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When Depression Makes You a Forgetful Person

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I came across the term “brain fog” only recently. I had never quite thought of depression this way, but the metaphor seems fitting. When you are depressed there’s something that seems to obstruct your interaction with other people. It isn’t a physical barrier. It’s some sort of foggy, misty sort of apparition I can only assume comes from some of the cognitive symptoms associated with depression.

The first fogginess I remember experiencing is impaired memory. It was so frustrating to realize I could no longer hold assignments and documentation deadlines in my head. In the past, I could remember the dates and times of appointments and major due dates for a month or more without a planner. I used to write things down in order to have something to refer back to, but rarely needed to. More often than not, I just checked to satisfy my anxious and perfectionistic tendencies. When I realized how significantly my memory had changed, it chipped away at my previous identity. I panicked when I realized I couldn’t study and remember information the way I used to.

I have been told “well, you were above average before, now you’re just ‘normal.’” I do recognize I was blessed to be able to complete an intensive grad school program with moderate to severe major depressive disorder. With good grades, no less.

But I still feel significant loss when I can’t even keep a simple to-do list in my head for one day. I feel worthless when I mistake the hour of a meeting with a supervisor and arrive 30 minutes late. We all learn to use our strengths to compensate for our weaknesses, but what happens when a strength is no longer a strength? Even if I got an average score on a memory test, I would feel angry and sad at the change. I don’t feel like me.

The depression consumes my creativity and impairs my problem-solving. As an introvert, I have spent a lot of time in my own head. My thoughts feel rich with creativity and full of intricate connections. Problem-solving and connecting new information to old information came easy. Instead of these things, my mind lies to me about reality, inundates me with feelings of hopelessness and whispers thoughts of death and escape. There is no room left for my complex inner world. Depression also slows my mental processing. My work requires me to be with people and communicate effectively for most of my day.

Trying to keep up with what other people are saying challenges me, especially when I’m tired (which is pretty much always). Trying to immediately evaluate a client’s performance and give feedback requires extreme focus and significant effort. Even in more informal social situations, maintaining a conversation can be difficult, especially if the pace is fast. I am tired of having to work this hard and feel ashamed about social blunders, both real and imagined.

As painful as these hits to my memory, creativity and processing can be, I can point out one positive result. I am slightly less perfectionistic and still working on it. Instead of saying “should,” I am learning to identify the difference between ideal and realistic.

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When Depression Is Your Unwanted Bedfellow

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It was coming on again last night. You knew this, you felt it coming. As you dressed yourself for bed, the sensation of heaviness started in on you – so you rushed to sleep. Heavy sleep befell you, something akin to the way warm water feels once your muscles relax – except it was cold at the core of it.

Flash forward.

You woke up this morning and it was sleeping in your bed with you. Black, overwhelming and jealous of your loved ones. This creature has become a demon in your once-perfect home. Everything you are is irreversibly intertwined into its web of lies and helplessness.

It seems impossible to move with the weight pressing in on you and this demonic beast growling and whispering in your ear. The voice given off by your unwanted bedmate press you further into your mattress and into its grip.

You can’t do anything right…

They don’t need you…

Nothing about you is valuable…

This voice echoes endlessly. Soon — all too soon — you see half the day has passed between “pseudo” sleeping and pressing the pillows to your ears in a helpless act of defiance. The harder you try to escape it, the harder the demon grips you.

The day feels like both an eternity and a moment. You cannot believe the sun is now setting. It is now time to go to sleep. Pills are taken. A bit of writing is done. You sleep restlessly, then heavily, then restlessly again, until you repeat this day again tomorrow.

Peace, love and Bulletproof Marshmallows,

Mandey T

Follow this journey at The Little Tea Lady or on Facebook.

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When It's Easier to Hide in the Shadows Than Face the Light

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When you hear people talk about how to feel better when you have clinical depression and anxiety, the suggestions are enumerable:

Go take a walk.

Go do something fun.

Call a friend.

Distract yourself.

Exercise.

