You Can’t Do It Alone

You can’t do life alone. No matter how much you want to be independent from everything and everyone, you need something bigger than yourself. Whether that something is God or friends or Google, we all need things outside of ourselves to keep us going, to help us in hard times, and to inspire us to be better.

I take an antidepressant. I have been taking this same medication for approximately a year and a half, and in general, I have been doing really well emotionally during that time. Sometimes though, I think that I am doing “well enough” to stop taking my medicine. I have never really liked medicine or doctors, and I am usually defiantly independent, so every few months or so, I try to lower my dose of medication or only take it every other day to see what happens. And honestly, it’s not a good experience. I might keep doing well for a few days, but slowly, I find myself drowning again. It becomes harder to see the light. A heaviness overwhelms me and I hurt for no explicable reason.

This last time of trying to get by on a lower dose of medicine has convinced me that it is not worth it. I would rather pay the money every month to buy my medicine than find myself contemplating suicide or wanting to give up on life. At one point I thought that accepting the possibility that I may need to take medication for the rest of my life was giving in to depression. If I have to keep taking medicine to avoid being depressed, then obviously the depression is still there, right? But I am coming to realize that taking antidepressants is the opposite of giving in to depression. As long as I am doing things to keep myself safe, to fight my depression, to keep on going, I am not giving in to anything (accept maybe happiness).

The truth is that we all need something to help us keep going. For some people, that something is running or doing some other form of sport or exercise. For others, that something is eating chocolate or avoiding sugar or doing something else that helps them feel good. I am coming to accept that medicine is what helps me to keep going. I also need friends and exercise and good food and sunshine and moments of silence offset by moments of crazy fun, but I can’t enjoy all those other things if my mental illness is keeping me from being able to be myself.

So, I am calling today a victory. I am deciding today to use the resources of modern medicine to help myself find peace. And I am encouraging you to do the same thing. Do not allow yourself to feel embarrassed or weak or less capable because you need something. Taking care of yourself is the strongest thing you can do, and no matter how you do that, if it works for you, it is the right thing to do.

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Hidden Depression

I don’t normally talk about hidden depression because I talk so much on this blog about depression that I hardly feel it is hidden from anyone. But today I was hiding my depression. And in reality, most days I hide my depression.

I broke down in church today as we started to sing “O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.” This song has been a soft spot for me over the years. I struggle with the thought of only the “faithful, joyful, and triumphant” being called to come celebrate the birth of Christ. Didn’t Christ come for everyone, including the broken and downtrodden and depressed? It bothered me so much that  I wrote my own version of the song one year. But today as I sang, I choked on the words. I want to come to Christ. I want to feel his presence in my life. But there are times when I just can’t handle it all. But instead of going to someone and telling them how I felt and seeking comfort, I left and stayed in my car until I could be okay again.

The truth is that I wanted to die today. I went to my car and wanted to drive away into nothingness and forget all the pain that I have ever felt. But I went back inside and talked to people and tried to be as friendly as I could. The problem is that I am depressed a lot. I feel lost and alone and hurt. But I don’t feel like I can tell anyone, perhaps especially my friends. I don’t understand why people are friends with me. But would they want to stay friends if they knew how much I struggle?

I convince myself to be strong. I convince myself that I am strong because if I wasn’t strong, I would never survive. I convince myself that I love life and that I am perfectly content with everything as it is because I can’t handle the pain of wanting anything other than what I have.  The truth is that I am depressed. I want to die. My greatest sacrifice is getting up every day and keeping on going.

I have good days and horrible days. But the real truth is that every good day I have is because I make a constant effort to make it a good day. I choose to constantly look towards the light. I choose to avoid the appearance of darkness because I know how easily it pulls me in. Then, something happens that reminds me that everything is not okay with the world. I am reminded that there are cruel people in this world, or I am reminded of my failures, or I am reminded that there are people struggling and suffering, and there is little I can do to change it. That is when I fall. I fall into the depths of depression and have to work to get back to the light.

My hidden depression is not so much hiding it from everyone else as hiding it from myself. I don’t usually show others how depressed I get, but I also don’t show myself how depressed I can be. I put myself in a bubble and protect myself from all the pain I don’t want to feel. I have been doing well, and I know I will feel well again. But I also know that I can only stay well as long as I stay in the light. Each time I fall, it is tempting to stay down. It is tempting to stop trying so hard to be okay. But people need me. I am needed and wanted, so I must become okay again. That is why I keep hiding depression so that it won’t block my light.

 

A New Person

It has been about a month since I last felt depressed. Realizing that I am not a bad person had a lot to do with that. Most people who know me would probably think it is strange that I would think of myself as a bad person, but it was the one belief that overpowered everything else in my life. It influenced every thought, action, and relationship. It ruled my life for so long that I hardly even recognized its influence because I was so accustomed to thinking that way.

