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When Depression Keeps You 'Stuck' in Your Own Head

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I’ve been quieter than normal recently. Not because I have nothing to say, but because I have so much to say that it scares me and thanks to my anxiety and depression, I become verbally “frozen.” My thoughts keep coming and coming, getting stuck in my head. All the scary things my depression tells me. Over and over again. No seriously, I lay awake thinking these things. I stare at the TV or my Facebook feed thinking these things. I try to engage with my family members, but I am still tied up thinking these things. And I think about how good it would feel if it was possible to get them out of my head.

Some people would recommend that this is the perfect time for mindfulness or meditation or some skill involving allowing my thoughts to float down a stream or across the sky as clouds. And that sounds awesome — in theory. When my brain is a little less hyperactive or on fire, then those skills are great. I know they can work, but when I am this far down, those skills do nothing but frustrate me. It’s when I think about how “broken” my brain is, that these strategies work so well for so many others. I often think my head is like a belligerent student refusing to learn, when the truth is that my brain in this mode is more like a student who has learning difficulties and needs modifications or assistance in order to get to the same place others can easily achieve.

Luckily I have a trusted support person who I for some reason feel like I can sometimes text some of the scarier thoughts. I can’t verbalize them. It hurts too much and makes it too real. And this person I know will not judge them, or discount them. But it doesn’t mean I don’t feel fear typing them or sending them. Yesterday, I sent her texts that show how much I am currently hurting and just getting them out of my head made it all a little easier to bear. After I get past the shame and embarrassment of needing my sounding board, and past the fear of scaring away or burdening someone who cares about me, it feels better to not have these thoughts be so secretive. It also helps me get the help I need. Instead of feeling frozen, I took a few tentative steps. Reached out to my therapist and had an extra appointment.

Then I spoke last night to a very wise friend, who happens to be a psychiatrist, who reminded me about the fact that I can’t blame myself for my illness. I am not unique in the sense that I can’t “think my way out” of this condition (wishful, if irrational thinking). I have not exhausted all resources. I would be encouraging anyone else in my place and treating them kindly, rather than hitting them with a battering ram. And it’s true. I love hearing this from a mental health professional. It makes me less judgmental of myself. I would also love to have a recording of what he told me, to share with others who understand even less than I do this terrible disorder.

It is also true that I am much better at writing my truth than speaking it. Especially when I get into this dark place. As much as I want to isolate, I have to remember (or be reminded) that nothing good comes of staying alone ruminating and thinking my thoughts. That writing, and sharing, in a sense pushes me out of isolation. It is a connection to others, which I desperately need.

Yesterday was one of the toughest days I have had in a very long time, but today I am trying to remember to just take it one day, hour or minute at a time. And I am happy to report I am not sitting at home typing this. I am actually out in public drinking a cappuccino (splurged to celebrate getting out of the house) and plan to hang out here until I pick up a teenager from school. It may not seem like a big feat to many people, but for me this week it is a huge deal. And today, or at least for the few minutes of writing this, I am not going to be ashamed to celebrate it. Today, or again at this moment, I am going to try to fight back. I will make every intention to keep moving forward, to not allow myself to succumb to the inertia that depression tries to induce.

Getty Images photo via AnkDesign

Originally published: June 22, 2018
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