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The Stages of My Depression

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I don’t find work stressful. I don’t find education stressful. My home life is pretty great. Essay due next week? OK I’ll start that today. I can’t hit the target at work? Well, at least I did my best. And no one will shout at me for that — because I won’t allow them to.

I am a strong-minded person. I can deal with everyday stressors and not get upset, or angry or both.

Now, while knowing this, I want you to read the next paragraphs with an open mind, as though you are trying to relate or sympathize with what is written, instead of saying it’s an overreaction or is overthought. Because remember 1 out of 5 people will relate to this personally, so it is not made up. Back to what I was saying;

I can deal with those problems, some easier than others, some harder, sure, but I can deal with them.

What I can’t deal with is my depression.

My depression isn’t caused by everyday stressors. My depression isn’t obvious to other people — because I don’t let them see it. Recently I’m trying to let more people in. I’m not wearing my smiley mask so much.

Don’t get me wrong, my depression isn’t always there.

Sometimes it’s completely gone. (I had two consistent months of it a few months ago, and it was beautiful!) I felt myself again and, genuinely, I am an optimistic person, full of hope and love. I love reading, writing, drawing, watching movies and hanging with friends and family. I love family so incredibly much.

More often than not, I feel a sliver of something in the background. This is hard to explain without having gone through it yourself. When I didn’t understand my depression so much, I tried to deny I felt different. But my focus was off; I noticed I couldn’t read more than a few pages at a time (I’m used to read whole books in a day), I couldn’t stay focused on my work or my education, and I noticed it took me longer to respond to people. It made me scared and fearful because I knew it was back. I didn’t want to believe it, but here it was, and I knew what was soon coming. And the heightened fear I felt day in and day out drove me to react more emotionally. I felt out of control.

Now that I have learned more about my depression, when in this stage I instead take each day as it comes. I no longer fear it, (“it” being what is undeniably going to come) because it has not happened yet; and I learned only to focus on what is happening in the now. I watch my actions a bit closer, but I still have emotional outbursts of tears or anger during this time (because no one is perfect).

Rarely, I experience a “high” stage of depression. I have spoken about this with peers who also have depression, so it is not only myself who feels it. I don’t mean a “high” as in happiness or a high as in mania often associated with bipolar disorder (or at least I don’t think I do). Instead I feel like I am drifting somewhere a bit higher than my body. Watching as I do stuff, unable to quickly comprehend much of what is said to me or is happening around me. I don’t feel connected to anything, I don’t feel any emotions, as though they bounce off me. This feeling is extremely surreal. I do not feel like I am a part of me.

When my depression becomes something more than “a feeling in the background,” I wish I wasn’t around. This feeling occurs only when I am alone long enough to think. For example, I work a rather lonely and manual job, where my body is working but I have no mental stimulation. So when I’m in this stage of depression, I spend the majority of my work life and the entirety of my alone time wishing I didn’t have to live. I prey for a tragedy to occur that would take me away from life. And then immediately scold myself for doing so. And so my heart physically aches, a pressure squeezing it tightly, or rather a downward pressure squishing it, while I cry out in intense anguish and despair.

And I know this sounds dramatic, but anyone who has experienced depression could probably tell you they’ve felt this. So try to continue keeping that open mind.

I don’t make it through the work day before I’m crying (not that I let anyone notice, of course, because I cover it up quickly if someone should come by). The amount of pain and a feeling of loss settles inside you. As though you’re grieving. As though you are the one who has died.

And throughout all of this, you tell yourself “just keep going,” “it will be gone someday” and finally, the persistent “just wait a bit longer.” And while in such pain, “someday” seems too far away, and the good days seem too few. But nonetheless, you keep going. And you keep on living.

And then we come to the final stage of my depression. When hope is completely diminished and nothing in the world is bright enough to want to live anymore. And that is when risk losing people, through to no fault of their own. Absolutely no fault of their own. They didn’t ask for this, they don’t want it, and they are not attention-seeking. When I live past these days, I experience the good days again. And I ask myself why they ever wanted to attempt suicide in the first place. Because despite going though it, I still don’t understand. Just like you may not understand it.

Do not presume to know what someone is going through. I’m not asking you to understand. I’m asking you to accept mental health as a serious issue. Accept it exists.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Thinkstock photo by David De Lossy

Originally published: January 27, 2017
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