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On the Mornings You Can't Hide Your Depression Under Busyness

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First of all: Yes, you have depression. You are not just being lazy.

One of the dangers of always “being productive” is very few people can tell when you’re having an off-day. Everyone around sees you for what you’ve always displayed: a busybody moving between classes, volunteering, meetings and just casual hang outs with your friends.

It may be true. Most days, you feel energetic. You’re on top of everything. You’re going through your schedule and helping out others. At the end of the day, you’re back in your dorm and you can nestle down to watch a movie or read a book and call it a night to be productive and helpful the next day.

Then comes the next day or several days in a row, maybe even weeks at a time, where you’re having trouble getting out of bed. You think to yourself, “I have class, but I feel tired.” There’s a feeling of something heavy in your stomach, a certain silent ringing in your head.

You then think, “I’m going to be late because I’m being lazy.” You drag your body up, get ready, make a tea and go about your usual four or five classes for the day. Classes are done and you have a few meetings with the groups you’re involved with on campus. Later, you meet up with a friend or two for dinner. You spend a bit of time with them and then it’s time for everyone to go home.

You are still on top of everything. You’re getting everything done, but it doesn’t feel as fulfilling as all the other days. Here’s why: That morning’s feeling is still there, the feeling of numbness, the ringing, the need to stop and lie down and rest because everything is just so tiring. Yet, again, you think, “I have work to do.” You’re running back to your room to collect your things and go somewhere other than your room because you can’t work in there. You get distracted, or so you tell yourself.

You’re not being distracted. You’re depressed. Your room, that tiny, cramped and colorful room, is the representation of your mind. Some days you’re comfortable staying in. Other days, you just have to get out.

Why do you always want to be out? If you stay in your room, there’s nothing to keep your mind from wandering and finding every little detail upsetting you. Things like how you always let your laptop battery die to how much you wish you hadn’t messed up that marketing case study to the argument you just had with your mum on the phone because she reminded you about not forgetting to take your gummy vitamins.

You are used to being busy. You are used to always having to meet a deadline, helping someone fill out an application or running down the stairs to head to your food bank shift. When you’re finally done, it hits you. Your depression, it’s been there all day, all week, all month. Now that you’re standing still, it’s rising in your throat and suddenly your head hurts and you’re about to collapse. The only way you know how to deal with it is by not. You find anything else to do except be productive about taking care of yourself. You’re wrong to do so.

When the morning comes, you go through your schedule and don’t add anything else to it that wasn’t already on the list. When you’re done, you excuse yourself from your friends. Let them know you’re not feeling well and you don’t leave your room because “it distracts you.”

You sit on your bed, look at the pictures you have on the wall of your family and your dogs. You play every sad song you have on your laptop and count the thumbtack holes in your tiny dorm. You do anything except push the lump forming in your throat back down. It can wait, not forever. Don’t procrastinate, but it can wait.

What can’t wait, is me. I am telling you to sit on the floor and cry it out. I am telling you to miss your parents nagging you. I am telling you to cry at the fact that you could’ve gotten a better grade on that accounting midterm. I’m telling you to let it out, all of it. Get it out. Don’t hold it in and ignore it because something else is “more important.” Nothing is more important than feeling comfortable in your own mind.

When you’re done, and you don’t feel the numb feeling in your stomach and the lump in your throat, get up and take a shower. Comb your hair, put on your soft sheep pajamas, have some leftovers and finish whatever work you have left for the day, in your room. Don’t run from it. The only way to deal with it is to be present in it and ride it out, not run.

For those days when you feel this doesn’t work, reach out to someone, your friend, your annoying, older brother, your roommate or the university’s counselor. There is always someone, and even if they might be accustomed to seeing you be productive and busy, they will be there. That’s all you need when you wake up on those mornings.

Originally published: August 13, 2016
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