The Gap

It’s 6 a.m. I’ve almost been awake for two hours. I have two finals today. I should probably study for them but I don’t really feel like it. Instead I’ve been reading stories online and singing songs in my head. But mostly when I wake up this early, I just think.

I am not like anyone I have ever met. Honestly, I don’t know anyone that thinks like me. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe it just means that I need to get to know more people. But I wake up at 4 a.m. singing Disney songs. I think about people all the time. I’m a people pleaser and people watcher and people analyzer. My best friend was frustrated with another friend of hers, and I told her what was probably going on. She told me later that I had been right. I’ve just spent my entire life learning about people, but I feel like I hardly know anything.

There seems to be a gap between me and the rest of the world. I have a lot of friends. Most are distant or just slightly closer than being an acquaintance, but they are friendly and we talk sometimes. I just feel separated. There seems to be a gap keeping me from becoming better friends with people.

I contemplate suicide a lot. It’s mostly in the quiet moments like this that I think it would be easier to just go, to silently slip out of everyone’s life. In truth, I never really want to die. I just want my situation on the outside to fit my feelings on the inside. I feel so far away from people emotionally that I just want to be that far away from them physically, like on another planet type of distance. Or I feel so torn up on the inside that I just want to be torn up on the outside to match all the things I’m feeling.

I know I’m going to do fairly well on my finals today, mostly because I don’t have to do very well. I have already calculated my grades and my final won’t make much of a difference. There’s something about life that I have never understood- how can it be so hard and so easy at the same time? I don’t think life is really that hard or complicated. You find something you want to do, learn how to do it, do your best at it, and try to make friends and have fun along the way. Yet, there is a dichotomy and a distance between physical life and emotional life. I want to be loved. I want to feel needed and wanted and important. That’s what we all want, right? And I know that I am. I am loved and needed and wanted. But there still seems to be a gap. Does everyone have that gap or is it just a product of my own creation?

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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.

 

Living for the Good and the Bad

I have not wanted to die in about two weeks. This is the longest I have felt well since the two weeks last year between getting out of my worst episode of depression and being involved in a serious car accident. I feel as though I have gone through hell twice over the last two years. I went from being in the most pain I had ever been through emotionally and mentally to being in the most pain I had ever endured physically. There were so many days of wanting to give up, days where the pain was so bad that I would have done anything just to make it stop. But I finally feel like myself again. I feel free from the pain that dominated my life.

It is interesting how you look at things when you get better. I would not trade the last two years for anything. It was the most difficult time of my life, but also a time when I grew exponentially. I am not who I was two years ago. I am not even who I was two months ago. I have grown so much in these difficult circumstances. I found out what I am made of, who I am at my core, and what I am capable of. I have conquered my greatest giants of self-loathing, fear, and doubt. I have learned to trust. I have learned how to be vulnerable. I have learned that I have worth, that I am loved, and that I am strong and kind and giving.

The last two years have been both the best and worst of my life. Sometimes we think that things are all good or all bad. The glass is either half empty or half full. We are either happy or not. But maybe the glass just is. Maybe we just are. And maybe it is enough just to be- to be here, to be alive, to be human. The last two years have taught me that sometimes you have to go through the worst to discover the best that life has to offer. And no matter what happens, there is always good. Even when life is so completely horrible that you do not want to be here one more second, there is good.

I am glad that I stayed for the good… and for the bad. Sometimes we make life seem like only the good is worth living for. That’s not true. The bad is worth living for, too. Not because it is fun or happy or easy, but because it molds us. The bad things in life are the things that make us better. It is through our suffering that we learn compassion, forgiveness, love, endurance, perseverance, patience, strength, and many of the best qualities we can possess. We must choose to live for both the good and the bad, so that when things get hard, we keep going and refuse to give up.

So, here’s to living for everything this world has to offer- the good, the bad, and the mundane. Here’s to constant improvement and progression. Here’s to changing and learning and being. And here’s to better days ahead. 🙂

Depression and Happiness

Happiness has about as much to do with depression as hygiene has to do with being healthy.

Happiness definitely influences depression, and it is an important thing to learn in overcoming and living with depression, but there is so much more to treating depression than learning to be happy.

Depression is like a blanket that covers you from everything around you. It makes it hard to see the light. It makes you feel like there is nothing else in the world but how you feel right now. But as bad as it is, it makes you feel safe somehow. It makes you feel like if you stay in that state, if you isolate, if you don’t do anything but stay in bed and cry, you won’t have to deal with all the worse things in the world. Because while others around you see a world filled with light and hope, and they wonder why you are staying under a blanket when you “don’t have to,” you see the dark shadows of the world. 

You see the demons that hide inside of you and everyone else. You have nightmares that wake you up or make it hard to sleep. You feel the pain of the world- the hurt and neglect, the children that are abused or starving, the wars and violence and men and women that show no respect for others, that take advantage of people and tear people down and take away another person’s ability to feel human. You hear the screams that no one else seems to notice. You see the pain in the eyes of someone that has been hurt. 