I feel like a great weight has been lifted off me. I feel free. I used to be so scared all the time. I was scared of doing good things because I felt like a bad person so doing something good seemed hypocritical. I was also scared of not doing good things because I did not want to be a bad person. I was scared of getting close to people or making friends because I felt like it was just a matter of time before they found out how terrible I really was.

Looking back, my thoughts seem so strange. They did not make any sense. How could I be a bad person if I did not do anything to be mean or malicious or disrespectful? How could I be so bad if all anyone else saw in me was good? I guess that is how mental illness works though. Your thoughts are not inline with reality. Your thoughts directly contradict reality sometimes, but at the same time, your thoughts are reality. The way you see and think about the world is your reality, even if it is not true from the outside.

Now, I can look at how I used to think and see the flaws. I understand how I came to those beliefs and why I believed I was a bad person, but it is still difficult for me to believe I felt that way for so long. I mean, you would think that I would have noticed earlier. You would think that I would have recognized that these thoughts ruled my life. I guess I did recognize it to some extent, but I did not know how to change it. I would tell myself that my thoughts weren’t true, but I didn’t believe it. I believed my thoughts, not whatever I tried to tell myself.

I am not exactly sure what finally changed my thoughts. I had been going to therapy for a few weeks, and we were working on recognizing mental distortions.  I sat down one night and drew out my life and realized how and why I came to see myself as a bad person. I talked to my friends about it, and briefly to my therapist. Then one day, it was like all the pieces fit together in my mind. I recognized the lie and saw the truth, but, more importantly, I believed the truth.

I have felt like a new person since that time. The world seems brighter, more friendly and happier. I feel at peace with myself and everything around me. It is like clouds of darkness that had been there for years finally dispersed, and I can see the sun again. The strangest (and possibly most wonderful) thing is how I see my past now. I used to see hurt and sorrow and loneliness in my past. There were good times in the midst of that, but my general feeling was that the past was too painful to remember. Now, I see so much hope and light in past experiences. Even in the darkest times, I see the brightness of hope that was just beyond my view back then.

I am the happiest I have ever been! I wake up every day with a newness of life! The world seems wonderful and amazing! I see the beauty in everything! To someone that has been depressed for the majority of my life, it seems like a fairy tale and I am waiting to wake up or climb out of a rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. But this is real! The feelings are real because I have been freed from beliefs that weren’t real. It is not that I stepped into a better world, but rather that I stepped out of the darkness. I stepped out of a prison cell I did not know I was keeping myself in. Now I have a chance to be free, to find out what the world is really like without distorted lenses. I can’t express how truly excited I am to be alive now! The world is a beautiful place, and I am so excited to experience that beauty for the first time without anything distorting my view!

 

Depression Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Happy

I want you to know that depression doesn’t keep me from being happy. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but when we remember that depression is simply a mental illness, or in other words, sickness that occurs in the mind, it makes sense.

I have an undiagnosed medical condition that has prevented me from being able to eat normally. Although it can be serious at times and it means my eating habits widely differ from those of most people, I am overall fairly healthy. The same is true with my mental illness. Although I may have long periods of darkness when I see little light or hope in life, I am overall happy.

In fact, I am one of the happiest people I know. Even though I think about suicide sometimes, even though I still struggle with desires for self injury, even though I sometimes cry for hours at a time for no real reason, I am incredibly, undeniably happy.

Here’s the thing, life is incredibly difficult. There are hard things, painful things, things that make you want to cry or scream or even stop living. But there are also beautiful things, amazing things, things that make you want to jump up and down and shout for joy and sing your heart out.

I feel those things, all of those things, the good and the bad. Because I have autism, I feel the world around me more than most. Because of depression, I feel emotions within me more than most. Because of my life experiences, I am more acquainted than most with pain and beauty, suffering and peace, destruction and ugliness.

So I struggle with the noise inside of me. I struggle to reconcile the explosions of joy that I feel with the craters of hopelessness that I experience. I struggle to make sense of this beautiful, crazy, heartbreaking world we live in.

But I want you to know that though the depression returns, though my suicidal thoughts may not disappear, though I wade through depths of darkness and hopelessness, I am happy. My depression does not leave me desolate. I still have joy. I still jump up and down flapping my arms because my body cannot contain the excitement of my happiness.

Yes, I may be depressed, but depression does not always equal sorrow. I am still happy.

Forgive Yourself

Do you ever insult yourself for doing something good? Criticize yourself for helping someone out? Degrade yourself for trying to be happy or make someone else happy?

This is my daily reality. A constant barrage of self hate and degradation with the occasional word of encouragement that maybe this once I really did do something good.

I’m desperately trying to learn how to be kind to myself. It is difficult to change the way you see and talk to yourself after so many years of pain and hate, inflicting what I thought was justice on myself because I was unworthy of mercy.

