sad woman hugging pillow and crying muted color

When a Low Mood Makes You Frightened Depression Is Returning

339
339
1

I am well into recovery from a severe episode of depression. I’m thankful I’m able to write that. I’m doing well in terms of medication, getting more exercise and looking after myself better. However, there’s always the fear every time a mental slump occurs that depression is rearing its ugly head once more.

There are days, even weeks, of feeling mentally stable, and I almost convince myself I’m in a great place and will remain there for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, my mind likes to mess around with me every now and again and drag me down into the pit.

This is a place that scares and confuses me. I know even the most mentally robust of people have a bad day and just aren’t feeling it. I want to be one of those people who says “bad days happen” and gets over it.

The problem is that when you’ve been so low that you’ve tried to die by suicide, sometimes even the slightest twinge of melancholy can be frightening.

I am writing this on a day when low mood came crashing in from the moment I opened my eyes. Rather than normal waking, it was more like a heavy shutter crashed down on me, with a sign upon it stating, “closed for business.”

These days are thankfully few and far between now, but they still make me question where I am with my mental health. The problem is that a low mood day is similar to depression. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I feel angry with the world, I’m irritable, sad, out of sorts and generally just long to stay in bed all day.

The only hope I hold on these low mood days is that maybe tomorrow I will wake up and it will have passed. This is where my mind can be cruel. I’ve had low mood days plural, even as long as a week. I panic and grow concerned that I’m relapsing. I try to keep going and do all the good things that help me both mentally and physically. I battle with whether it’s worth it if I’m just going to go hurtling back down the rabbit hole of depression. I monitor myself so hard that it makes my head hurt.

This is the curse of being someone prone to depression and who has had episodes of varying severity over the past 20 years. I can never rest easy. I know that sounds pessimistic. Don’t get me wrong — I do not live life waiting to slip into depression.

Once I’m in recovery, I try my best to not only pick up the pieces but seize the new days to come. It’s just that when you’ve spent a large part of your life having at least two severe episodes a year, you cannot help but brace yourself for it to hit when you’re having a low mood day or week.

Low mood days are hurtful reminders of an illness that takes over my life. Low mood days are unwelcome signifiers of how it was and how I never, ever want it to be again.

When a low mood day comes, all I can do is hold on tight, use all the coping strategies I know and dip out of life for a while. I know self-care. I’m getting better at it.

If the housework doesn’t get done because my brain is whirring negative thoughts at the speed of light, so what? The world will not end.

If I cannot work on my novel today due to the inability to stay awake and focused, I will try to be kind to myself and not buy into the feelings of failure. I’ve come too far to quit.

Today is a low mood day.

Today I am giving myself a break and care for me. After all, I am the most important person right now. That’s not selfish. That’s survival.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via spukkato

339
339
1

RELATED VIDEOS

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The Storm of Depression Can't Make It Rain Forever

162
162
1

It’s like a storm that begins small.

Just a few sprinkles, easy to ignore.

Then it grows into bigger drops.

Pretty soon it’s a large storm, capable of destroying everything in its path — including me.

This storm is difficult to pass through. The lightning strikes are the monsters of depression screaming inside my head. The thunder rolls and it’s what keeps me awake at night. And I’m exhausted.

My depression is telling me I’ll never be good enough. It hushes me by telling me nobody wants to hear about how horrible the storm is, how big it has become. I’m trapped inside the storm, and it’s as if there is no end in sight. I’m terrified of what it can grow into.

I want to reach out. I want to scream. I want to tell somebody, but I have no voice. The thunder will make my cries for help unable to be heard. That doesn’t stop me from trying. Small phrases like, “I don’t want to go to practice today,” or “I’m just really tired,” are all I can manage to say in hopes someone will pick up on the cues I’m struggling and need someone to help me.

I want this storm to be over. I want to be free from the monster of depression that’s taken up residence inside my head. I want to see the sunshine and feel as though I am strong again.

But right now, the only thing getting me through this horrific storm is remembering the phrase, “Be strong now because things will get better. It might be stormy now, but it can’t rain forever.”

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Archv

162
162
1
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

How Focusing on Small Victories Helped With My Depression

274
274
2

After three missed appointments in a row, I was finally able to bring myself to visit my doctor. “My secretary and I had a pool going on whether or not you were going to show up,” he joked. It hurt a little, but I knew he meant well.

School wasn’t going so well for me. Nothing was, actually. After dropping nearly all my classes, I was still failing one and behind in the other. I missed my test the week before — I couldn’t even think, let alone write a test that day. I was still feeling the same today. My finances were terrible, I hadn’t seen my friends or done anything other than sleep and Netflix in God knows how long, and I kept forgetting when my shifts were at my part-time job. The event I was supposed to plan for my club fell through, and there were major consequences. I was failing in nearly every aspect of my life.