In the depths of depression, depression can feel like a safe place because depression shows you everything wrong with the world and tells you that it is hopeless to fight against the dark and the only way to find peace is to get out. Depression tells you that getting out of depression will only make you have to face a broken world with no filter, with nothing between you and the hurt. Depression is your shield in an uncertain world because depression is very dependable.

Depression is there at the end of the day when the world is quiet and there is nothing left in you. Depression is there when you wake up in the morning. It is there when you eat your cereal and get ready for your day. And it is there anytime you need it. If something hurts you during the day, depression is there to surround you with grief and tell you it’s okay to cry. Depression is there because sometimes people are not.

People can tell you to stop crying, to suck it up, to get over it, that things aren’t that bad, that you’re exaggerating, that you have no reason to be sad or upset, that you just need to try harder or think happy thoughts or pull yourself out of it. When people are not understanding, depression is there to turn to. When you feel isolated and alone, depression is there to stay with you. 

Depression is comforting. It doesn’t expect you to fix yourself or make yourself happy or get better. In fact, depression is perfectly content if you never improve. And that in itself is comforting. It is comforting to not have any expectation of change or progress because those things are hard, and depression doesn’t expect you to ever improve.

Depression has little to do with happiness because depression is everything. It is an entire world, an entire being, and an entire state of mind. Depression is not about being happy. It is about learning to cope in a world with unhappiness. Depression is about living in a world that is broken, that is imperfect, that is difficult and sometimes impossible.

The most surprising fact about depression, for people who don’t understand it, is that you can be happy and still be depressed. You can be amazingly happy, incredibly happy, ridiculously happy. You can be laugh out loud and dancing in the rain kind of happy, but just outside of that happiness or underneath that happiness or coexisting with that happiness is a depth of discouragement and hopelessness. Depression does not steal your happiness. Depression masks your happiness. And sometimes happiness masks your depression.

I see depression as the absolute acknowledgement that something is wrong with the world. It is a whole body, whole mind, whole heart perception that nothing is okay. Can you still be happy in a broken world? Yes, but that doesn’t make the world stop being broken. That is the key to depression. 

The difference between someone who is depressed and someone who is not is that freedom. Not having depression gives you the freedom to believe that things will change. It gives you the freedom to believe that what you do makes a difference. It allows you to go into the world with purpose because the world is there for you to put light into. For someone without depression, the world is changeable, able to become better or different or whatever you make of it. The world is yours.

Depression is hardly ever a one lane road. You have glimpses of the other side. You have moments when you feel like you’re making a difference and that you have purpose. The trick is getting those moments to stick. That is what I try to do when I am depressed. I try to give myself reminders that there is purpose, there is change, there is reason to believe that things can get better. This world isn’t that bad, but you have to see the good. You have to expose yourself to the good. And when you are depressed, you have to remind yourself of that good. Because otherwise, you will stay under that safety blanket of depression until you pass away or the world passes away because without the good, there is no real reason to come out.

This is My Life

I was officially diagnosed earlier this year with chronic depression- early onset, which basically means I have had depression for as long as I can remember and it will likely keep coming back for the rest of my life. I hadn’t really pursued a diagnosis before this year because it seemed pretty obvious that I had depression and I didn’t need someone to tell me. But even with a diagnosis, it is sometimes hard to believe that this may never go away.

There are times when I am just so happy and at peace with the world that depression seems like a distant memory, hardly relevant to the joy I am experiencing. But the truth is, those exquisite moments of joy are possible because of the deep craters of despair that have come before them. This is my life. This is my reality. I am going to have moments of despair so strong that I forget anything good ever came before them. But I am also going to have moments of joy that are so incredible that I forget what pain feels like.

I feel like I am a pretty happy person. I love life. I see the good in it. I see the good in everything and everyone. I love people more than anything else in the world. But I wrote a post a couple years ago where I talked about drinking up happiness as much as I could when it came so that I could get through the next period of depression.

The last few months have been really amazing for me. I progressed so much mentally and emotionally that I felt like maybe depression was finally gone. All the self doubt and self hate and hurt from past experiences had all disappeared. I felt completely and totally whole for the first time in my life. But… I have chronic depression. So, it came back.

The point I am trying to make though is that sometimes having depression feels like trying to drink happiness through a cup with a hole in it. You do what you can to fill your cup and to keep it full, but it doesn’t always work. The thing is though, I have come to the point where I realize that it is okay. It is okay that I have chronic depression. It is okay that I have nothing to be sad about, and yet feel such deep despair that I cannot begin to describe the pain I am enduring. It is okay because I am alive. After everything, all the brokenness and lonely nights and heartbreaking thoughts, I am still here. I am still here to enjoy the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. I am still here to listen to the sound of rain outside my window and drink hot chocolate and watch fun movies. I am still here to experience all that life has and all that life is.

