I haven’t read anything yet that manages to describe what it feels like to be depressed.
I mean, I can relate. I have found it impossible explain the numb emotionlessness. The feeling is beyond words, the closest I have managed to get is: ‘I’m not sad, I’m happy but I’m depressed’
At least for me, depression was a strange state that was unaffected by mood or situation. It was just there, attached to me, taking the shine off my life. I have experienced great success while depressed but when these things have happened, they were just that. Things that were happening. I didn’t feel proud or excited, I didn’t even particularly enjoy it. They were just events in my life that got squashed down and jaded by mental illness.
I will probably never be able to properly articulate the feeling or experience of depression, but I am currently enjoying my first major break from the illness. I have just started my 3rd month with no signs of depression for the first time in as long as I can remember.
This new perspective has given me a much better understanding of what depression is, because rather than trying to remember what I have lost, I can explain what I have gained by getting free from that shitty disease.
Here are 5 things that depression took from me:
I am a music lover. Don’t get me wrong, with absolutely no musical talent and a largely superficial enjoyment this loss was probably only a minor one for me. Regardless of this I have listened to music constantly since I got my first Zen Micro – Ipods were too mainstream or something.
I would often spend more time looking for my headphones than I would actually spend listening to the music on my 5 minute walk to the shops, but that wasn’t the point. The music added something to the experience.
More importantly though, music made me feel. I would listen to music to accentuate a good mood, or to help me work through sadness. I would use music to manipulate my emotions in the gym or before a rugby game, getting me pumped up or chilling me out when I get too hyped for a game.
In recent years though, music lost its flavour. It did nothing to me, it was just something to listen to. I ended up drifting away from my playlists and started listening to podcasts. Letting the conversation in the podcasts wash over me was so much easier for me to take than the frustration of listening to bland music.
Since apparently kicking depression, music has come back to me with a bang. Songs are making me grin as I walk down the street, and I’m getting emotionally involved again. I’m feeling feelings through music. It’s not something I ever really realised I had lost, but In place of the laptop playing a tv show while I play video games at the same time in a vain attempt at getting some stimulation, I have spent the last few nights just putting an album on and reading some comics.
As with the music, I didn’t really notice this one going. I would still get happy and sad and excited and anything you would normally expect to feel, but since coming out of the depression I am realising that what I was feeling was just a pale imitation of the emotions.
Now I go through a rollercoaster of emotions every day. I go from bouncing off the walls excited to irritated to wherever the mood takes me. I am blissfully out of control but more importantly, I am back to normal. It is normal to react to the world around you. It is normal to have mood swings. It is normal to be excited at the prospect of a holiday, or angry when you’re late for work and can’t find your car keys.
I get bored now! I haven’t been bored in ages! Activities were all basically equal. Just things happening. Now I miss the fun stuff when I am doing not fun stuff.
I have emerged from a world where everything was ‘just happening’. Things happened, life moved on. Now though, when things happen I feel some way about it.
It is such a normal thing, and not something I assume that most people ever think about. In fact a lot of advice you see is about controlling you emotions. Don’t let your anger get the better of you. Don’t get too excited about this job you might not get it.
I can only hope that I don’t get jaded too quickly and that I keep feeling these feelings as strongly as ever! I will take losing my temper every now and then over nothingness any day.
When did I stop being a people person?
I have ALWAYS loved chatting to people. Talking to friends, family, strangers, I just like hearing what people have to say. Because I started drinking a lot later than all of my friends, I would spend nights out darting from group to group having excited conversations with people. It’s how I kept myself entertained when everyone else was drinking. I never felt left out, I just did things differently.
Recent nights out have been half hearted dancing in a crowded club, mentally calculating the minimum time it is acceptable to stay out before I piss off for a kebab and bed. You’ll be surprised to hear that this tarnished my enjoyment of university.
For years now I have avoided social interaction. I probably burned a lot of bridges, and went out of my way to avoid building new ones. Conversation just held no excitement for me. I’d rather be on my own, doing my own thing.
I am starting to crave that social interaction again now though. I’m interested in group conversations on facebook now where before I would just open and close them to remove the notification. I am chatting to people on the stairs at work rather than looking at my phone, I want to be involved and enjoy being around people again.
This one may take longer, as interaction is a two way street, but I am so excited to be the irritating, chatty me again.
Faith in my convictions
I knew about this one. This is the by-product of depression that possibly has the biggest impact on my life.
I couldn’t trust my own word.
Promises and plans were often made with the best intentions in the world, but I was well aware that more often than not, when the time rolled around, I would find myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom with one shoe on completely unable to move.
Any long term plans were pipe dreams. Lose weight? Better do it quick before I have a bad week and eat the contents of the fridge. Start a good job? Better find a career that pays you to stay in bed and cry. Start a new sport? Hopefully training is on days that I can afford to take an hour before I go to psyche myself up and talk myself into going.
I have missed out on more opportunities and lost more time than I could ever count. It was losing faith in my own convictions that forced my decision to turn and fight depression head on.
It is a disease that prevents you from moving forwards and it is the most comforting feeling in the world to be able to regain trust in yourself and plan for the future again.
I am excited about the future.
I am looking forward to going on holiday.
I can’t wait to see what I can do in my job.
I want to meet up with my friends.
For the first time in as long as I can remember I can start to look forwards and be optimistic.
I dedicated myself to beating depression, and for the last year, I have struggled and experimented until I could finally reach the state of mind I have now.
Because of this long crap year, I can now look forward to what’s to come. I can be excited about living a life that isn’t tarnished by mental illness and I can enjoy experiences without having to qualify them with ‘but I was depressed so…’
Depression is a parasite. It is nothing without you and you will always be bigger than it. If you are struggling with mental health- never be ashamed of it, never be afraid to talk about it and never forget that you’re not alone in it.
It can get better and it will get better.