In the Mind of Someone With Depression on a Workday
I want to tell you about my day. There was nothing particularly special about today; in fact, today was like most of my days. I’d say five out of the seven days in a week, I have days like I did today. But, I want people to know about days like today because a lot of us (approximately 1 in 5) have them, but not a lot of us talk about them.
I want to change that. I want people to know they are not alone.
I’m about to take you through what a day can be like for a person with mental illness, so here we go.
I wake up at 7:35. I have to get ready for work, which begins at 9. I sit up in my bed, but it takes me a few minutes to gather myself.
Wow, I slept for 11 hours. What the hell is wrong with me?
I step out of bed and put my slippers on. I have trouble getting my foot in the right slipper. It takes two tries.
I walk to the kitchen to make coffee. I put in a new filter, add the coffee grinds, pour the water and turn on the machine. I forgot to put the pot in the coffee maker. I turn it off, place the pot where it belongs and turn it back on.
My God, I am an idiot.
I decide to take a shower while the coffee is brewing. On the way to my bathroom, I bump into the door frame. I try to brush it off but can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with me. I feel lightheaded. I feel disconnected from my body. I feel like I’m moving in slow motion. I didn’t change my medications. I’ve been taking them as prescribed. I wonder what’s the deal but proceed to shower and try not to ruminate.
I get out the shower. I trip walking over to my closet but catch myself so I don’t hit the floor. I feel defeated. I tell myself I can’t do anything right. I feel hopeless. The day before, my gut was telling me to take today off. But I refused. While standing in front of my closet I quickly regret not taking the day off work. My thoughts begin to spiral into a negative whirlpool.
I don’t want to go to work today. I’m going to cry. I just know it. I knew I should’ve taken today off. But I can’t now. It’s too late. Should I call in sick? What would I say? I’d have to lie because I can’t say, “Sorry I can’t make it in today because I’m recovering from something that happened two days ago and I’m an emotional wreck. Apologies for the last minute inconvenience.” Yeah, that will go over well. What if I just didn’t show up? I could just not show up. And not call or text anyone. Then everyone will try to contact me, and they’d all be pissed. That would be bad. I would do something like that, though… I’m not doing that.
I get dressed, begin to walk to the kitchen, then run into my bedroom door. I keep going. I make it to the kitchen and pour a cup of coffee. I toast a waffle and eat while watching television. Time goes by fast. I should have already been out the door. I gather my things but forgot where I put my sunglasses even though I had them a couple of minutes before. I find them on the kitchen counter. I almost forget my phone. I scurry to my room to grab it. I’m out the door.
God, I can’t do anything right.
I’m in my car, driving to work. Questions come pouring in.
How will I get through the work day? Why is this happening right now? What happened this week that could be making me feel this disconnected? Why do I still feel like I’m half asleep? What is wrong with me?
I’m halfway to work, but I pull over. I cry. I feel out of control of my mind and body. I feel like my brain and body aren’t mine.
I drive to work. I am in no shape to work so I do not clock in. I tell my coworker I need some time to gather myself together, and I go outside. I begin to cry again. The feeling of not being in control of my mind or body sends me into a slight panic.
I can’t call Mom because she’ll worry. I can’t call friends because they’re working. I’ll probably regret calling them anyway when I’m like this. Who can I call? Who should I call? Who can I tell? Who do I want to know about this moment right now? Who do I want to unveil my craziness to? Who do I want to talk to about my unexplainable and intangible pain?
I call my therapist and leave a voicemail. Within a few minutes she calls me back. She asks what’s going on. I explain for the past couple of days I felt weird. She said it may have to do with the difficult therapy session we had two days prior, and I agree with her. I tell her I don’t feel fully awake. I feel slow. I’ve been losing my balance, unable to focus and numb. She tells me to try and put my feelings in a box in the trunk of my car until the end of the work day when I can journal about it. I say I’ll try. I tell her I am scheduled to work a volunteer hotline shift tonight but am reconsidering. She advises me to cancel my shift tonight. She tells me to call her when I get off work and had time to journal about what’s been going on. I say OK.
I call the place I volunteer at and tell a staff member I’m sorry but I can’t work my shift tonight. I say I’ve had a rough week. I cry. I feel terrible. I feel worthless. I feel like I let them down. I’m always worried about everyone else but myself.
I am such a worthless soul. Get it together, Stacy.
I hang up the phone, dry my eyes underneath my sunglasses and make my way to the back door at work. A man passes me on the street.
I wonder if he thinks I’m crazy. He probably thinks I’m crazy because I am.
I walk into work, clock in, then stop to look at myself in the mirror.
I look terrible. You can tell I’ve been crying.
Great. I look like a huge baby. I’m so miserable. Damn, I look awful.
I leave the mirror and begin my daily tasks. I am silent. But the voice of depression in my head is not.
