man in darkness looking depressed

How I Struggle With My 'Potential' With Major Depressive Disorder

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

I wish I could feel any other way than this — stuck in a stupor, staring into the distance, not even pondering or processing too much at all. I keep thinking, “Oh, I could do this today, then maybe after I could do that…” but I always seem to find a way to squirm out into a crack in the walls and hide in the darkness. I hate myself for not feeling motivated enough, or feeling proactive enough to get on with things by myself. I feel so guilty when I know the people around me want to help. Every day, they try to push me into doing something productive with my time, as I do with myself. They fail to get through my stubborn barriers. Most days, I manage to do the washing up and laundry and cook dinner my partner and I, but so many people now say I have this “potential” to be doing other things with my time.

I crunch my way over the husks of insects beneath me — a tunnel in the corner of the cave persuades me. I arch over and bring myself to my knees; their skeletons scratch and scrape my knees. I peer inside the tunnel — an endless burrow of darkness.

I come home from work, walk my dog, get back home and then slump down in the sofa with her for three hours. Then it’s time to do the daily chores — the tidying up, the cooking etc. It only takes two hours max to do these chores, and I still have all that extra time I use slumping. I feel deep down that I know I could be using it all in a better way. Sometimes, I pick up a pen and sketch pad and stare at it, flick through social media for inspiration, then get shot down by the amazing work and the copious amounts of talent out there, already making a lifestyle out of their passion. I think to myself, “It’s just too late for me, there’s no point trying because everyone else is already doing it and are better than me.”

The tunnel’s textures bobble and spike; the pebbles and rocks dictate my movement. The palms of my hands sting and tingle; I feel each pulse of blood slur and circulate. My knees distress more with every pull and slide as I crawl deeper. The smooth, cyst-like rocks pummel my bones and bruise my blood. The cuts on my hands become infected by the mud and slime. My fingertips are now numb. Sheets of illuminated, gelatinous tentacles hang from the tiny tunnel walls; they look like some sort of imitation feathered textile, intricately designed, but they irritate my skin like jellyfish legs. I vibrate in pain — when will this tunnel end?

For me to immediately put myself down and reject myself of any progress, let alone any productivity, is a lifelong habit I am only now beginning to join the dots with. I know my thoughts are counter productive — extremely negative and negligent toward myself — but I can’t seem to muster any strength on a daily basis to even reassure myself: “Even if everyone else is doing it, the fact is you enjoy doing it — why should any of that stop you from enjoying your passion and talents as a hobby?”

And the truth is; because I don’t deserve to. I don’t deserve to immerse myself fully into things that will make me happy. I am not allowed to be mindful of the way the paint feels and glides along the canvas, trailing a brilliant-colored and textured path. I can’t allow myself to take in the scents of the acrylic paints and fresh canvas — the chemical vapors combining with the alchemy in my brain. I know how satisfying it feels to watch a piece of work unfurl before me, but for the most part, I torture myself; I self-criticize so heavily that I prevent myself from continuing. Then the cycle begins again, the vision of a comfortable sofa and a dog on my lap pursues and takes over me.

Barnacles blister the walls, their sharp and jagged growths scrape softly against my skin; a small tearing sound. The slime froths and bubbles out the cracks of my wounds; I am changing. A blob of black goop blots onto the tunnel surface. Its wretched stench clings to my nostrils. Its putrid smell is maddening, like rotting fish.

There’s a man who stands on my shoulder — a tall broad man engulfed in a dark, oversized waxed jacket. He wears a hat with a large and round brim that covers his face. His entirety is covered in algae and seaweed and drips profusely — like he emerged straight out of the ocean. In an outstretched hand, he grasps a dimly lit lantern. His dark face grins with malevolence: “Life’s a waste of time, fool. Look in the other direction — there’s nothing here for you.” And the worst part is that of course, I listen. I restrict and deprive. I dispossess and an overwhelming urgency to disappear swamps my brain. I convince myself that everyone would be better off if I were gone. Their lives would be so much simple — they would no longer have to stress or worry about anything but themselves and their own lives. They can live happily now.

