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6 Ways My Depression Shames Me Into Feeling Guilty

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Depression is an ugly thing to deal with. It can bring on feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness. These feelings can create a sort of paradox knowing it’s OK to feel these things, while at the same time feeling guilty for even feeling guilty. It’s a never-ending cycle.

I’ve written six ways my own depression makes me feel guilty because I want those who have the same struggles to know that it’s completely OK to feel the way they do, and they should never feel ashamed about it, even if their depression tells them otherwise.

1. I feel guilty for not taking care of my body properly.

This is an issue that is lower on my list of ways depression makes me feel guilty; however, I still struggle with this consistently. I’m young and so is my body, yet I don’t take care of it like I should. I don’t eat healthy foods that often, I spend more hours sleeping than I do awake, and the only exercise I get during the week is my weekly trip to the grocery store. It’s not that I don’t enjoy healthy foods or working out, because I do. However, I find it harder to actually find the motivation to get up and do those things. McDonald’s is more comforting to me than picking up an apple. Lying in a warm bed under fluffy blankets and staring at a blank wall is much more enjoyable than going on a walk in the park or doing 50 push-ups, and most of the time I find myself liking the world better when I’m asleep and disconnected from it all. It’s not healthy. Shame and guilt greet me when I think of all the disabled 21-year-olds who would love to walk on their own just one more time, while I take my ability to do so for granted.

2. I feel guilty for not doing my job around the house.

Being married and having depression brings out my ultra-guilty feelings. To have my husband get up at 6 a.m. every morning, go to work while I stay home, and for him to come home seeing I did nothing else but start a dishwasher is the most worthless, shameful thing to me. It makes me feel disgusted to even call myself a wife. I have an unconditionally loving husband who understands depression and what it’s like to live with, so he never casts any shame on me. The guilt and shame I cast on myself, however, is unbearable at times.

3. I feel guilty for not showering.

This is a weird one for me, and it’s hard for people who aren’t familiar with depression to understand this. I hate having to shower or take a bath but once I bring myself to do it, I can’t get out. I will go three or four days without showering or bathing. My hair will get ratty and clump up into a twisted mess at the back of my head. My face will break out. My armpits will smell of body odor, and the sleep goop that was in my eyes six days ago will still be there, just clumped together with more sleep crustiness. I am aware it is unhygienic. I am aware it is not pretty, and yes, it does make me feel ashamed. This is one of the most confusing, unexplainable, yet understandable (to those who experience it) symptoms of depression.

4. I feel guilty for not being able to get out of bed or off the couch sometimes.

This one is a daily issue for me. It is ugly and shameful, and I hate myself more and more each day I struggle with this. I lie in bed telling myself “get up, just get up.” I ask myself, “How hard is it to just get out of bed?” while also telling myself, “Just one more day won’t hurt. Your chores will always be there. Take a day for yourself.” It is an ugly, vicious, endless cycle, and when the feelings of guilt and shame creep in, I find myself sinking deeper into the mattress, my mind suffocating under the comforter.

5. I feel guilty for not communicating with friends enough.

I have major trust issues. I feel like that’s a cliché thing but it’s true. Aside from my husband and my mother-in-law, who are my very best friends, I have one other unrelated best friend. She is kind, caring and there for me when I am in need. I cannot stress how thankful I am for her. I also cannot stress how guilty I feel when she texts me on one of my bad days and I don’t respond. I’m not ignoring. I am not responding on purpose. I’m struggling internally and I don’t want her to see that. She lives in a different state, and I feel guilty when she comes home to visit and I don’t make plans to hang out with her. It usually goes one of two ways. One: I will make plans while I’m experiencing a good day, and when the day comes when it’s time to hang out, I get total and complete social anxiety and back out. Two: On my bad days, I avoid all plans in general, making up excuses as to why I can’t go to lunch or have a girl’s night. It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with her because I miss her every day. It’s just that sometimes, the feelings and anxieties that come with depression are too powerful over my mind. And what makes me feel most shameful and guilty of all is that I am not completely sure she understands this.

6. I feel guilty for even having depression.

This is a big struggle for me. Having depression comes with a huge range of symptoms. One I struggle most consistently with is overthinking. My mind is racing at all times of the day, even as I write this post. When I’m having self-pitying thoughts, one that frequently comes to mind is the thought that someone out there has it worse than me as far as I know, and what I have been diagnosed with is anxiety, depression and bipolar tendencies. I am constantly thinking about those individuals who struggle with different mental illnesses. I think about the homeless who sit on a wet, frozen sidewalk during the winter while I lie in my warm, cozy bed, unable to get up. I think about the single mothers who work three jobs and still struggle to feed their babies, while I stay at home all day, refusing to eat the food I have enough money to buy each week. Nothing makes me feel more guilty for depression than knowing there are others worse off than me, struggling with issues I perceive as more difficult.

Although these six struggles make me feel consistently guilty and ashamed, I can take comfort in knowing that just because I give into my depression a lot, it does not mean I am weak or fragile. Just because I do not take care of my physical body does not mean I am not strong, or that I’m not trying my hardest to take care of my mental body first.

Just because I feel guilty for not folding the laundry basket full of clothes one day, or sweeping the house the next, does not mean I am a bad wife. I give more love and affection to my husband than I could ever give to myself. I always make sure he knows he is always loved and cared for, despite the pile of dishes in the sink.

Just because I cannot bring myself to shower every night does not mean I am dirty or gross or unsanitary. I shower when I can, and when I do, I prove to myself every time that depression does not always have to win.

Just because I did not get up from the couch one day does not mean I am unsuccessful or lazy. It just means that sometimes, what my mind needs is to sink deeper into my pillow and try again tomorrow.

Just because I have a hard time planning visits with my friends does not mean I am a bad friend, because I will be there for them every single time they need me, and I will love them harder than I could love myself.

Lastly, just because there are people in this world who have a harder, more complicated life than I do, does not mean my depression should be dismissed. Each and every one of us have different struggles we deal with every day, and no one but yourself is responsible for determining the degree of difficulty it brings to your life. Depression makes me feel guilty, ashamed and ugly but that is only because depression is just that: ugly. And that’s OK.

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Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Originally published: April 28, 2018
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