The idea is that perhaps if you get your mind off of your worries for a little while, you won’t feel depressed anymore. For me, it’s much easier to hide in the shadows than face the light of day where others might see me for who I am. I don’t want to go outside. I don’t want to talk to people. I don’t want to even exist most of the time. All that said, I often find myself forcing myself out “for my own good,” and because of my continuous struggle to become the happy person everyone needs me to be, the following is a run-down of thoughts I have when I do force myself out into the light.

When I go out in public, I just wind up ducking my head down and avoiding eye contact. I’m terrified that people will see my pain and try to talk to me. Or worse, that they’ll try to talk to me and not even notice what I’m hiding on the inside. Small talk feels fraudulent, but I’m terrified of saying what I’m really thinking. I can make it in the outside world, but I just don’t feel right when I do.

Smiling feels unnatural. I worry that as I get older, I’ll be one of those people with permanent frown lines etched into their faces. It’s the old adage that “if you keep making that face, it’ll get stuck like that” that I think about all the time. But a smile just doesn’t feel right. I see pictures of myself smiling and still can’t identify with the person in the photo. Who is she? I don’t know that smiling person. It feels unreal. It feels wrong. But I do wish I could be the happy person I see in the photos.

Going for a walk sometimes does help some. During the walk, if I have someone to talk to who will really listen, the openness feels liberating. Often, though, I spend the time doing more stewing instead of feeling the endorphin release I’m supposed to feel from the exercise. My body doesn’t feel like moving, and I feel like a sloth. I trudge along, but I don’t feel strong.

When someone wants to spend time with me, I have to weigh out the decision. Honestly, in the moment, when I’m doing something else, I feel a bit better. But in the back of my mind, I’m thinking about how the fun won’t really last and I’ll have to go back to my own misery later. I would like to say that going out and having fun gets rid of the depression, but it doesn’t. I guess the momentary reprieve is somewhat worthwhile. I mean, any break from the doom and gloom is better than feeling it all the time. I just wish it could last forever.
Inside, it’s like I’m actively fighting against happiness most of the time. I don’t want to do it, but I can’t seem to help myself. I wonder about what people must think when I’m out having fun and smiling. Those who know what I’m going through might think that I’m all better because I had some fun. I just wish they knew that I need more than just a day outside of the house to fix what feels broken inside.

All in all, I just don’t feel up to life, which feels even more awful when I think about how my mood disorder must make my kids feel. I can only hope that they know I’m not said because of them, and I try my hardest to show them my love for them. I know that if I could just pretend a little while longer that I’m happy and I don’t worry all the time, I could be a “better person.”

And that’s the real tragedy of depression and anxiety. You’re too tired to move and too anxious to reach out to people. Hiding in the shadows keeps me away from being hurt in the long run, because, you know, what if people hate the person I really am? I can avoid rejection and disappointment if I never expect anything. So here I hide, only reaching out to the online community, hoping to get better, but not really counting on it happening. While none of this inspires hope in others, it is, for once, real and maybe that’s OK. So if you’re feeling hopeless and helpless like me, maybe we can at least commiserate with one another. I don’t promise happiness, but at least bringing out what I’m feeling might make someone else feel validated, and, to be really honest, a validation of my feelings is all I really wanted all along. It might not stop the private hell I’m feeling inside, but it at least makes me feel less alone.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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How the Birds Sound When I Can't Get Out of Bed in the Morning

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I open my eyes and I see the same walls I said goodnight to just two hours ago. The sound of birds outside my door should be the sounds of happy morning, but to me it’s the day that will drag on for only hours to come.

I lay there looking at my phone as the clock says 6:48 a.m. The house is quiet and all I hear is my breathing.

How does one fear the day?

Only to sleep at night.

I pray for dark sky to fall so I can feel OK to lay in my bed for hours without expectations of getting out of the house.

The birds. They seem so happy and so alive. If I could be a bird, I would never land. I would fly and flap my wings and see things, feel things. The wind is endless and the smells are forever. But here in bed, it’s just me and my endless thoughts. Just a year ago I told my family about my depression, thinking it might help lessen the weight of only knowing it myself.

