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What It's Like to Survive Depression... Again and Again

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Anyone who’s been diagnosed with a mental illness knows how challenging it can be to exist. I don’t mean that in the dramatic sense, though it’s tough to exist as a whole, too. No, I mean it in the sense that daily things such as taking a shower, eating, drinking enough water and so on can be tasks that feel Herculean. This is an idea that’s often incredulous to those who do not have to deal with this sort of oppressive apathy that seeks to sink you between the floorboards (which are dirty, by the way).

Depression is a sneaky bastard. While I am slowly learning to identify the hair-trigger mood swings of my borderline personality disorder (BPD), the vice-like grip of my obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) perfection, and the fork-in-a-microwave attention span of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it is always the depression that snakes itself around my ankles and cuts my Achilles’ tendons.

It’s the fall that’s the worst. It always happens in slow motion and without any realization. It’s the cloudiness that slowly wraps itself around your skull, the weights that hang themselves from your eyelashes covered in dust. It’s the autopilot, the frustrations found in communicating without realizing that you’re the one who’s becoming incoherent by the minute. It’s the sleeping — the moments before your eyes close that feels like soft jeans, just baggy enough — the last wear before the washing machine. It’s when the color of the world leaks from your eyes little by little — a vibrant sunset becomes a muted pastel, and with a blink, shades of grey. It’s looking around at everything and realizing you don’t give one single shit about anything and knowing this will hurt everyone, yet it always hurts you the most because your body houses the hollow cavern of absence.

It is only when the crash landing happens that the feelings return, while you’re knee-deep in the rubble of destruction, surrounded by the smell of unwashed hair and a life with a stop, but not a pause button.

In those moments, I feel like a fool. I feel like a child who, once again, let all the bad get the best of her. I feel like I need to apologize to everyone and that “it’s OK” becomes synonymous with “of course you let it happen again.”

After the layers are peeled away and the world is revealed, you swear you have never seen anything so bright and beautiful. But you can’t ignore the little spot of fear that itches in the joyful moments — it’s the fear of knowing it will return and the fear of not knowing when it will.

Out of all of my diagnoses, depression is the one most ill-conceived by the people who don’t have it. Sure, borderline personality disorder gets adjectives like “crazy” thrown around, but the extremes at which it gets compared are so ludicrous they become humorous. Most people don’t know what OCPD is, and the acronym “ADHD” gets used to excuse behavior where no self-control is exercised.

Depression isn’t awarded any of those luxuries. Instead, we, the depressed, get told we just need to smile more with a pat on the back that our “sadness” will go away soon. Or our willpower is insulted, saying we need to be stronger. And please, don’t embarrass yourself by saying the asinine idiom “it’s all in our head” because, no, we are not “making it up” as the turn of phrase would suggest. The depression is literally in our heads.

Out of all of the misconceptions about mental illness I have heard, it’s the ones about depression that are the most bullshit. You don’t forget the moments you’ve been caught unaware and the feeling of powerlessness when you slowly sink below sea levels of sanity. You drown, but you live, trying to rehash every moment that led to this, trying to roll that crushing boulder of guilt off your chest. You feel everything and nothing, all at once, and it threatens to debilitate you, rendering you powerless below.

If you are one of the people who has ever had the audacity to utter one or many of the misconceptions of depression, it is my suggestion you don’t ever do it again. In doing so, you have made yourself look nothing short of a fool and a jerk.

Because those with depression are some of the strongest, most resilient people I’ve met. They go to battle with themselves on the regular. So if you are an “offender of misconception,” pardon us if we are a little less than forgiving for choosing to be vulnerable with you and subsequently having it tossed so carelessly back into our faces. Or don’t, because your feelings about our illness don’t matter here.

We, the depressed, choose to live each day waiting for the moments where we can see the world in true color, hoping to be released sooner rather than later. We may survive through those moments, but when they’re over, we live, we live, we live.

Photo by Jacqueline Day on Unsplash

Originally published: July 10, 2018
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