How a Simple E-Mail Sent Me Into a Depressive Episode


I was having a good day. But then, in an instant, it changed. That is the nature of my illness.

I saw an e-mail. Opened it. A few seconds went by and then there they were — symptoms I know all too well as early warnings I am about to have a depressive episode. My sense of calm from a few minutes earlier was replaced with an overwhelming sense of sadness and guilt. My normally optimistic outlook was replaced with a sense of hopelessness.

I send my girlfriend a message. It was irrational, and I knew it as I wrote it. I knew I was in it then. The episode was no longer on the horizon. It was on me. I had to fight like hell to prevent myself from losing full control.

I send my girlfriend another message. “I’m losing control,” I say. She knows what that means. After almost five years of dating, she has been through this before. She knows what to do. “OK. Call me when you can. I’m here,” she says. I say thanks and then say I will be MIA for a while. I know this doesn’t make her happy and she will worry but, for me to get through this, I need to do it by retreating inward.

I try and focus on something else but I feel tears on the verge of spewing out of my eyes. I know if I do not focus, I will start crying. My day becomes about preventing myself from going into a full-fledged depressive episode.

For me at least, preventing myself from fully losing control is hard. It is not as simple as flipping a switch. I need to put a lot of mental power into it.

I try to simply start thinking about something else. That doesn’t work. I take a deep breath and say to myself, “Just don’t cry. You can do this.” More deep breaths. More talking to myself. I’m not back in control, but I feel like I have prevented the full-fledged episode.

I look at the clock and angst comes over me. I have two hours of meetings. I think to myself, “How am I going to survive this without ending up on the floor crying? Forget that, how am I going to get through them without people seeing how awful I feel?”

I managed to get through the meetings without issue. They ended up being the best thing to happen to me because I was so focused on what was happening in the meetings, my mind was able to right itself.

And just like that, it was over. For four hours, my day was turned upside down. That is the reality of depression: it is always there, lurking in the background, just waiting for an opening. When you have depression, you are very aware of this. You wake up each morning knowing your day can change in an instant because of something as innocent as an e-mail you open.

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Unsplash photo via Tom Pumford.

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