As I linger on this thought of my illness, why can’t I just snap out of it and be happy again. Where did I go wrong? Was it my childhood? Was it the people I let in my life? I shake my head and know it’s no one’s fault.

I want to get out of bed, but I know I’ll just move to the couch and sit there all day and count down the hours until I reach my bed one more time.

This is my life? Why? To go out and see friends and family and live, but this just sends my heart racing and I wipe my eyes.

The birds… they sounds so beautiful.

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To the Stranger Who Doesn't See My 'High-Functioning' Depression

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Dear stranger,

You look at me on the subway and you see a tired woman on her way to work. You see someone who looks like everyone else on the subway, someone who is sleepy because it’s 8 a.m. Some days, just for a moment, you may see a hint of something more. Let me share with you what that little something is.

I have hidden my depression for as long as I can remember. I have what some people may call “high-functioning” depression. It is a lovely companion to my anxiety. To the outside world I look like I have it all together. My makeup and hair are always done, I am well dressed, I look put together. It has always been this way. Smiling through the pain, hiding the fact I really just couldn’t get out of bed that morning. I show up, do my part and then go home and crumble.

Going through a day with “high-functioning” depression looks like a lot of smiles. It sounds like “I’m just tired.” Part of this is true because all the hiding becomes exhausting. The pretending is easy some days and very difficult on other days. The weight of hiding how I feel presses down and it gets heavier and heavier until it crushes me. When it becomes too much to bear, it looks like tears running down my face. It sounds like gasping for air, like screams and like sobs. It sounds like me asking why. It’s panic attacks without cause, it’s numbness without a known trigger and it’s fits of anger over small incidents.

The next day you see a tired girl. I sit on the subway and you look at me, you look at how although my makeup is done, I look exhausted. This is my life with high-functioning depression and anxiety. This is my life hiding it all.

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How Andrew Solomon's TED Talk Helped Me Better Understand My Depression

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I recently listened to an amazing TED Talk given by Andrew Solomon titled “Depression, the Secret We Share.” Speaking from his own experience with depression, Andrew was able to articulate so well a major part of my experience with depression.

Andrew said:

“You don’t think in depression that you’ve put on a gray veil and are seeing the world through the haze of a bad mood. You think that the veil has been taken away, the veil of happiness, and that now you’re seeing truly.”

Yes. This is so me. My depression does at times feel like a gray veil, a dark cloud coming over me that turns my mood sour. The way I experience depression on almost a daily basis, however, is feeling as if the rose-colored glasses I once viewed the world through have been ripped from my eyes, and I am left staring endlessly out at life as it really is. Depression feels like I am left to exist in a world that is gray, chaotic, confusing, empty and meaningless.

Andrew’s talk didn’t end there, though. Yes, depression makes me believe the veil of happiness has been taken away and I am now seeing truly, but that is not the truth. “But the truth lies” was the exact phrase Andrew used next, and that was a phrase he said he clung to in his fight against depression.

“But the truth lies.”

I began to think about what false truths depression might be telling me. You don’t really matter. Life is meaningless. You are expendable. You are too much to truly be loved by anyone. You are too much for your friends and family. You will always be insecure. There isn’t purpose to anything. Having faith will only bring you pain.

Being a very rational person, I like to believe I know how to discern truth from lies. I trust in my ability to sort out reason from deception. But as I listened to this TED Talk, I wondered if my brain’s great ability to think has unknowingly become a victim to a cunning enemy. An enemy that masquerades itself as reality while it silently steals away all hope and vitality from its prey.

Thanks to Andrew Solomon’s TED Talk, I feel I’ve been given a lot more insight into the enemy of depression I am in an ongoing battle with. I’m still trying to figure out how to keep this enemy at bay while at the same time beginning to repair the damage it’s already done.

I highly recommend listening to Andrew’s talk, whether you are fighting depression yourself or know someone who is. I encourage you to ask the question his talk spurred me to ask myself: What are the false truths depression tells you? And what would it look like to maybe, just maybe, start challenging the lies depression so cunningly says are true?

Image via TED.com.

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