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I Broke Up With Depression, but It Always Comes Back

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Depression runs in my family, so it’s not a surprise I have experienced it personally. For about four years, depression and I had a long-term monogamous relationship. We were inseparable for so long that when we broke up, I wasn’t really sure who I was without it. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I should do with my life and what I enjoyed doing in life. I found solace in open-water swimming, surfing, boxing and rekindling my romance with Star Trek. I have found new passions and have made new goals, yet on occasion, depression still comes by for a visit.

I have what is sometimes referred to as cyclic or recurrent depression, meaning depression comes in and out of my life without much warning. I have ritualized self-care and have mastered numerous positive coping mechanisms. I consistently take a cocktail of medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression. I work out “vigorously” several times a week and do just about everything to stave off depression. However, depression always comes back. The intensity of the depression varies, but the general symptoms remain the same.

It starts with insomnia, and then I get patches of eczema. What makes depression more fun than feeling perpetually itchy? Soon, my mood is a bit lower and I am more easily frustrated. My hyperactivity becomes more prominent and I have trouble focusing on the books I read. Eventually, I stop reading them. At first, I hope the depression is situational, and I try to stay positive. I increase the quantity and quality of my self-care. I reach out to friends and try to connect with the world. And sometimes this works and the lingering depression fades away.

Other times though, the depression stays and settles into my life. I slowly begin to stop doing the little things that normally make me feel good about myself, like showering, flossing, washing my clothes and changing my sheets every week. I become more self-critical and I am less grateful for all the good in my life. I find myself in a downward spiral that I pretend isn’t happening. I try to fake my way through. I tell more jokes, I make the effort to smile and I act like nothing is wrong. I know I should reach out for help, but I put it off. Occasionally, things slip enough that I call a therapist and have regular appointments for a while.

When things get bad, I hide the depression. At the end of the day, I get into the car and I can finally relax my face. I take a deep breath and feel the weight of my depression settle into me. If I keep moving, I think maybe it will be less burdensome. So, I overschedule myself. I run on fumes; I walk along the edge of the deep end, occasionally dipping a toe in as a reminder of why I don’t want to fall in.

How long the depression will last each time is unknowable, but it eventually leaves. The days feel lighter. I smile as I drive home from work listening to a song that despite being in the top 40 for weeks hasn’t made me feel anything until that moment. I think less about how shitty the world is, and I think more about my future and the goals I have set out for myself.

In the back of my head, though, I always wonder when depression will recur — how many days, weeks, or months of contentment will I have before I am burdened by the heaviness associated with depression. I wonder if the four years of hell I spent with depression is the worst of it, or if I will be dragged back into monogamy with depression. I carry depression in my back pocket. Symptoms are not always present, but there are always those lingering questions. 

How do you deal with depression? 

Photo by Rhand McCoy on Unsplash

Originally published: January 19, 2019
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