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When Depression Makes You Go Into Social 'Hibernation'

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It’s no secret that I work through mental health issues every day. It’s something I’m incredibly proud of — not in some weird, misinformed “Woohoo depression is a blast!” way, but just that I’m happy to speak up about something people have been shamed into silence about for so long. If I’m going to share myself so publicly, I want to show the not-so-cute parts. The dirtiness. The times I was not a person I like very much.

I was first diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 14, but I’m pretty sure it made its grand appearance about two years earlier. I’ve been an anxious thing since birth. I didn’t even recognize that those weird moments of nausea, heart palpitations, and dizziness were actually panic attacks until I went away for college. And the bipolar II diagnosis came in college, too.

Part of getting older and discovering more about myself (including those things I don’t like) has been learning about my coping mechanisms, how I deal, why I do the things I do. I’m the biggest self-analyzer you’ll meet. I like to play therapist to myself (not that it should ever take the place of a professional). Maybe it’s fucked, but I get a sick joy unlocking new answers as to why I’m fucked up about something. I get to be a neurotic Sherlock, and my own goddamn mind is the case I’m trying to crack.

I’ve always been withdrawn. As a kid, I rarely made it through the night at sleepovers. I would end up calling my mom at 2 a.m. asking her to pick me up. It’s like I couldn’t settle until I was alone again. Even with people I loved, I kept watch on the clock. I routinely made up excuses as to why I couldn’t attend social events. I had my handful of friends and never really cared to expand it much. Even now, my social circle is tiny. Today I thought, “Wow, if I ever threw a party, who would I even fucking invite? My mom? My dog?”

I think that might surprise a lot of the online community I’ve created. I’ve been told I come across as very bubbly, super open — basically a golden retriever in human form. Sure, there’s some truth in those statements — I get very excited and passionate about seemingly small things. I’m a hugger. My natural instinct is to believe in people. I trust everyone. I give second chances. And thirds. And fourths.

But I’ll always be the first one to leave the party. It’s difficult to know if this is because of anxiety or if it’s just a personality trait. Maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

I think one of the hard parts of loving someone who struggles is that even though they don’t intend to, they hurt you. Even when you’re just the bystander.

I know when I withdraw, when I stop returning texts, when I ghost from people’s lives like I was never even there to begin with, it’s something that stings. And every time I wake up and discover, “Oh shit, I’ve been in hiding for a few months,” I feel terrible. But it’s a cyclical process. It’s a hard thing to change when it feels like it’s part of who you are.

I don’t ever mean to pull away. It’s never malicious. It isn’t because I hate someone, or that I’ve decided my life is better without them. It’s because my fucking brain says, “You’re done for a while. Go hibernate, ya weirdo.” So I do. I hibernate. I’m a hibernating human.

What I’m saying is I’m still here. Despite writing endless poems about it, I am not good at telling people when I’m hurting, so I hide. I avoid. I ignore. And none of it is good.

But I’m still alive.

Sometimes, I just need to escape for a bit. But I come back. I promise, I’ll always come back.

Originally published: November 17, 2017
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