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The Thick Brush of Depression

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My alarm startles me awake, the signal for my day to begin. I lay there, warm and cocooned in my blanket. The tip of my nose is frosty cold because it is one of the only points that are vulnerable to the frigid air outside of the safety bubble I have created for myself. Most people would wake up like this, the same as I have, and not want to get out of bed because they are comfortable and warm under their blankets. I am the same, except it is not the cold air that I fear. It is the day ahead of me.

I get up each day of my life, but I am not really alive or living. I merely go through the motions with my only real goal: sleep at the end of my seemingly meaningless day. Sleep is my best friend, my dearest companion when it decides to pay a visit. Not often do I get sleep, but when I do, it doesn’t ask me why I’m sad or tell me to cheer up. It takes me away from reality and lets me forget. My motivation level is always running at just above zero. Sometimes I’m not even alive enough to want to eat. I also live in chronic pain. I feel aching in my bones just as much as I feel it in my heart and in my head. This is my disease. It controls me while I struggle to find a way to suppress it. I don’t have a choice in feeling the way I do. I don’t want to be negative. My negativity chooses me.

I am a daughter, a sister, a lover, and a best friend. I am a hard worker, a life-long learner, and a fifth-grade teacher. At first glance, I seem like the typical young adult trying to piece my life together, but through my eyes, the world I live in is a dark, colorless place. Appearances mean little when you are a victim of depression.

In the beginning, I didn’t know I was depressed. My busy schedule was put on overdrive and served as my distraction, allowing me to forget about what was really going on inside my head. Then, one day, I was free; I had the entire day to myself to do with it whatever I wished. It sounds pretty relaxing, doesn’t it? But the diversion I had been subconsciously creating for myself was at a standstill, and that is when it hit me. I didn’t know where it stemmed from, but I suddenly hurt, in every sense possible. It numbed my body, mind and soul.

Think of the absolute worst, most devastating moment of your life. That moment when your emotions collide, right before you are about to cry, or scream, or curse, you get that feeling in your throat. It feels like you’re choking or are about to throw up. Now single out that emotion. Let the vomit burn at the top of your throat, in the back of your mouth. Sync that god-awful feeling to your iPod and put it on repeat for your entire day, and then put that day on repeat for weeks, months, even years. It is bloody exhausting. Like that agitating song on the radio you would love to turn off but can’t, so you sing along anyways.

If someone is able to unmask my fake smile, as many of my friends have done, they tend to question why. “Why do you feel that way? Why can’t you fix it? Why can’t you just be happy? Why are you so sad all of the time?” If I knew why I would tell you. If I could fix it, I would already be repaired. If I can’t understand it myself then imagine how frustrating it would be to try and explain it to someone else. Think of a time, for instance, in a high school calculus class, when you didn’t understand a concept. You tried to grasp some sort of comprehension and then someone in the desk next to you leaned over asking for help. Like the good person you are, you slid over beside them and attempted to make their picture clearer with what little you did know. They nodded their head trying to follow along, but when they looked up with their brow all furrowed you knew they still didn’t really get it. How could you be expected to teach them something you don’t know how to do yourself? It’s infuriating, time-consuming, and pointless.

I suppose I could explain in research, but it doesn’t mean a hell of a lot to me, so I don’t expect it to mean much of anything to you. However, one point I must make clear is that my trigger is unknown. What this reaction stems from is a mystery; it just seems to happen. The emotion it induces turns my life into the most dreadful journey through the dark.

Imagine yourself walking through thick brush at the darkest point of the night. The light from the moon and stars aren’t even shining because the sky has been covered by a sheet of clouds. Your eyes are closed, and you are blindfolded. The only thing you can see are the little orbs of light that dance on the back of your eyelids. You walk forward into the emptiness but can feel branches tugging at your clothes and scratching at your skin, turning it raw. You might trip over a tree root coming out of the ground or feel off-balanced and dizzy, unable to find your footing. You can hear wherever it is you are trying to go or whatever it is you are trying to find: the sound of home, of laughter around the dinner table, or the comfortable murmur of a movie as you cuddle under a fuzzy blanket with a warm cup of tea in hand. Unfortunately, you don’t know how to get there. You follow the sound but can’t quite distinguish if you’re going in the right direction and even if you are walking along the right path, the uncertainty overwhelms you. You lose confidence in your steps and turn around. By the time you realize you have led yourself astray, it’s too late, and you’re completely drained of all energy. You are a dead battery.

The only solution suggested to me has been medication. At first, I was stubborn. I wanted to believe I was strong enough to deal with it on my own. But one day, still exhausted after 26 hours of sleep, I realized it wasn’t something I would be able to simply “deal” with. I needed guidance, so I took the doctor’s advice. However, his cure only made things worse. Taking those antidepressants made me anti-emotion. Words, images, and experiences would process through my brain, and I would understand them and what was happening around me, but I wouldn’t feel for them. I was living in an old black-and-white movie with the television muted. Not only was I blocked from happiness and joy, but I was also blocked from everything: sadness, jealousy, anxiety, anger. I was stuck in limbo. I stopped taking the prescription. I decided I was better feeling like hell than feeling nothing at all.

I could be one to join the choir of saying, “This may be my life, but this is our struggle,” though I am not one for clichés. The number of humans who are battling with depression every day is astounding, and I would hate to do us an injustice by not remaining realistic. This is a battle we often fight alone, voiceless, and under covers. But the growth we can find within ourselves when we choose to accept it as a part of our humanness and dance in the fire instead of putting out the flame is equally as important as screaming out our realities for all to hear. These parts of us deserve love and understanding too.

Getty image by charafeddine.

Originally published: June 29, 2019
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