I have a goal. It’s one that appears simple, to the outside world. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that things rarely are what they seem. We are masters at putting up fronts that misdirect and mislead people. For some, this is done with malicious intent. While for others, it’s done as a means of survival. We hide from what we fear.
My goal is to make it through. To accept the things I cannot change. To turn my weaknesses into strengths.
It’s not to live without, but to live with. And to succeed.
What is success? For me, it’s not riches and luxury. It’s being able to take my life one day at a time and to relish in the positives, even if and when there are dark clouds hovering over me. Even when the enormity of my mental health is putting indescribable amounts of pressure and pain on me.
When I was younger my mother coached me through breathing exercises to get through physical pain. It’s something that has served me well throughout the years, considering the multiple surgeries and emergent care situations I have had to endure. And it is something that will serve me well once labor pains begin in September. The idea of these exercises can be used with mental and emotional anguish, as well.
We breathe deeper to regulate our intake of oxygen, which helps to expand blood vessels and acts as a way to slow our racing hearts when a panic attack seizes us. The physiological symptoms of a psychological event can exacerbate the situation in a cyclical fashion, so we use physiological controls to help slow down the steam of the psychological freight train moving through our system. But what about when there is a two-pronged attack?
I have many descriptors for my depression. The most accurate, in my mind, is the black hole. And while this describes qualities of depression, and to a certain extent some of the physical characteristics of depression, I think it fails to portray the minutiae of depression.
I was recently asked what occurs on days I suffer the extreme gravitational pull of the black hole. And when cataloguing things in my head, I realized it’s hard to describe, to categorize, to really provide an insightful answer. And the reason is because there are so many interacting levels that it all sounds like a convoluted cloud of nonsense.
Physically, depending on the severity of what I feel, I stay in bed, I write, I stare out the window, and if at all possible (which occurs rarely, and only when I feel I have adequate energy) I take a walk. Mentally, I think, and oftentimes too much, or I try to absolve the internal monologue when it is drawn to divisive rhetoric. Emotionally, this is the simplest answer: I hurt. I hurt in the same way quiet can be deafening. So much numbness can cause things to cease working, to die, to atrophy. And in that way, the numbness of depression causes pain that can be expressed through physical and psychic outlets.
In the year 2010-2011 I experienced, for lack of a better descriptor, life. Events were unfolding that were slowly tearing apart the fabric of my self-esteem, and I was too immature to handle any of it without becoming a monster and hurting people close to me. I fell into one of the worst depressive episodes of my life and my days consisted of not showering, not eating, and being so paralyzed by everything that I could not even choose a movie to put on to distract me. I would spend hours staring at the stacks of DVDs next to the television. And not because I was engrossed in this decision, because I knew no matter what I chose I wouldn’t pay attention to it, but because the act of choosing was literally too much for me to handle. I became absolutely paralyzed with it.
And the simplest answer to “how” this happened is that I don’t know, to a degree. I know that my lack of nutrient in-take aided in the worsening of my condition, and as a result I try to force myself to eat whenever I start feeling the immensity of the black hole, despite lacking any physical desire to eat. I know lack of exercise, even something as simple as taking a walk, aided in the worsening of my condition, and as a result I try to force myself to move, to take small walks, to exist outside the couch or bed and build upward from there, despite physical pain and feeling laden with lead.
While these take care of some elements of depression, the one I find the most difficult is operating with the inner monologue. If the black hole had a voice, it would be one that advocates giving up, inducing fear and anxiety, reminding me of all the negative things not only I think about myself, but also of all the negative things others might think of me, too. I once read that those who suffer depression oftentimes fear judgement above and beyond anything. At first I wasn’t sure, because it felt superficial, but the more I thought about it, the more accurate this statement became.
I judge myself more harshly than anyone. And I fear others judgement will only reiterate the negativity circulating in my head. I do not desire being well liked. Which is to say my end-goal in life is not to have countless friends, because the idea of anyone knowing me well-enough to truly like or not like who I am absolutely terrifies me. It means they will have had to get through my insulation, they will have to move through the superficial. They will have had to get close enough to see the darkness swirling behind my eyes (which also means they need the empathy to understand that the darkness there is not directed at them, but turned inward, and in my experience not many people do). And opening myself up that much means I open myself up to others judgement. And we are a judgmental society.
My end-goal in life is to make it through. To accept the things I cannot change. To turn my weaknesses into strengths. It’s not to live without depression, because that isn’t a reality, but to live with depression. And to succeed.