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What It Feels Like to Have a 'Depression Hangover'


I’m pretty sure I’m hungover right now, but it’s not what you think.

This past weekend, I experienced one of my most severe bouts of depression in a while. I woke on Sunday morning with good intentions — change my clothes, make a coffee, sit at the table and write. I have a pretty huge deadline coming up, you see. It’s one of those potentially life-changing deadlines which adds all kinds of pressure to my already anxiety-ridden life.

I digress. I sat down, notes ready, fingers to keyboard, but nothing came. Instead, the usual thoughts filled my head — “I can’t do this, this is terrible, nobody wants to read this, what’s the point in even writing to begin with?” A few weeks ago, I was doing pretty well at silencing those thoughts. Hell, I even got some writing done, and maybe some of what I wrote wasn’t half bad. On Sunday, these thoughts took hold. They sunk their hooks in, and they weren’t letting go.

It wasn’t long before I was lying on the sofa, feeling awful about everything and nothing all at once. I know this seems like the “tortured writer” stereotype, all laments and sighs at the loss of one’s creativity, and how I wish it were as easy as that. I spent the entire day doubting my career, and sunk into a pit I couldn’t climb out of no matter how much I forced myself. I was extremely irritable, and even the smallest unexpected things — the noise of a dog barking outside, the TV not turning on — made me want to scream at the world for not being right. I would’ve screamed if I had the energy to do so.

I tried to write — I really did. I didn’t want to be feeling that way and certainly didn’t understand why I was. I’m in the process of official diagnosis (aside from depression), and almost didn’t write this article because of that. See? There’s self-doubt again. The point is, I don’t understand what’s going on with me, and I really wish I did. All I know is this: sometimes I’m filled with a complete and utter lack of motivation, self-belief or drive. I want to move, I want to write, I want to clean the house and change my clothes and feed the pets and do all of those things, but I feel simply stuck. Yesterday — Sunday — was one of those days. That dark cloud followed me all day until, at 11 p.m., I chose an earlier bedtime as a method of just getting the day over with. I was ready for Monday.

Which leads us to today. Once again, I got up with the intention of doing all the aforementioned things, writing being the goal. That deadline is a little closer, you see. I sat down with a coffee and a hope and tried my best to get motivated (beyond the “oh god, oh god I need to write” motivation). Again though, no matter how much I tried, the words wouldn’t come. It felt like even typing that first word was impossible, that some invisible force held me and wouldn’t let go. I know what I’m meant to be writing. I know the scene, the chapter; hell, I had my notes right there, ready to start. So why couldn’t I do it?

The difference is, it wasn’t nearly as severe as yesterday. I was upset, sure, but the depression wasn’t the all-encompassing crushing force it had been. Now, it was a kind of low-level hum, a blanket of wispy cloud rather than a single stormy behemoth. Which brings me on to the hangover.

Today, there’s a persistent haze over everything. It’s like the world is fogged, and no matter how much I try to concentrate there’s something obscuring my mind. I can’t formulate thoughts properly, as if they’re just out of reach. I’m feeling down, and quite anxious by little things, despite things not going too badly. I’m trying to focus on work, but it’s like my neurons have turned to thick, viscous sludge. I’m just done.

It feels like a hangover of yesterday — a depression hangover if you will. The effects of yesterday’s complete and utter depression haven’t quite faded, and my mind is still trying to recover. It’ll probably take a few days to get back to my “normal” level of depression, but what then? When does the next episode come? And when will I be able to write again without the utter self-doubt and lack of motivation?

Yes, I’m waiting on an official diagnosis, but as a friend said: no one is going to hand me a piece of paper the next time I see my psychiatrist that says, “Congrats, you’re depressed!” I don’t know what I’m going to be diagnosed with, and I’ll gladly accept whatever it is. All I know is this: I don’t want to be feeling this way. I don’t want to be living this way, if you can call it living. Even as I write this, the thought enters my mind that others have it worse than this. I’m an imposter, a fraud, I’m just lazy, I’m complaining over nothing, etc. It’s hard not to believe those thoughts. I know others have it worse, and I’d never pretend they didn’t. I just don’t want to be feeling this way anymore.

Follow this journey on Twitter @mattsloanwrites

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Thinkstock photo via stevanovicigor