I begin to desperately pull myself along, deeper still into the endless tunnel. The glowing fungus is the only light vaguely illuminating any progress. I feel my body exude some sort of heat. A black fog made of tiny dark particles perspires from my back. With every heave forward, the black sludge flops out of the ends of my fingers and strings against the rocks. It’s hard to breathe; the smog thickens the air. I graze against another feathery feeler. The dark bubbling slime engulfs the tentacle; it boils and fizzes and disintegrates in seconds. My lungs feel clogged — an imminent pressure bubbling intensely. My breathing is minimal. I gasp my breaths periodically. The tunnel is now filling with the black tar spilling from my wounded hands. I frantically heave my body forward. It’s hard to tell where things begin and end. I slip and fall…

I understand that people do not want me to disappear — that some of them will try to help no matter what. But to what purpose? I only inflict pain and hopelessness. Surely the easier option for them would be to let me go? However, I am learning to accept that these people love me, and that is why they want to help. They want to help me be “me” again — to not let the “Dark Man” consume me. They know who I am deep down, what “potential” I have and want me to chase my passions. I adore these people, and in moments of clarity, they are the ones who provide me the proverbial strength that will help me get through the toughest of times.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via Favor_of_God

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What Collapsing in Front of 18,000 People Taught Me About My Depression

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It was a night like any other. Working for an NHL hockey team is awesome. It’s also a lot of work. Being the hockey equivalent of a stage hand, I do a lot of running around trying to not let things break. I know everyone –cameramen, cops, season ticket holders. They see me every game before puck drop, standing in the same place, watching to make sure everything goes OK before running off. Only this time, something went very wrong.

I remember standing right next to some fans where I always am, staring up at the ceiling. Few people even realize there is a huge catwalk up there, with spotlight operators and equipment. I stared up at them for a while as they fixed a stalled motor. Once it was all set, I turned and walked away like I always do. And the next thing I knew I was strapped down on a stretcher with EMTs, security and my former boss Steve standing around me, in the medic room I had never been to. I felt like I woke up there, when in fact I had been unconscious for about 20 minutes. I had no memory of that time at all. So to me, I just woke up.

As the story was told to me, I walked away, collapsed and had a seizure right by the cameraman. Right by the stairs. Right in front of the whole arena. Everyone ran over, EMTs were called, my friends were shocked, fans were confused. I woke up kicking and screaming. I was shoving cops and paramedics off me, trying to get away. “Combative” is the nice word they used. Later I found out it is not uncommon for people to be combative after a concussion, which it was certain I had from landing on concrete. Somehow they got me on a stretcher and to the medic room. I couldn’t answer the most basic questions of where I was or what day it was, but I still wanted to go. I wanted everyone to just leave me alone, forget what they saw and let me go back to work. I was embarrassed, and I didn’t even remember what had happened. I didn’t know what I was embarrassed about, but I was.

When I woke up in that room, my first instinct was to play it cool. Despite having no clue what was going on, I tried to laugh and pretend like everything was fine. I failed terribly. It’s hard to play it cool when a medic asks where you are, and you just laugh because you really aren’t sure. What day is it? Smile and shrug. I’m fine, seriously. So what if I hit my head on concrete, I’m all good. No, I don’t know what time it is. Oh yeah, I forgot I wear a watch. Who is the president? Um, of what? As my former boss told me, “You were trying so hard to play it cool, it would have been funny if we weren’t so worried.” Yeah, I was real cool.

It’s an instinct that comes from decades of depression. Constantly putting on a happy, strong face. My instinct is to always “be OK.” It doesn’t matter what is going on, I have to be OK. So if I wake up clueless, I’m going to go with my instinct and be…OK. Eventually I was coherent enough to go home, and as I threw my backpack on and stood there next to Steve, I did something unusual. I leaned over and whispered, “I’m so scared.” Why would I say that? Even if it was true, I would never admit it. But I did. I had collapsed and had a seizure in front of 18,000 people, with no memory of anything. Why did I say that to him? Simple. Because I really was scared.

