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What I Wish People Understood About 'Agitated Depression'

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Depression is often described as a black cloud, blocking out the sunshine of anything good, or a gray fog, trapping you in directionless nothingness.

But my depression is an orange fire.

I experience something called “agitated depression.” This is when you have all of the negative moods and thoughts of depression, but you don’t have the typical lack of energy. Agitated depression is full of energy, and it makes me feel like I’m losing my mind.

I have several friends with depression, both online and in real life, and when we talk about our experiences with mental illness, I honestly struggle to relate. They describe an empty haze, a crushing sense of meaninglessness and a complete absence of feeling. But that’s not at all what my agitated depression is like.

Agitated depression is aggressive. That’s probably the best word for it. When I feel depressed, I feel depressed. I feel the weight of every bad thing crushing my chest. I feel the desperate need to run or fight or disappear. I feel aggressively, painfully awful in a way that I don’t know if I can ever properly explain.

Sometimes when I talk about my agitated depression, people with non-agitated depression start to sound a little jealous, and to a certain extent, I can understand that. I have had a few experiences with non-agitated depression, and the lack of emotion and energy is utterly demoralizing. It’s so hard to have any kind of hope when you just can’t feel anything. But I promise, agitated depression is nothing to be jealous of. The energy that comes with agitated depression doesn’t help me in any way. It’s not like I’m depressed but filled with plenty of energy to do the dishes and write a blog post and practice my ukulele. The energy is tied in with the depression, and it prevents me from being productive just as effectively as non-agitated depression does.

It’s a lot like being electrocuted by a high-intensity power source. You have tons of energy running through your body, but you’re frozen, unable to move. You’re unable to do anything with all that energy. In fact, all of the energy is causing you unspeakable pain. Literally unspeakable, you can’t say how much it hurts because again, you’re paralyzed by all the excess energy keeping you frozen in place. That is what my depression is like. I am filled with so much pain and I have absolutely no way to get it out of me.

I’m not sure why I experience agitated depression while others experience non-agitated depression. It might have something to do with my obsessive tendencies, or my history of childhood trauma, or a different diagnosis I’ve yet to uncover. But I do know a few ways to cope with it. Don’t get me wrong, I am no expert, but here are a few ways I’ve learned to manage my agitated depression.

First, do whatever you can to break that being stuck. Staying still is one of the worst things you can do for agitated depression. It allows all the energy to keep building up until it’s so unbearable, you’d do anything to make it stop, which can be dangerous if you are also struggling with self-harm urges or suicidal ideation. Instead, try to move your body in any way you can to keep the energy flowing. I’ve recently started putting on angsty music and angrily moving my body to the beat. It would be a stretch to call it dancing, and I’m not sure it makes me feel better, but it keeps me from getting trapped in the agitated depression, so that’s a huge win.

Second, create, create, create. Just make something. A painting, music, a blog post, anything. I need to take my own advice in this area more often because it really does help. Just like with movement, creating something keeps that energy moving so it doesn’t build up in your body. Plus, sometimes it’s really nice to see my internal experience exist out in the real world.

Finally, if you feel the urge to cry, let yourself. Why? You guessed it, it keeps the energy moving. A major part of coping with agitated depression is allowing your feelings to take up space because they are too enormous to stay inside your head.

Find more honest, compassionate mental health content at Megan Writes Everything.

Getty image via Ponomariova_Maria

Originally published: September 21, 2020
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