes. For a second, you imagine telling them that you think about dying, that your long sleeves are covering the breakdown of the evening before. Would they be scared, horrified or even surprised? You want to tell them, to make it all stop, to make the dark voices go away and share the heavy load that you have to carry. But that feels selfish, the words feel impossible to form, so you paint a smile and pretend to be okay.
Every minute that passes only exhausts you more. You feel so tired, so grey compared to the energy everyone exudes around you. You can’t stop your mind from wandering. When people speak to you, it feels like their words float right past you. You’re going through the motions, but you would rather be anywhere but here, but the problem is that you feel this way everywhere. You’re starting to wonder if you’ll ever be happy. People say it gets better, but it doesn’t feel like it will. You’re doubting if you have it in you to be happy, maybe you’re just broken.
You make a mistake, a small thing. Anyone else would have forgotten about it minutes later. But you don’t. You remember it, you dwell on it, your mind picking it apart, shredding your confidence to pieces. You always mess up, you always ruin things, you’re the problem. Everything would be so much better if you weren’t around. The bad thoughts come back in, they make you feel guilty. You gaze around you, if only they knew the thoughts stealing your mind right now.
Finally, you get home. You say you’ll clean up and work on things, be productive. But you don’t. You sit down and the hours fly by. It feels like you’re barely there anymore. Once again you wonder if you’re even real, but this pain inside of you is so real that it quenches your doubt. Maybe you cry. Tears run down your face, they feel foreign to you. There is so much sadness that it chokes you, but you don’t even know where it stems from. Your limbs ache, you crawl into a ball but everything still hurts. You’re desperate to release the pain, to feel good just for a second.
The day ends just how it began. You lie in bed, your tiredness weighs you down but your mind stays awake, evading sleep. You want to sleep, it’s the only place you feel safe from yourself. You wish someone could hold you, make you feel safe, make you feel like everything will be okay, even if it won’t.
When that friend told me that they couldn’t imagine what depression was like, I realised that I couldn’t imagine what a mind without depression is like. I can’t imagine being horrified at the idea of hurting yourself. I don’t know what pure, unfiltered happiness is like. Even my moments of joy have grey blurry edges. So maybe I need someone to write an article about that for me.
But now after a correct diagnosis and therapy trajectory, I get to be one of those people that tells you that it gets better. Because it does. Every day it gets a little lighter, especially when you discover that you are far from alone in the dark room. It won’t be easy and not every day will have sunshine, but there will be at least a glimpse to push you forward. And now that you know the pain, you have the empathy to support others and lift them with you.
If you could relate to any of this, you can now see that you are far from alone. We are all in this together, we are strong, and we are powering on. Maybe this could help a loved one to understand your struggle that little bit more, to empathise with the unimaginable.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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