Word spread very quickly, and those who didn’t actually witness it soon found out. My phone was flooded with texts from everyone, telling me they love me and hope I get better soon. No one knew what had really happened, as I have no history of any of it. But I had in fact been rapidly changing antidepressants over the last few months, very rapidly. Ultimately that was the likely cause, but no one knew it. It was somewhat shocking, and it rattled my friends as much as it did me. As the texts came in, I couldn’t help but cry. All of these people were worried. They were sending love and support. They cared. After so many years of hiding my depression and never letting anyone help or support me, I suddenly realized I had been wrong. I had been wrong to think I had to be flawless. I had been wrong to think that I had to be invincible. I had been wrong to think I would be unlovable if anyone knew I wasn’t the perfect ray of sunshine I tried so hard to be.

People didn’t care despite me being unwell. People cared because I was unwell. It was a revelation.

The concussion had lasting effects, including making me extremely emotional and edgy for over a week. Post-concussive syndrome. I didn’t do myself any favors by returning to work and running the next three games solo. Each time, I could feel myself getting worse. I was really overworking myself. I wasn’t giving my brain a chance to recover, and it was turning me into an unstable mess. Finally I broke down crying. My always understanding boss came over and put his arm around me and told me we would figure it. Two days later, I told him I was taking some time off. And for a week I did basically nothing but rest. But the texts kept coming. People checking on me, sending love and support. I couldn’t believe it.

After taking some time off I returned to work, much closer to my old self than I had been. Everyone would stop me and ask how I was. Even the guys in the catwalk had heard and told me on the radio they were glad I was back. I was overwhelmed by the care and compassion people were showing. It was exactly what I never thought I would have. Support, when things aren’t going well.

Depression will never be easy to talk about, but it will always be a part of me. I realize now that the people who care about me will still care just as much if they know. In fact, if I give them a chance, they will be there to lift me up when I need it most. Depression has a way of isolating you from the world even when you are surrounded by people. It forces you to hide behind a curtain and put on an act. It convinces you that if anyone finds out, they will want nothing to do with you. Depression is insidious and heartbreaking. It pulls people away from the very support they so desperately need.

I collapsed in front of 18,000 people, but I have never felt so alone as I did then. It wasn’t until I sat silently on my couch, by myself, that I realized I was actually surrounded by love. I had let depression blind me to the people in my life who genuinely care about me for who I am, flaws and all. I had felt so alone in the middle of a crowd for so many years, I simply couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

But the most shocking thing of all is this: I have battled depression for over a decade, always hiding it from the world. Finally breaking down and starting to trust that I can be honest with people, has done more for me than any medication ever has.

I will always have depression. I will always struggle. I will always want to be strong. I will always want to be perfect. But now I know that it’s OK to fall apart sometimes — and let the people who love you pick you back up.

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the beatles

The Beatles Songs That Helped Me Through Major Depression

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I’ve always loved The Beatles. My parents like them and my brother became obsessed with them at a very young age, so I started listening to them. They were catchy.

I remember the first one I loved was “Twist and shout” when I was about 9. And I used to sing it out loud and dance like no one was watching. It made me happy. I started listening to others, too. I discovered “Let it Be” and how beautiful it was. I heard “Something” and I decided it was the most romantic song ever. I felt the day someone felt that way about me, I would know he was the one. With “Eleanor Rigby” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” I understood the term “hauntingly beautiful” in the fullest.

When illnesses of diverse types approached my life, I listened to “Blackbird.” Like a lullaby, it made me sleep in a way that I could forget my physical pain, my psychological struggle, the captivity I felt in life. I felt free, and I started seeing the beauty in “broken wings.”

When depression made me felt absolutely uncertain about the future and I couldn’t manage to face a better tomorrow, I closed my eyes and listened to “Here Comes the Sun” and I felt things could get better. That the sun would come, and that it’ll be alright. Eventually everything would be alright.

When I felt good and I was OK with the idea of life beyond my control, I played “Across the Universe” and I went with the flow.

When I was down, I would remember I needed to be alive because someday, I hope to be the greatest mom alive to a girl I would name Lucía. I would sing to her, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” Every time I hear it since the moment, I get chills and something in my body tells me, You have to be here so you can sing Lucy her lullaby.