My doctor was busy, and it seemed like he wanted our meeting over as soon as possible. Maybe that’s just how I interpreted it. He knew I was back to get another prescription, and luckily he knew I needed a doctor’s note as well. The last two years have been really rough for my academics —many failed or withdrawn classes accumulated on my transcript.

He asked me some questions about my life and how it’s going, and for the first time in the past two years, there’s not a lot going on anymore. I don’t have any reason to be depressed anymore, yet here I am. It became clear to my doctor that I needed to take my life down a notch. “It would be best for you to focus on your health. Try just taking it one course at a time — you need some small victories.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about that. Small victories. He was right, and I knew it. I embraced what he said and tried to make some changes.

Each day I vowed to get at least one thing done, no matter how small it was.

Send my professor an email. Done. Do the dishes. Check.

Completing one small thing each day turned into three things each day, which turned into six. Slowly, I was working my way to a small victory. Finishing a course without dropping it. Getting an 80 in my one summer course. Completing a personal project.

Small victories give me the confidence my depression strips away from me, and I’ll never forget that.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Kritchanut

274
274
2
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Looking for Lifeguards as I Ride the Wave of Depression

103
103
1

Envision the ocean.

Above this oceanic magnificence is a soaring, glorious, stunning wave, gliding gracefully over the surface of the sea. In a decisive haste beneath the wave, all life swims frenetically in the direction contrary to the wave’s course. The wave is blithe and liberated. The wave is in command of its path. There are no barriers. If any were to attempt to intercept, the wave would smash right through the blockades, knocking each one down. The more distance the wave covers, the more vigor it gains. The wave is undeniably unstoppable.

Then the shoreline comes into sight. The wave knows it is rapidly approaching its own ruin, but it continues, despite the awareness that the shore will be devastating. It crashes onto the sand. The ocean has regained command and pulls the remnants of the once splendid wall of water back into the unbounded depth and darkness. The wave has no authority over the deep.

I ride this wave. My depression isn’t always in the spotlight. The struggle is reaching out before I crash. There is always a lifeguard stationed to help me. My lifeguards are my husband and my therapist. When I’m riding on the top of that wave and I see the end, all I have to do is signal them somehow. They’ll be at the edge of the water, prepared to break my fall and hold onto me so the deep cannot completely envelop me again. Sometimes I watch my lifeguards wade into my waters to meet me before the break. They are willing to fight the tides for me.

Reach out. You have a lifeguard also. They are all around you. It’s difficult to signal for help, but a skilled lifeguard will see the danger before it comes for us.

Follow this journey on Writing With Kryptonite.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Tim Marshall

103
103
1
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Why I Talked to My Son About Depression

275
275
2

I recently had “the talk” with my son. No, not that talk (although I have had that discussion many times with him). I mean the talk about mental illness — and my mental illness to be exact. It went quite well actually, beyond whatever expectations I had for the encounter. He was attentive and seemed to understand what I was telling him — at least the best a 12-year-old can understand. But then again, why would it have gone any differently? And why was I more apprehensive about this talk than any other I’ve had with him? Is it possible I worried about the stigma of mental illness and the ever-so-familiar silent judgment from my own son? Probably, though it pains my fatherly heart to think so.

My father wrestles with depression. His depression manifests itself mostly in feelings of worthlessness, guilt and shame. And his father struggled with depression as well, though as children growing up we just thought he liked to take long walks by himself or be alone for hours tinkering in his workshop. It’s only been recent that these generational challenges have been discussed — somewhat openly, yet guardedly, as though it’s the big family secret no one is willing to admit to. I don’t know how far back our family tree this predisposition to depression runs, but three generations worth of evidence suggests my own son will likely deal with it as well. So I decided two things have to happen:

One, I have to be the chain-breaker.

Previous generations avoided talking about — and even giving full credence to — mental illness. Depression was a character flaw, a nuisance; merely one of life’s obstacles that must be overcome by hard work, prayer and perseverance. To admit to having a mental illness was to admit to weakness. “Life is hard, so just work harder” seemed to be their mantra. It is only in recent years that finally, finally, people are beginning to view mental illness differently. I believe our generation has the opportunity to finally break the chain of stigma; to end the silence and embarrassment surrounding mental illness; to bring enlightenment, understanding and acceptance to a world previously paralyzed by ignorance and fear. And this transformation has to begin in our own families. I will not allow the silence of my father, and his father, to be perpetuated any further. I will not carry on the family façade of so-called stoicism in the face of real and difficult mental challenges. I will not sit back and watch my children struggle the same way I struggled. I will shatter this link of the chain and not allow it to be perpetuated any further.

Two, I have to prepare my son.

Chances are very good that at some point, probably within the next 3-5 years, he’s going to start noticing signs of depression in his life. Like me, he’s going to start feeling the weight, the darkness, the numbness and the pain that accompanies it. Like me, he’s going to doubt his worth and struggle to find his place in the world. But unlike me, he’s going to be prepared. He will know that what he’s feeling are the same feelings his dad feels. He will know he’s not “crazy,” or different and certainly not alone. I hope he will feel comfortable talking with me about it. Depression feeds off isolation and containment. Trying to hold it inside only makes it grow stronger. Eventually, after years of suppression, it can become so deeply-rooted, so solidly entrenched, so massive and so black it is nearly impossible to extract yourself from it. Believe me, I know. And you can bet I will do everything in my power to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to him.