Every time I think of it, I just want to hug myself and say, “It’s okay. You’re a good person. It’s not your fault they didn’t understand. It’s not your fault they yelled at you for trying to help. It’s not your fault. You did your best.

“Chewie… Please forgive yourself… They didn’t know how much it would hurt you or how guilty it would make you feel. They didn’t know that you would torture yourself for your mistakes. They didn’t know that by telling you not to do something, you understood that you were a bad person.

“Please forgive yourself. You do a lot of good. Forgive yourself for the times when you were trying to do good and were yelled at or told you were wrong or made to feel like you were a bad person. Forgive yourself for being good and then maybe you can forgive yourself for the times you are not so good.”

I wasn’t planning on posting especially about this kind of thing so close to the holidays, but tonight I just needed to feel like I’m not so alone. I don’t know if anyone else understands, but maybe this will at least give you a glimpse of why it is so hard for me to see the good in myself.

I Still Want to Die

Life is good. Life is super good. Everything is going well. I got into college with the major I want for my second bachelor’s degree. I got into the classes I need. My previous school work transferred well. My job is good. My family is great. I have more friends than ever, and they are completely amazing. Life couldn’t be much better.

Yet, I still lie in bed wanting to die sometimes. I’m not saying this for you to feel sorry for me or worry about me or reach out to me. I’m saying this because it’s real. And maybe because it’s real, I’m not alone. Maybe someone will understand and relate and connect. Maybe someone will not feel so alone after reading this, knowing that someone else feels this way too.

The hardest part about feeling this way is feeling like you can’t tell anyone. Because your life is good and you have no reason, no right to hurt… As if you were in control… And you break because you don’t know why, and you cry because there’s no excuse, and it makes you want to die more because you don’t deserve to feel sorry for yourself, you don’t deserve to be loved because you can’t even make yourself happy when you have every reason to be.

And the problem is that you are happy. You’re incredibly happy. And most of the time you feel like it. But you still want to die. In the darkness of your room, the darkness of your mind, you still think of death. And it seems so beautiful. And you don’t understand the fear because death seems like the only escape. But you are happy. I am happy. You keep repeating it to yourself because it doesn’t make any sense. Why do I want to die when I’m happy?

But it’s okay. It’s just a bad day. It’s just a bad night. Tomorrow will be better. Just go to sleep. Just sleep. Tomorrow will be better.

This was sort of written in a stream of consciousness style. I didn’t edit it. So hopefully it makes sense.

Depressed vs. Depression

What is the difference between feeling depressed and having depression?

The difference is, when you’re depressed, you feel better. It might be a bad day or even a bad week, but you get over it because it’s just the situation that hurt you. When you have depression, it’s not just a bad day or a bad week. It’s not something you can just get over or ignore.

Depression is a sickness. It’s not based on a situation. It’s a state of mind. You don’t just have a bad day or a bad week. You don’t wake up the next day, after crying yourself to sleep, and feel better. You wake up the next day and the day after that and the day after that, and you still want to die. Everything goes perfectly and life is amazing, but you still want it to end. You want the pain that shouldn’t exist to end.

And you don’t get over it and you will never get over it until the depression goes away. And there’s no good explanation for it. And you try to convince yourself that it will be okay, but you can’t because it isn’t and it won’t be, at least not now. You don’t just feel sad; you are sad.

And it’s a sadness that cuts you to the core, that permeates the very essence of your being. And you forget what it’s like to not feel this way. And you forget that life has ever or could ever feel any different. And you drown in yourself. And you try everything to get out.

You spend time with people, and you exercise, and you eat healthy, and you try to make yourself useful and serve and help others, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change you. It doesn’t dispel the darkness. And you drown again because you don’t understand what you’re doing wrong.

And that’s the problem with depression. The problem is you think you’re doing something wrong, and maybe everyone else does too, but you’re not. You’re not doing anything wrong, and it’s okay.

It’s okay to be depressed. It’s okay to have depression. It’s okay for your normal to be most people’s worst day. It’s okay to want to die, to want the pain to end. It’s okay to be unable to function normally for a while.

I say it’s okay, not to suggest that it’s good or that you shouldn’t want to be better, but to say that when you’re sick, you get better. When you’re hurting, you don’t have to hurt yourself more. You don’t have to degrade yourself, or hate yourself, or put yourself down for feeling this way. It’s okay to be sick, and you will get better.

And when you find yourself depressed again, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have depression again. It could just be a bad day. But if it isn’t, and it doesn’t go away, it’s okay. It’s okay to be kind to yourself. It’s okay to love yourself and take care of your brokenness. It’s okay to have depression just as much as it’s okay to have a cold. It’s a sickness, and you will get better. It will be okay.