With “If I Fell” and “Hide Your Love Away,” I was able to believe in love — real, pure, love even after my father left my house. “With a Little Help From My Friends” made me realize even though I’m a loner and tend to isolate, I’ve got to thank the ones who’ve stuck with me through thick and thin. And even if it was in their post-Beatles times, I believe ”Imagine” is an anthem to anyone who’s lost faith in humanity. And “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “My Valentine” convince me every time I play them that true love exists and it’s out there.

Today I went to a Beatles tribute band concert. I sang every song. I cried. I laughed. I reconnected with myself. After a horrid week of many physical symptoms of arthritis and way too much suicide ideation and tears, I felt alive. And with each song, I could be reminded of what it meant. Of the good. Of the bad. Of the fact I was still alive, there, listening to those beautiful melodies. It was then I understood the “Fab Four,” those boys from Liverpool with funny haircuts, saved my life. Have made it better. Have given me reason to keep on living and fighting… Thanks to them I have hopes, dreams, plans. I believe in love again and my health conditions don’t seem so bad.

Thank you John, Paul, George and Ringo for everything. I’ll be in your debt forever. You not only changed my life — you gave me life.

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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Photo via The Beatles Facebook page.

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To the Person I Least Expected to Help Me Through Depression

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It was February, 2016. My psychiatrist of over 10 years had just moved to another state. The “new guy,” a wonderfully kind and patient psychiatrist whom I have grown to love, was stuck with me in my depressed and anxious state. I explained to him that certain types of antidepressants can make me more depressed and even suicidal.

My depression was well controlled at that time and I was a bright and bubbly person. But, in an attempt to control my overwhelming anxiety, my new psychiatrist put me on a new antidepressant similar to the ones I have previously reacted poorly to, certain there would not be a problem.

After three days on this new medication, I paged a doctor for the first time in my life. I felt horrible. I was confused, anxious, worried, depressed and yes, suicidal. But not in a “serious” way, yet. He felt certain the medication dosage was too low and so he doubled it. Over the next two weeks, my world felt like it was beginning to crumble. I wanted the medication to work. I wanted to give it time. But mostly, I didn’t want to complain.

It reached a point to where I was lying on the floor and watching the seconds tick by on my watch because I couldn’t conceive of how I would survive another full minute of life. I was surviving by the second. It hurt. Living, hurt. All the while I was putting on a happy face at work, but it was wearing thin.

And one day, I broke. I have always considered my boss a friend. He’s supportive and caring, and always there for everyone. I had reached the point where I no longer knew what else to do, so I emailed him. I told him I had depression and anxiety. I told him I take medication. I told him the world was spinning, and I told him I wasn’t sure I could come to work. His response blew my mind.

“No worries at all, I understand completely. If you need any time at all, take it. You have earned a lot of trust and can take time if you need it………you have my full support if you need to recalibrate…….we are all here for each other. — JD”

Could this be real? Did someone just give me unconditional nonjudgmental support? Did my boss just understand?

It was like someone reached their hand out and said, “Hold on.” It gave me strength, and somehow I ended up making it to work. Although I was terribly embarrassed I would now have to face the very boss I just confessed my secrets to, I walked in, he gave me a hug and said, “How you doing kiddo?” I wanted to bawl my eyes out and tell him I probably would have done something drastic that day if it wasn’t for him. He had unknowingly given me another day of life.

I didn’t know how far gone I was until that day. I didn’t realize how deep down the rabbit hole that medication had taken me. But when he asked how I was doing, I realized how frighteningly bad the honest answer to that question was.

I ended up getting off that medication, and after several weeks, I was back to my happy, wonderful self. My new psychiatrist soon realized I had to stay away from that medication. He has since gotten to know me, and I am glad we stuck together through it, because he is actually great. My boss is still my boss, and he knows when I’m having bad days, or weeks. He knows I will push through it. He knows I will work hard. He knows I don’t give up. But in the end, he also knows that somewhere in me is a very dark place. A place I rarely go, but that exists nonetheless. And if for some reason I am in that place again, I know I can tell him, and he will understand.

Because with one email, one hug, one question — he was able to keep me going when I thought I didn’t have the strength.