I begin to think about a nightmare I had two nights ago. I remember details. I was assaulted. I think about how I woke up sweating and breathing heavy. Then my brain takes off…
I feel unsafe. I am not safe here. How am I going to get through today? I feel so alone. I knew I should have stayed home today. Why can’t I just make it through one day normally? What is normal? All I want to be able to do is wake up, show up, and have an OK day without wanting to immediately retreat back into bed when the sun shines or the hours of 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. creep up. I hate those hours of the day. They make me so depressed. God, I hate the sun and this hot weather. I just want to make it through the day and feel safe. Not hide under the covers. What’s wrong with me? Should I tell someone what’s going on? What if I tell someone and they talk about me behind my back? What if I tell someone and they don’t care? They’ll probably think I’m being emotional. Should I tell them why I might be having such a hard time? This is hopeless. Talking is useless. Don’t say anything. Just don’t open your mouth. Nothing good has ever come from opening your mouth. Just work and go home and deal with it then. No one will understand. No one ever understands. No one will care. They have they’re own problems. I’m weird. I’m crazy. I’m sad. Why am I always sad? They’ll think I’m lying because they see me smile and laugh at work. How can I do both at the same time? Be sad and smile. Maybe I should journal right now as thoughts are coming to me.
I grab a pen and rip out some sheets from a notebook. I begin to write.
“I just took a Klonopin to try and calm myself down. I brought it to work just in case I’d need it. But by bringing it to work, did I perpetuate the need to take it? Did I create a situation where I felt I needed to take it, or did I handle the situation properly by planning ahead? Now I’m confused. I do feel calmer, but tired. I guess I did need it.”
I put the pen and paper in my shirt pocket. I continue to water orchids.
This day sucks. This day is difficult. I feel so heavy. The pain is heavy today. There’s so much shit to do at work today I didn’t know we had to do. People need things from me today.
I water another plant.
Should I ask to leave early? No, I can’t. Everyone needs me to help make stuff today. I wish I knew about this ahead of time.
I water another orchid.
It’s raining. I tune everyone out for the most part. I help make things for a wedding.
I journal some more.
“I’m really sad right now. A smile seems like such hard work at the moment. A smile would take so much energy, and I don’t have much. It would probably use what little I have left.”
I continue making things.
My hands are shaking. It’s hard to make things. I haven’t eaten yet, and I should, but I have no appetite.
Damn, they’re so much faster at making things than I am. I am a failure. I am terrible at my job. Am I trying too hard to make it too perfect? Am I spending more time on things than I should? Wow. They’ve made so many more than me. And they all look really good. Mine suck. I hate mine. Mine don’t look as good compared to theirs. I am really terrible at this. Should I take the Adderall my doctor prescribed? I wonder if I should try it out. It’s something I haven’t tried yet. Maybe it will work. I don’t know. What the hell am I going to do?
The end of the day is near. Two people leave. I stay with one other person. There is not much to do. I clean some buckets. I half-ass it and rinse them out with hot water. I sit down. I thumb through a magazine and wonder when the day will be over.
What’s the clock say? Ten more minutes. God, this is agonizing. Am I being a bitch? I feel like I am being a bitch. Everyone probably thinks I am being a huge bitch today. It’s really hard to hang on today.
It’s 4 o’clock. I ask if i can leave. I can, so I do. I get in my car. I wonder how my boyfriend can stand to be with me.
Why does he love me? I’m so annoying. I’m so much to handle. I have so many problems. I’m always unhappy. How can he love me when I’m always sad? He probably doesn’t. He’ll probably leave me one day. I bet he’ll leave me one day. God, I can’t wait to get home. Man, this drive home is hard. I really need to concentrate and focus. Why can’t I focus on driving? I can’t believe I still feel out of it.
I park my car. I am home. I walk upstairs. I see all my plants.
They look so good. They’re all sprouting. Great!
I unlock my door, open and close it behind me. I drop my things on the kitchen floor. I start to journal.
“I am so tired. I am in my bed. I am typing. I usually hand write entries. God, I’m exhausted. I don’t feel like calling my therapist. I don’t have the energy to talk on the phone. If I was dead, this would be so much easier. It wouldn’t be anything at all actually. I wouldn’t have to do anything. I can just rest. I don’t feel like doing this anymore. I don’t feel like living my days this way. It’s exhausting. I really want to die sometimes. Man, this is one of those moments I really want to die. I don’t want to be here anymore. I don’t think I want to keep going. I can’t handle this ride to hell any longer because that’s exactly what it is. I think I’m ready to give up. God forbid if I say this stuff out loud though. But, I am still typing this. I can’t tell anyone I am thinking this. I don’t want my therapist to send me to another hospital. I don’t want to be sent away. Sometimes I do. Should I go back? I wonder what would happen if i did. Probably cause more turmoil than I need. Man, it’s hard to hang on today. But writing this is helping a little.”
I text my therapist. I tell her I am home and I journaled but I am too tired to talk so I am texting instead. She responds and says she will be around tonight if I change my mind about calling.
“Here I am now. Still typing this. Taking it one second at a time. Because that’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can do. Take it one second at a time. If taking things one moment, one hour or one minute at a time is too much, then just take it one second at a time. Those seconds become minutes. Those minutes become hours. Those hours become days. Those days become weeks. Weeks become months. Months become years. And look at that. We’ve all survived another round.”
To this community, these people, everyone who struggles with mental illness: we are in this together. If this just helps one person, then it’s done its job. Do it for me, do it for each other, do it for yourself-take it one second at a time.
You are not alone.
If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.