I will not allow my son’s identity to be interlinked with any form of mental illness. I will not allow his past to be held against him, nor his future to be held captive, by depression. I will not stand by while his self-worth and confidence are beaten down. Of course, there is only so much I can do — I can’t live his life for him. But, as his father, I am committed to doing everything I possibly can to prepare him for, and help him through, whatever may come.

So we talked and will continue to talk. Mental health will be an open topic for discussion in my family. No taboos, no stigmas, no judging. Mine will be a family where these challenges are met with understanding, openness, acceptance and unconditional love. This is the legacy I hope desperately to pass on to my son – a new link in our family chain.

 We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Olga Lyubkina

275
275
2
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The Challenge of Running When You’re Depressed

158
158
3

Hot on the heels of the London Marathon, I’m sure many of us are feeling spurred on to either begin running or to get back into it. I’m no different. I used to run years ago, but unfortunately I let it slide. I could blame this on depression and how it makes me want to sleep my days away, but it’s also about just getting plain lazy.

Once your fitness goes and the weight piles on, it’s really hard to contemplate exercise. Starting from the beginning is always tough. It’s even harder when you’re fighting depression and anxiety. The negative thoughts tell you it’s not worth the hassle and you will only fail, so why begin? On bad days, negativity wins and the cushion fort of the sofa becomes a refuge.

Unfortunately, I have a propensity to comfort eat when I am depressed. I understand many people lose their appetite when they’re in that dark place, but not me. I have been known to put on quite a lot of weight from trying to find solace in carbs-laden and sugar-heavy foods. This has done me no favors in further despising myself.

I have been reticent about exercising. I will confess that a brisk walk or negotiating a flight of stairs has led to me being a little out of breath. Hardly a catalyst for wanting to do something more strenuous, is it?

Then the other day I watched a show on BBC 1 called ‘Mind Over Marathon’: This involves a group of 10 people, all with mental illnesses, committing to training to run the London Marathon. They have a range of illnesses and many have never done any form of running. I found myself relating to those who find running hard because they are battling anxiety and depression.

Like some of these individuals, I am petrified at the idea of running outside where others can see and potentially judge me. Not only do I worry about small things such as whether I’m running correctly, if I’m red in the face, and if I appear unfit, I also contend with being overweight and having mental illnesses.

I went for my first run in years, a few days ago. It was tough. I did a “Couch Potato to 5K” program, which I think will suit me, but I don’t mind admitting it was painful and I got upset.

Through the walking and jogging stints, I was not only trying to motivate myself to keep going, but I was also battling against the depression thoughts that I should just give up, that I would not complete it, and that I was foolish to even try. Add to that the anxiety spiral of worrying people were laughing at me and judging the woman who looked like she was about to have a heart attack, and you have something of a nightmare.

So you would think I gave up, right? Oddly enough I didn’t.

The next day I decided I needed to go again. It helps that my husband is coming along with me, for now. He is providing me with encouragement, motivating me to keep going when I want to quit, and, dare I say it, I know if people are casting us a glance, it may be at both of us rather than just me.

The second run was still tough. I don’t expect great things so soon. However I can genuinely state I felt a sense of pride in doing it. It was good to be outside, listening to music, being in the company of my husband and defeating small hurdles of jogging every now and again in between the walks. I’m not going to sugarcoat this and declare that running will “cure” all mental illnesses, but maybe it is a way to strengthen the mind.

I am heartened that the London Marathon chose Heads Together as their chosen charity. It shows how the link between physical exercise for helping those of us with mental illness is strong.

Running is a case of mind over matter. That’s not so easy for someone who has to deal with the relentless thoughts and worries that come from being mentally ill. Not only are you trying to make it through physically when you’re exerting yourself, but you’re waging a war with the demons in your head who want you to lie down and quit.

I’m not a poster girl for running. I can barely complete the easiest part of the program at this stage, but I know I will keep trying to get out there and run. I believe I owe it to myself. Please don’t think this is easy for me. I am currently in a depression relapse, and even summoning up the energy to think about running is tiring. I guess I like to win. No matter how small, putting my sneakers on and taking that first step out of the door is a personal victory.

I will fail some days when I want to hide from the world. I am determined I will look to tomorrow for a potentially better running day. I desire the freedom running gives of pushing my body and experiencing those endorphins that reward the effort.

I want to look after my mind by exercising my body. I wish to feel proud of myself for hitting my goals, both big and small. I need to keep living. Running makes me feel alive. It reminds me that this body and mind can work together and that I am worth it.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by kieferpix

158
158
3
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.