Depression is a complex beast.
I was writing extensively when I was first diagnosed a few years ago. My heart had just been broken. I was on my own for the first time in my adult life. I felt very scared and very alone. I was a jumble of emotions and tried to tap them all down with a nightly bottle of wine and a shot or two of liquor. I’d sit at my desk and cry and write and drink and lay down on the floor and listen to sad songs when the room was spinning too much for me to keep upright.
I’d publish what I wrote in a flurry of emotion, always feeling shame for it the next day. My words, at that time, were written to an audience of one. I kept telling myself it was cathartic and I was being creative, but the reality is that I was hurting deeply and vacillating wildly between showing how badly I had been hurt and trying to prove that I wasn’t hurt at all.
Swinging between extremes. Another story for another day.
Looking back, with several years of perspective behind me, it’s so obvious I was struggling far more than I let on. The moment I knew I needed real and professional help was when I started feeling like my entire life would be mired in a swampy fog of sadness and I’d prefer not to go on. I was cutting vegetables one night and suddenly had a very intense fear of holding that knife because I didn’t trust myself with it. I didn’t know quite what I was feeling, but I intrinsically knew I was no longer safe with myself.
I made an appointment to speak to someone the next day.
I’ll save you the story and the platitudes about coming back from depression. I came back, but to someone different than who I was before.
I mostly like her. I enjoy the newfound sharpness and wit that replaced the person who was too scared to speak up. I like the woman who isn’t afraid to mix her love of high-brow and low-brow art in a way I was always far too ashamed to admit. I love the feistyness that replaced the meek.
But there are things I miss. I miss being the person who threw her whole self into the possibility. I miss the way I wasn’t so scared to be vulnerable. I’m now so closed off and partitioned that it makes it near impossible for for anyone to get close to me romantically. I set up unreasonably difficult hoops to for men to jump through and then abandon them completely before they can even try.
I make sure to walk away first. I make sure to always have one foot out the door.
And the worst part is, I make sure anyone who is interested KNOWS it.
And I don’t need a therapist to tell me I do it because I’m petrified of getting hurt again., but that’s a rabbit hole for another time.
I’ve realized that depression takes so many forms. When I lost my parents I was hit with another wave; one I didn’t recognize because it didn’t stand over me and scream into my face at night.
It was quiet.
It was calm.
It was days that all felt overcast and as though I was running on 3 hours sleep. I felt bleak and exhausted. Instead of drinking, I wrapped myself up in a blanket and squirreled away, an emotional hibernation. I didn’t cry. I didn’t drink to forget. I didn’t have sadness-fueled one-night stands. None of my previous depression triggers were true for this round.
I missed so many of the signs because I kept thinking that surely this wasn’t depression. I was just having “the blues”. But I learned that not only does depression take different forms with different people, it can also take on many lives within the same person, I don’t know how I didn’t know.
These days, I think I’m pretty well in tune with myself. I’m gentler with myself, sometimes to the point of coddling. I still don’t know how to be vulnerable. I don’t know if writing these things out and putting them into the void is a step towards that vulnerability or simply a way to avoid having to open up to people face-to-face.
Like everything else about me…it’s probably a little bit of both.