Everyone has an idea of what “depression” is. Some think it means the person is suicidal. Others think it means the person is having a lousy day. Some think you can just snap out of it by wanting to snap out of it. Others think it doesn’t really exist.
The truth is, like just about every other health condition, depression is different for different people. That’s why I’m not writing about depression in general; I’m writing about mine. And more specifically than that, I’m writing about the depression I’ve experienced over the last few weeks.
I’ve spent many years keeping an eye on my mental health, making sure that when I feel depressed, I’m aware of whether or not I need help. When I was younger I spent a short time on anti-depressants that gave me all sorts of side effects but didn’t seem to help much. In hindsight, I wonder if that depression was really a symptom of my undiagnosed autoimmune conditions. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Since then, I haven’t been on medication for depression, but I’ve definitely had periods of depression. Sometimes it lasts hours, sometimes days. If it lasts longer than that, I know I’ll need help, but usually the worst of it is shorter.
This last time around has been different. I wasn’t depressed over a short-term flare, but over a very real, very large setback. Like that setback, it’s lasting longer than an acute flare typically lasts. I’ll write about the setback another time, but suffice it to say, it was, and still is, pretty bad. I lost 3 years of progress in 1 week. It’s been horrible. So it’s no surprise my emotional health would suffer. On top of that, I could feel my emotions swinging around. It’s hard to explain, but I just knew I was having emotional symptoms from the setback in addition to the physical symptoms from this particular setback. I could feel it in the same way I can feel if my knee pain is from too much walking or from an oncoming thunderstorm (even when one isn’t in the forecast, my knee knows it’s coming.) But try explaining that to a doctor!
Sometimes I want to cry for no particular reason. Sometimes I want to cry specifically because I’m angry or scared or sad. Sometimes I just feel sad. Sometimes I think death might be better than living like this. But I’m not suicidal. Those last two sentences seem contradictory to some people, but read them again. I didn’t say I wanted to kill myself. I thought death might be better. I’ve had that thought many times over the years, but in that same abstract way; never in a way that involved me taking action to make it happen. I’ve had it more in the last few weeks than usual, though.
Still, I’m not too worried about this bout of depression. Yes, it’s unpleasant and unfortunate, but so is my fatigue and pain and all of my other symptoms. And like with all of those other symptoms, I’m doing my best to feel better and I’m doing my best to not make things worse. Can I really do more?
I keep this quote over my desk. (If you know whose it is, please let me know so I can credit them.) It’s always apt, but I think it’s especially important right now to reread it constantly.
“I am doing the best I can with what I have in this moment. And that is all I can expect of anyone, including me!”
Do you get depression in relation to your physical conditions? How does it feel to you? Please share your experiences in the comments. And remember, you’re not alone!