I had a hard day on Monday. I was having trouble getting out of bed and getting going on a day that I knew was going to be stressful. I posted this on my Facebook as way to just be honest with myself about what was going on and to ask for a little strength from my friends to help me through the tough patch:
Having an especially hard time finding my way out of the depression today. 😦
Nothing serious. I could have called it a “Monday Funk” or something silly, but that’s not really accurate. It’s not just a funk. It’s depression. I know what depression looks like for me, and calling it something else isn’t going to help me. And, frankly, I think we should start calling depression what it really is. There are too many people struggling with it but not able to name it.
Depression is something I’ve lived with most of my life. It comes and goes. Some years are better than others. Some days are harder than others. I know how to recognize it when it shows up and have a decent handle on dealing with it most of the time. But when I’m tired, or stressed, or otherwise struggling with difficult issues, I may not have the resources to overcome it as easily. I’m not suicidal. I never have been and don’t expect I ever will be. My depression isn’t as debilitating as what others deal with, but it does have a negative impact on my life from time to time. Which isn’t to say that it’s all bad. I firmly believe that my depression is related to my personality trait of being sensitive and thoughtful. I spend a lot of time in my head thinking about things, trying to understand them on both a mental and emotional level. I think this makes me a good friend and helps me relate more deeply to others. It’s just that sometimes all this sensitivity and thoughtfulness leads to depression.
I know it’s all in my head. No, it really is. It’s a brain chemistry thing, pure and simple. It’s not that I’m a weak person. Or living my life wrong. Or not able to handle life. It’s purely something going on in my head that I can usually handle, but sometimes gets out of control. I think of it as though my brain were two different parts. One part is the emotional, reactive part. Since I’m usually an optimistic person, this part is generally happy and healthy. But it has some faulty wiring and sometimes sends the wrong message. Fortunately, the other part of my brain, the thinking part that analyzes the facts before making any decisions, is able to catch many of these faulty messages and send them away before they cause any problems. But, if the thinking part of my brain is tired, or focused on an especially troubling problem, it can miss of of these messages and before too long they get piled up. And then the depression sinks in.
There are three tell-tale signs of my depression:
1. I start to lose my sense of humor. Normally I enjoy a good joke, a funny story, and a silly moment. But as my depression gets more power, I find myself rolling my eyes more and generally not laughing enough. Sometimes, simply watching a funny movie is enough to help me get out of the depression.
2. I start to think that the world is populated by terrible, horrible people. I know it’s not. Sure, there are lots of terrible people out there. But there are more really good people doing really good things. But when the depression comes around, I start seeing more stories about the terrible people. And when it’s really bad, I start to not believe the stories about the good people. It doesn’t help when, like this recent bout of depression, the thing my thinking brain is stuck trying to workout is a case of someone I thought to be good doing something really rotten.
3. I start to believe that if it’s possible for me to screw something up, I will. This is the worst one of all, because it totally feeds the depression. Depression makes me not attend to the things that need my attention, which creates troublesome situations, that I can let get out of hand, and then… voila… I real life case of me screwing something up! Fortunately, I’ve learned to spot this one pretty early on and that usually helps me push myself to either reduce my responsibilities or triage the things that need my attention — making sure the really important things still get what little energy I have.
I’m going to keep calling my depression what it is. I hope that by being so upfront and honest about my own struggle, others are able to name their depression and begin to learn how to overcome it. Or at least how to live a rich and productive life while they work on it.