What My Life Is Like During a Major Depressive Episode

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder almost 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve seen a psychiatrist and therapist on an ongoing basis. I manage my symptoms with medication and actively work on new coping skills and thought patterns with my therapist.

After 10 years of active treatment, you’d think depression would have lost its hold on me. But no. That isn’t how my depression works. Sometimes it lies dormant, and I appear to be a well-adjusted, functioning, responsible adult. In fact, sometimes it’s dormant for so long I actually believe it’s gone. But then it returns. Sometimes it creeps back into my life slowly, through negative self-talk or various cognitive distortions. Other times, depression screams its way back into my life, engulfing me in a mental hurricane.

When this happens, life kind of… stops. Or slides. Time passes both quickly and at a snails-pace. I’m always exhausted yet stay up way too late because I know when I go to bed, it means I have to get up and face the world again. And depression tells me I. Just. Can’t.

I wrote the following during a major depressive episode. I’m not sharing it for pity, or concern, or anything other than this: if you are reading this, and you have depression, please know you’re not alone. I’m here, too.

I’m struggling to breathe. To keep my eyes open. My consciousness seems disconnected from my physical being, and try as I might, I can’t quite pull it all back together. I pinch my arm, hoping the physical pain will pull my mind back to me, but it doesn’t work.

For the last few days, my depression has pummeled me. Life, right now, is an ominous, heavy, looming dark mass… just writing that sentence makes me want to shut my eyes and sleep it away. Things that are “easy” — getting up in the morning, making breakfast for my daughter, writing an email — weigh on me like an anvil. My mind and body are exhausted, fatigued from this mental and emotional warfare.

Because it is a war. I can see the person I want to be. Strong, independent, confident, self-sufficient, compassionate, caring, healthy, loving, alive, real. I can see that person, but I’m not her. I’m a shadow of her, fighting against the crushing current of my mind. I know the steps I need to take to become her, but how do I do seemingly simple things when getting out of bed feels like an Olympic sport and giving in to the darkness is so tempting.

As I sit here typing this, I physically feel a weight on me, like someone placed a weighted vest over my shoulders. Breathing is a chore, blinking my eyes seems to occur in slow motion, and there’s a strange looseness in my shoulders as if they’re sliding around in their sockets.

My therapist assures me I’m not “crazy,” and I guess I believe her, because if I don’t listen to her, then the voices whispering to me get too loud and I can’t function. Depression lies. It’s sneaky, and dark, and seductive. It tells me that living is too hard, and that I am not good enough for it, and really, that everyone would be better off if I simply left the picture.

But I know, at least I think I know, that this is going to pass. Maybe tomorrow, or next week, or next month, I hope to wake up and find the murkiness has cleared and I feel real again.

And if you’re in it now — experiencing a dark, heavy, crushing reality — just know you aren’t alone. I’m here with you. And we will make it out.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

Follow this journey on Michelle’s blog.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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