Cue: “Fake Happy” by Paramore.
I’ve been trying to write this blog since March. I thought I was turning a corner then, or trying to but then I got busy. And it would be better to write this as a retrospective. So May, I thought, since it was Mental Health Awareness Month but that didn’t happen. And June passed by in a blink. So here we are in July and I’m finally writing this blog I’ve been—honestly—putting off because it sucks to admit you’re exactly where you were a year ago. Still depressed, and maybe worse some days.
As always, I’m an advocate for brutal honesty and we will never remove the stigma from illness/disorders/health unless we talk about it so…Here I am.
A year ago, I noticed I was depressed and anxious again. This was understandable because, you know, pandemic, but it seemed manageable. So what if I didn’t have energy? So what if I was struggling? So was the rest of the world. As time went on, though, I had to admit this wasn’t just an understandable adjustment period as my world literally shifted into a full-blown depressive episode. Now, until now, I’ve always had what we commonly would call ‘high-functioning depression.’ Most days, I’m feeling decent or good and I can achieve anything I need to get done. I don’t actively feel bad about myself or the world. Sometimes I feel downright optimistic. My need for perfectionism and achievement has always meant that even when I was at my ‘lowest’ I was able to take care of myself, others, and complete tasks beyond basic survival.
Yeah, about that. The past year has been my first experience, perhaps, with “real” depression. When you take away all the pressures and need to achieve or do anything to appease or appear in public, it turns out things get worse not better. So some days I could barely get out of bed. Or eat. Or shower. Washing my hair turned into stretches of time and tangles (which did help the color stay longer, so that’s a plus). I basically moved from my bed to the couch and back again. On days when I had work, I’d put on my face and try to look better for the Zoom but the moment it was over, I’d go back to bed. Sometimes my work piled up when I had a lot to do and no energy, and sometimes I didn’t have enough work to keep my mind off of the nothingness. Dishes piled up all around the kitchen. My entire apartment became a huge mess until I had enough energy to clean (and then had to repeat when it fell apart a month later). I once did nine loads of laundry because I’d run out of clothes and sheets. I haven’t been able to really write anything new. I feel like I’m blocked, even though I know I’m not (really). The suicidal ideation and negative thoughts came back. One time, I had a three-day run of good moods and thought the depression was over and then when it crashed down I did too. Basically, for the last year, I’ve been at my lowest.
It feels like this was inevitable in some ways. I put off this crisis by going to graduate school. Then by teaching. And so, when a pandemic forced me to sit still and think, I had to shift through everything I’d been avoiding for so long. What was the point of my degree? What do I want to do with my life? Was it all pointless? Add that on top of working through my trauma while dating, and it was all a recipe for disaster.
I’ve had my close friends, my family, and Soleil for a good chunk of this time. And they remind me I’m not really alone. But, even then, I’m lonely. Most of my time is spent by myself. And I used to think that was fine but, if the last year has shown me anything, it’s that even I’m too much for myself. They make me laugh and smile. They’re a reason to go outside and do something or the highlight of my week. And even just hanging out and chilling is better than being alone; having interpersonal contact feels like coming up from being underwater sometimes.
Is there an answer or a feel-good conclusion here? No. I’m still working through this. Day by day. I try to “do my best”—whatever that is each day—and sometimes it leads to positive things and sometimes it means I eat popcorn in bed and read hurt/comfort fan fiction. Still, despite the struggle, I have hope I’ll come out of this eventually, and have that energy, that optimism, that desire for life I remember from better days. I hold out for the better days because they’re worth it.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255
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