Today I continue my discussion of depression and Depression. Last time, I described and defined my distinction between the two terms. Today I will go in depth about what it was like for me to live with, and through, Depression. I warn you in advance, this post will get dark before the end and may be highly triggering to some.
I would like to state that I am by no means an expert or a professional on this particular topic. I am speaking from personal experience and opinion. Please do not take my words as any kind of gospel – form your own opinions on these topics and take whatever steps you feel necessary to address them. On the topic of depression especially, I strongly encourage anyone who is severely depressed or suicidal to talk to others and seek council if they are suffering to that extent.
So what happened to me? I think several things served as the trigger for my bouts of Depression. I have been in poor financial straits for the past five years. I have had two six-month stints on unemployment – with only an eight-month period of employment separating them. I have been living on my own during that time, without any roommates to reduce rent or any of the other costs associated with living. I did not earn enough at my jobs in the past five years to add into my savings. And I needed to tap my savings so aggressively while unemployed that I have effectively exhausted them. I have only been able to continue living my current lifestyle because of significant financial assistance from my family over the past year. And I am well aware that their assistance has an expiration date that is growing closer every day.
During the same period of five years, I have been involved in several bad or toxic relationships. Some were romantic, some were friendships, but all of them were relationships that felt like they took more from me than they gave. I will not play blame games here, however. I myself was not innocent of being toxic as well. I desperately looked to certain people for help, and was not kind when they were unable or unwilling to help me. But dwelling on that also serves no useful point. It is sufficient to say that there was love and friendship, loss and pain – and those things affected me.
I have also been unhappy at work during that span of years. And while I’m hardly the only person who has worked a job they did not like, the addition of that feeling to the rest of the stressors cannot be ignored or excused. Like I said previously, Depression makes some things that would ordinarily be easy to bear feel insurmountable.
And then there is my very nature. I may favor hope, and even speak optimistically at times, but I am also a realist. I have no fear of calling a spade a spade. And when I am in a bad situation, I tend to fixate on it. I see it as a problem, and I try to solve it. That can be a very useful survival tool. It can also mean that I spend entirely too long thinking about things that leave me in a very negative mindset. And like a well-worn trail, it becomes easier for me to return to those roads – far too easy sometimes.
All these factors coalesced into a very severe season of Depression during my first term of unemployment (August 2012 through January 2013). I was depressed and lethargic. I stayed up late and rose later. I played video games and binge-watched Netflix as often as I could just to take my mind off how awful I felt. I did not date; I did not socialize. I went nowhere, and I did as close to nothing as I could.
I was waiting to die.
I went to bed many nights hoping I would not wake up the next morning. And every following morning I awoke to have my first thoughts be disappointment at having survived. It was slow, passive suicide. I was executing myself one day at a time, cutting into my heart and my confidence. I did not believe I deserved to live. I did not believe I deserved to be loved. I did not want to live, but lacked the motivation to take a proactive solution to my Depression.
In retrospect, that was a good thing, but at the time I despaired at what I believed to be a weakness of resolve – and that despair further fueled my descent.
That period of Depression also included what I personally refer to as “The worst day of my life.” It was the seventh day of a week in December that began with me discovering that I had not received any payments from the unemployment office for six weeks. And while I did eventually resolve that dispute, it set the tone for the coming seven days. And the first night of that week ended with me curled up on the couch, gripping my arm to force myself to sit still, and telling myself two things:
“I want to go in the kitchen and stuff myself stupid with ice cream, but it’s almost bedtime and I should not eat that way so close to bedtime. Besides, the ice cream is close to the knife block.”
“I want to go into the kitchen and grab a knife from the block and kill myself. But I should not do that, because it is a permanent solution to a short-term problem and things will get better. Besides, the knife block is close to the ice cream.”
I’m sometimes grimly amused at my own, random humor. Because no matter what has happened to me, I have at least not lost my laughter – then or now.
But thus began the week in which I had “The worse day of my life.” I don’t have the heart to share the day itself – it is still something I cannot talk about. However, I do feel comfortable sharing my feelings at the start of the week. I think there’s value in sharing them, even two years later.
I’m sharing them for the sappy, Hallmark-card reason of telling people that it gets better. I hit rock-bottom that week, and it got ugly. But that was more than two years ago. I’m stronger now – and far, FAR more stable. I fell, to a great extent, and I survived. I never hurt myself, I never hurt anyone else, and I got better.
But that is what Depression was like for me. It was pain and rage. It was weariness and longing for relief. It was wishing death upon myself. It was a terrible, horrible season of my life that I survived by the combination of a miracle and the fact that I am far stronger than I knew. Because if I were a lesser man, I would not have lived through that. Not that night, nor that season.
But how did I survive it? What did I do to make it out? What can we do to help a friend or loved one suffering through a similar situation? I’ll discuss that in the third and final part of my discussion of depression and Depression.