How Depression Is Like A Drunk Friend Who Crashes Your Party, Then Refuses To Leave

Image credit: pixabay.com
Image credit: pixabay.com

Depression has been a part of my life for the better part of 25 years. I started noticing changes in my mood and behaviour around the age of 15, but I didn’t understand what was happening, so I just shrugged it off as something weird about myself that I shouldn’t tell anyone about. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that someone finally pointed out to me that the “weirdness” that I was struggling with was actually depression, and that I should probably do something about it. But of course I didn’t, because I had the kind of obnoxious self confidence that people in their 20’s often have, and I preferred to boast to anyone who would listen that I was FINE rather than admit that I was actually a crumbling, disastrous mess. That was around the time that depression decided to crash right through that delusional wall like a drunk friend showing up late to the party, make-up smeared, slurring her words, and throwing insults at anyone who dared to get too close.

This was one of the times in my life when my depression was at its worst. I had been in denial about my feelings for so long that they finally had had enough of being suppressed and ignored, and they decided to do something about it. Hence, depression sashaying and stumbling onto the scene, demanding all of my attention. But did I do the responsible thing and take care of my erratic, dysfunctional friend? No. Did I sit with her, hold her hand and tell her that we would get through it together? Also no. Instead, I shoved her in a corner, threw a blanket over her head and told her to sleep it off. She didn’t like that. Depression doesn’t like to be ignored, so rather than sobering up and heading on her way, depression decided that it was time for shit to get real. My depression turned into a huge drama queen and started spilling her sob story to anyone who would listen. She whimpered and wailed, and had a complete breakdown in front of everyone. That was the point during the party when everyone left.

It’s not easy being alone with depression. In fact, it’s scary and exhausting, and it’s not something that anyone should face on their own. I didn’t ask for any help to deal with my depression. Once I realized that she was there to stay, I decided that the best thing to do was to leave. Depression and I packed up and moved, then we moved again, and then we signed up to work on a cruise ship together for the better part of a year. My plan was to throw depression overboard or maybe leave her on an island somewhere, then head home without her. Turns out she’s incredibly stubborn, highly resilient, and annoyingly clingy. Yes, depression is a bit of an asshole.

Over the years I learned to live with my depression, and I just sort of accepted that there was nothing I could do to get rid of her. Sometimes she walked behind me, out of sight but still close enough that I could feel her breath on the back of my neck. Other times she walked in front of me, blocking my view of the world and stopping me from finding my way. Most times though, she walked beside me waiting for me to talk to her, to acknowledge that she was there. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t).

Around the time I turned 30 I experienced a trauma that left me completely unable to cope with life anymore. Depression was no longer just a pesky, bothersome joke. She had completely taken over my life. She was me, and I was her; I had completely lost myself. I went for counselling. Week after week for just over a year I sat in a small, cramped office with mildly cheerful, buttercup coloured walls. There was one small, narrow window off to the side that offered absolutely no view whatsoever. But I wasn’t there for the view, was I? I was there to get the help I needed; to talk through all the issues and problems that had ultimately landed me in that office in the first place. But more importantly, I was there to finally give my depression a voice, and to give her the chance to be heard. She had been waiting all those years for someone to listen and to help her make sense of the world.

So that’s what we did. It wasn’t easy, and there were many times when I tried to give up, but in the end I stuck with it and I learned how to sit with my feelings and to recognize that they were there for a reason. I learned that when depression shows up, she usually has something important to say, and she really just wants someone to put their arm around her and let her know that she’s not alone. She wants to be recognized and validated, but more importantly she wants to be understood. Because depression is more than just a difficult nuisance. Depression is a valuable tool that lets us know that something is wrong, and that we need to pay attention and address it.

Today, depression still shows up from time to time, but it is a lot less often. Sometimes she just stands outside the window and stares at me; I know she’s there, it’s kind of creepy, but I can still carry on with my life. Other times she bursts through the front door and demands that everyone stop and pay attention to her. Those are the times when, rather than shove her into a closet, I take her hand and we sit quietly together. I listen to what she has to say, try to figure out why she’s here, and together we work towards finding whatever it is that she needs to feel at peace again.

So if you ever find yourself embarrassed or appalled that depression has shown up uninvited to your party, please take the time to acknowledge that your slightly eccentric party guest is likely there for a reason. Listen to what they have to say, and if it doesn’t make sense to you, or you don’t know how to deal with it, ask for help or find a professional who has the experience to start the kind of conversations that your depression is hoping you will have. Trust me, life is way more enjoyable without having to deal with a sloppy, drunk friend lying face first on your living room floor shouting obscenities at anyone who dares to get too close.

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Depression Is “Fine.” Remember The Time You Asked?

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Image Credit: pixabay.com

Have you ever wondered why depression is so hard to see?  It is because depression can be extraordinarily quiet.  It has perfected the art of camouflage and deceit.  You can sit in the same room as depression and never even know it’s there.  It is buried beneath the soft smiles and brave faces of the ones we love.  It blends in with the heroic souls who make the effort to show up day after day, never once whispering depression’s name.  It is illusive, but if you do happen to catch its shadow out of the corner of your eye, don’t believe it when it tells you that it is fine.  Depression would rather show you its finest armor than reveal the truth behind the hidden cracks within.