So, maybe in an hour, I won’t be able to get out of bed because depression grips me so tightly that I can hardly breathe. But in the moments that I am well, during the times when I can see the beauty around me, I plan to love it all as much as I can. I plan to find joy in the difficult situations and enjoy the good times. I plan to live because I am here for a reason. And whatever that reason is, I’m going to make it a good life. This is my life, and I’m going to love every minute of it.

 

Keeping Myself Safe

I have depression. I have had it for as long as I can remember. It comes and goes, but it never really leaves. It does not mean that I cannot be happy. It does not keep me from living a good life. It is not obvious to an outsider that I have this chronic illness. However, it does mean that I have to do some things differently to make sure I stay safe. Just like someone with severe allergies might carry an EpiPen to keep themselves alive if they are inadvertently exposed to something that can harm them, I do certain things to keep myself alive during an unexpected depressive episode.

I limit anything in my room that I could use to hurt myself. I do not have any long cords in my room. I have one belt that I keep in the back of my closet. I have one pair of scissors that I keep in a box on my desk. I do not keep any other sharp objects in my room. I keep a limited supply of medicine in my room, which is also at my desk. Both my desk and my closet are on the opposite side of my room from my bed. If I really wanted to harm myself, I would have to get out of bed and walk about 15 feet to reach anything that I could use to hurt myself. Generally, when I am extremely depressed and suicidal, I cry so much that it is hard to get out of bed. If I do make it out of bed, I generally don’t make it farther than the floor next to the bed.

Of course, it does not really matter where I keep things when I am doing well. On a normal day, I can walk past or use a million things that could potentially hurt me without any fear. The problem is that I never know when I will feel suicidal. I can go from being completely well and not feeling depressed at all, to feeling extremely suicidal in the space of a few hours. My world is unpredictable because my mind can quickly become overwhelmed by undesirable thoughts and feelings.

Studies have shown that limiting someone’s access to methods of killing themselves dramatically decreases their risk of dying by suicide. I know this to be true. I know there are things I will never do because of my depression. I will never own a gun. I will never have an internet server or other device in my room that requires a corded connection. I will never hike to a cliff by myself. I will never step onto a balcony of a tall building without someone nearby. I will never look over a bridge or overpass that does not have a protective fence. If I feel depressed, I will not go for a walk down the street without someone with me.

These are the things I have to do to keep myself safe. These are the ways I make sure that I have time to think before I can harm myself. This is my insurance to myself and my friends that depression will not win easily.

Sometimes it is not easy to keep myself safe. Sometimes I have to rely on friends to help me out of an unhealthy state of mind. I know that it is hard for the people that care about me to know that because of my depression, suicidal thoughts can quickly rise to the surface of my mind. But my promise to them is to do all that I can to keep myself safe. I do all that I can to make sure that their fears will never come true. I will not make it easy for this illness to hurt me. And I will continue to do everything in my power to fight my depression for as long as I live.

Suicide

People who are thinking clearly do not want to die. Even those who consistently think about dying do not really want to die; they just want the pain to be over.

I think about suicide a lot- nearly every day, usually multiple times a day. However, it is just a thought. It comes and goes like a wave on the shore. And as long as I have moments of peace in between, I’m okay and I won’t hurt myself. But every once in a while, the tides are high and the waves don’t really leave and you drown in it.

Last night was one of those times. I had done everything to feel okay. I had read scriptures and prayed and read positive notes from friends and colored and ate chocolate. I did everything I could think of to save myself, but at the end of the night, it was not enough. I looked up the suicide hotline and wrestled with the thought of calling for half an hour. But when you can’t call the suicide prevention line because you’re crying too much before you even dial the number, you know things are bad.

I kept telling myself I don’t normally feel like this. It’s just a night. It’s just a moment. Maybe I should call to get me through… But once I finally pushed the button and saw the call going through, I panicked.
“I can’t really be calling the suicide hotline… That means these thoughts are real. That means I’m actually considering acting on how I feel.” That means that I’m not as well as I think I should be.
These were the thoughts going through my head.

But I have made promises to stay safe. I have made promises that if I am ever in danger or think I might be in danger, I will let someone know. So I did. I didn’t know if they could help or how they could help, but I knew that if something happened and I didn’t at least tell them, they would be hurt.

It took another half hour of talking with them before I felt okay again. I kept hearing in my head that I had a friend and that things were going to be okay until the darkness dispersed. I felt the thickness and weight of a dark fog lift off me. I still hurt beyond belief, but I no longer felt like I was drowning.

I know you can’t completely understand unless you’ve been through this, but I want you to know that we try. Anyone who has depression and attempts to end their life or contemplates suicide tries to be okay. We try to find ways out of the darkness. We try to get help. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work, or we don’t know what resources to turn to, or we can’t seem to find the capacity to use the resources.

They say that suicide is selfish, and maybe it is, but I want you to know that getting to that point doesn’t just come. It’s a struggle. It’s a fight for your life. And if you know someone that loses that fight, I hope you also know that they probably tried everything to be okay. They just didn’t know what else they could do.