This is perhaps one of the best talks I've ever seen on depression in terms of really digging in and describing the experience.
Like, my life continues, but there's a creeping blankness in which I cease, somehow, to have things that I like, things that are favorites, things that I can identify as exciting to me, even if intellectually I know that those things exist.
It's not darkness so much as absence; blindness rather than a blindfold.
I don't not know that a thing should happen. I am uncomfortably aware of a great deal of things which should and even must happen. And then my hands do other things, or no thing.
For example, I'm someone who normally reads 2-4 books a month. In April, that stopped short. Since then, I've finished one other book, and am stalled on a second. The fact that I'm working on reading a second is an indication that I am getting better.
It's slow. I hate that it's slow.
I am in a place where I am recognizing a lack of resilience, confidence, etc. When I'm well, I genuinely believe I have skills and ability. When I'm not, I have trouble identifying those things and believing in them when others point them out to me. I feel unworthy. I feel flawed. I look at all of my mistakes, missteps, all the balls that I have dropped -- most often because of the depression -- and use them to point out to myself how worthless and unskilled I am.
Often I am afraid to put my head up lest it get knocked down again. I am vulnerable to changes. For example, I recently lost an entire day's work because I found out about something I'm doing this summer. It's not a thing I wanted to do, and just thinking about it makes me feel heavy and panicked.
The depression makes me fragile, the anxiety grinds me to dust.
There are times, when I look at this experience, and find myself afraid of being like this forever, with a side-order of fear about getting worse as well as getting better. Like, I'm still not quite well enough to look at "getting better" as anything other than an abstract concept.
But, you know, I also finished a rough draft this fall. That's a victory. But it's also something depression latches onto and tells me that if I'd applied myself toward, say, a project I've failed to complete in a timely way, I'd be allowed to feel good instead of guilty and ashamed.
It wants to make my victory is a stone for my pockets so that I can wade back into the river.
I'm silent about this more than I should be, but part of my silence is built into the problem itself. I'm bad at reaching out at the best of times. How am I supposed to do that when a ringing phone fills me with dread and terror on a par with having Jack Nicholson with an axe on the other end? Or when I want desperately to have someone to pour everything out to, but find that I'm really not sure I have that level of emotional intimacy with any other human being.
But like I said, those days are getting fewer.
I dropped a lot of things this year: involvement in a community group, involvement in the communal and public aspects of my faith, multiple projects, etc. I found a few toe-holds in mass and social media and clung to them like rocks. I've found tools to try and make sense of the incredible barrage of things that I've had to dig up out of.
I still slip. I still fail. But being in a "hi, I'm experiencing moderate-to-severe chronic depression and anxiety instead of being neck-deep in a major episode in which I spent multiple months on the edge of a 72 hour hold" place is still progress. I haven't needed to write on my wrist in a couple of months. So. Progress.
Solomon hits on something else, too: the privilege of care, support, etc. I have a lot of fear about running out of good will. I can only fall back on "charmingly disorganized" for so long. The digging-out feels perpetual. And, you know, we cope in public. I have "silent" panic attacks in public or group spaces because to suffer visibly is to show weakness. I fake functional because to fail at that is to be penalized by society in ways that would make recovery impossible.
At this stage, this is a precious tool. To lose the things I earn by faking functional would be catastrophic, and I know it. Hello, additional source of anxiety.
But again, these are realizations I get to have because I've moved forward. Most days of late I wake up, and instead of being in complete emotional and physical distress because everything is too much, I want to work. I want to do stuff.
Not too much stuff. Not all at once. Not with so much pressure. But some stuff. Stuff I can use to rebuild my confidence. Stuff that I can use as a staging point. Stuff that's languished but that I can unearth and complete with support.
I might freeze up when I try to start -- and by "might" I mean that I absolutely do -- but I actually want to do this stuff instead of knowing I'm supposed to do it but I can't.
So yeah. This is depression. It's a thing that's hard as hell to treat, that for a lot of people (including me) never goes away, etc. It's a chronic thing that could -- like my asthma, or my family's history of heart disease -- and even might kill me one day. But it hasn't yet. So, you know, we go on.