Sometimes it’s the people you least expect who are there when you need it most — if you just have the courage to let them.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via Marjan_Apostolovic

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What I Need From My Loved Ones During a Major Depressive Episode

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It is not very often that I admit I need help. I am stubborn, independent and believe I can do it all on my own. When I am the “healthy” me, I take care of everyone. I reach out to others. I make sure everyone is comfortable and well. When you notice I am not my “healthy” self, this is what I need from you:

1. Compassion and understanding.

Please understand I do not feel the way I do out of choice. As much as I want to understand why I am going through this cycle at this particular moment, I also know this can be hard for you, too. I may not know why my heart sinks to my feet randomly, or races out of my chest, or why I may not be able to get out of bed for a week. I am just as frustrated as you are, but I need you to give me the compassion I would give to you — that I am unable to give to myself right this minute.

2. Help in the small areas.

Small tasks that may seem easy to you, like getting out of bed, showering, eating, cleaning. Those seem like mountain climbs for me during a depressive episode. Some days it takes all of my strength to do one of two of these things. Please know that during this time I need help with the small things, and I will sincerely appreciate your efforts. Encourage me to get out of bed. Help me do the dishes. Do not be distracted by the fact I’m not doing as much as I normally would in my “healthy” state. Remember I’m hurting and this is hard for me.

3. Reassure me I’m not doing as horrible as I think I am.

Sometimes I know what I have going for me. I know I’m still able to work, go to school and function somewhat “normally.” However, this is hard for me because I notice the change in myself and that I’m not living up to my full potential. Let me know it’s OK if all I did was shower today. Tell me to have a good day when you know it’s going to be rough to push through a typical 8-hour shift. Notice my efforts, and reassure me I’ll get through this episode just like every other time before.

4. Ask me how I’m feeling and how I’m coping.

I try not to be a burden when I notice myself in this state. I won’t ruin a day off by boring you with how horrible I feel. I will silently fight this battle in my head, whether I want to talk about it or not. Remember that the two best friends, anxiety and depression, are a powerful thing in my mind. Asking how I’m feeling makes me feel supported, and open to have conversations with you when I’m not feeling my “healthy” self in the future.

5. Make sure I am safe and feel confident asking for help.

Like I said before, asking how I am feeling will allow me to feel comfortable enough to reach out. However, I don’t want to make the uncomfortable questions hard for you. Please remember that asking me if I have thoughts of suicide will show me you care; it won’t trigger me or make me feel “crazy.” Suicidal thoughts and self-harm are a part of depression, and asking me about these things makes me know someone is concerned about my safety. Checking in on the difficult parts of depression is not something anyone wants to talk about, but I feel it makes the biggest impact.

6. Remember I am the same person underneath, “healthy” self and “depressive” self.

I know I will face this illness my whole life, as it comes and goes as this unwanted permanent guest. Understand that although this depression has always and will always be a part of me, and is sometimes overbearing me in my life, it is not who I am and who I want to be. I will continue to fight to feel better and do everything in my power to not let the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety control my life. I am the same compassionate, thoughtful, loving and determined person with my depression — I might just need your help remembering that sometimes when I’m not my “healthy” self.

Previously published on Self Love Beauty

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

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via AntonioGuillem

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When Depression Is an Unwelcome Houseguest: A Poem

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Depression came for me, then for my son

and now for my daughter.

She is 13.

Depression visits often,

but her favorite time to stay over is on a Sunday night.

She wraps my girl in a gray blanket, like a cocoon

and puts her in a dark corner.

Her deep eyes stare off into space, unable to sleep

and she rubs her hands together

until that soft spot between her thumb and pointer becomes raw and bleeds.

“What are you sad about?” Depression asks.

“I don’t even know,” my girl cries.

Depression sits even closer when others say,

“Just try to be positive.”

“Try harder to be happy.”

Then Depression takes my girl’s drawings away.

The only thing she once enjoyed.

Finally, it’s time for her appointment with Healing.

His office has a soft chair.

Healing wears a suit and dress shoes

And a chunky gold ring on his finger.

He speaks gently with her, then puts down his clipboard

And says,

“You don’t have to do this alone.

If you had a broken leg, would you not expect a cast?”

Healing squeezes my girl’s hand

And passes her a little blue slip of paper

That will save her life.

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.

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

Thinkstock photo via Nomadsoul1.

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