If you have ever lived with depression, you know that it is uncomfortably heavy.  It is an unwelcome weight against your chest, a damp and foul burden pushing down until you feel its hot, sour breath against your cheek.  Depression is hungry.  It will feed on every last drop of your pain until you are left a hollowed out shell of your former self.  Then it will demand more, and you will give it.  Depression will steal your voice, distort your words, and work tirelessly to convince the world that you are doing fine in spite of it.

Depression hides in the shadows, and thrives on secrets and solitude.  It shies away from love, light, and the power of compassion.  When you share your story, there is power behind your words.  You breathe life into your journey and invite those who are listening with open hearts to lend you their courage and strength while you heal.

For those who have felt the terrifyingly intimate embrace of depression, there may be days that are so deceptively dark that you will forget that you once knew light, but from them you will learn to see with your heart and lead with your soul.  You will feel the strain in your muscles as you drag your burden from one day to the next, but you will build strength and courage with each step you take.  Use those gifts to carry you through until the day you feel your shoulders relax and the knot in your chest begin to loosen.

The next time someone asks how you are, don’t let depression answer for you.  Depression does not deserve to be fine.  It is not worthy of the effort it takes to disguise its burdensome weight.  Instead, take depression’s power away and say, “The truth is I’m not okay, and today I could really use your help.”  ❤

 

The Time I Gave Up

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I was searching for myself

In a mirror that was blind,

But my reflection stood behind me.

Yet I would not turn around,

For fear of what I’d find,

So I closed my mind to who I could be.

I wrote this poem several years ago during a time when I had decided that happiness was more of a suggestion than an actual state of being.  I only just recently came across it, and it left me both humbled and amazed after I finished reading it.  I felt as though I had peered back in time and found the exact moment when I gave up on myself.  The point when my head dropped down, chin tucked into my chest, while shallow breaths betrayed my wish to disappear.  It was a time when I was filled with more than just sadness and shame.  A time when I struggled and fought to understand it all until one day I finally stopped, convinced that I would never be the light that chased away the shadows that fear and regret had smeared across my floor.

I have reached a point in my life now where I can look back on those days, and I can finally, with so much compassion, properly grieve for that girl who felt more comfortable crying on the bathroom floor than smiling in a room full of people.  I can see how much she struggled, and I can finally understand why.  I can also see that it wasn’t her fault, regardless of what she thought.  And I can, with absolute certainty, see that she did one day discover how to be the kind of light that washes the darkness from the room.  With the softest of exhales, she did one day find the courage to turn around, and she shone so brightly when she did.

 

 

You Are Worth Fighting For

(This blog is made up of a variety of funny, quirky and sometimes serious and heavy posts, because that is what makes up who I am.  I can’t be one without the other.  The following post was written over a year ago, but I am re-posting it now, because these are the kinds of conversations that need to be had, and they need to be had often. )

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Depression isn’t always an easy topic to discuss.  It is confusing, overwhelming, and often misunderstood.  One of the most frustrating things about being depressed is having people tell you that it’s all in your head, that happiness is a choice, or that if you really put your mind to it, you can overcome anything.  You can’t just shake off depression any more than you can shake off a cold.  It is inside of you, it consumes you, it becomes everything about you.  It grabs hold of you with its dark, heavy arms, and pulls you down into a jumbled pile of devastating nothingness.

Depression is sometimes described as a battle that needs to be fought, but to me, that’s only part of it.  Living with depression is more than just a struggle.  It is finding yourself buried beneath the weight of your own worst emotions, and knowing that your only hope of survival is stay small and hope you make it.

When you are in the true grips of depression, endurance is sometimes the only thing that you’ve got left.  Sometimes there is no fight, no kicking or screaming.  Sometimes there is only the terrifying sense of drowning in the tears of your own despair.  And so you wait.  You wait for the storm to pass, and the waters to recede, and you watch for that tiny shimmer of light that means maybe, some day, you will be able to breathe again without it hurting.

I have been there.  I have survived the storm, and I came out the other side of it gasping, reaching, and trying desperately to hold onto my freedom like my life depended on it, because it did.  That is when your fight truly begins.  That is when you battle hard against depression, to hold it back and beat it down.  It takes courage, strength, and the kind of blind determination that will keep you going even when you stumble, because you will.  It takes faith, and a belief that you are worth fighting for, because you are.

Too often, people with depression struggle alone in silence.  There is a certain amount of shame attached to feeling this way, and a worry that other people won’t understand or accept what is happening.  It’s hard enough trying to navigate through life during the best of times; it’s almost unimaginable trying to do it when you are depressed.  Yet, as scary as it is, we need to reach out and talk to each other, share our stories, and ask for help (even if we think we don’t need it).  We need to hold on to one another, and also to hold each other up.  We need each other to survive.  No one should ever be expected to survive this on their own.  We are stronger together, so if you know someone who is struggling with depression, or if you yourself are, reach out, hold on, and don’t let go!