Before I started experiencing depression, a bad day was just kind of a bummer, but I knew that it was a fact of life. I let myself feel shitty when shitty things were going on, secure in the knowledge that another day would be better.
Now, though, bad days can make me worry that I’m relapsing. A series of bad days is even scarier. Even when there’s an obvious, completely rational cause of my unhappiness, there’s still a nagging voice in my head:
“This is the start of it. You’re backsliding. You can’t handle this.”
When that voice starts up, my day goes from being shitty to feeling unbearable. A string of them is suffocating.
…Which is the best possible way to describe last week.
I’ve been feeling burned out lately. There’s a lot going on, and I’m having trouble keeping up. Socially, I’ve been feeling really isolated and lonely. Then I caught the bug going around the office, causing me to have to cancel plans I’d really been looking forward to.
By the end of the week, a miscommunication and a few pieces of bad news tipped me right over the edge. I started crying in my colleague’s office and had a hard time stopping. I was just feeling all of it, all at once, and I was sinking under its weight.
I pulled myself together to finish out the rest of the day at work, but did manage to cry in front of strangers on transit, and in front of my best friend (and more strangers) at dinner. It was like the tears needed to come out and they wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“It is happening again,” the voice said, unintentionally quoting Twin Peaks.
For most of Friday night, I believed it. By the time I got home, I was eerily numb. Not good-numb, like I’d cried myself out and was ready to move on, but overwhelmed-numb, like there was so much bottled up that my brain and body couldn’t process it. I watched the most depressing thing I could think of–a Buffy episode called The Body, which all Buffy fans know makes This Is Us look like comedy–just to get the rest of the tears out. I went to bed physically and emotionally exhausted.
I was still pretty down the next morning, and I felt like I needed a bit more wallow time. I spent the morning and early afternoon lounging around in sweats, watching Broad City, and, frankly, feeling sorry for myself. By mid-afternoon, I forced myself to get up, get dressed, and go to Starbucks to study.
“You’re still sad,” the voice hissed. But it was less sure of itself this time. I’d got up and I was going to be productive. That’s not typical of depressed me. Doubt started to creep in.
By Sunday, I was out and about and enjoying a little bit of sunshine. Sure, if I thought about everything that was going on, I felt upset again. But it wasn’t constant; there wasn’t that low-level hum of depression in the background, like elevator music from hell.
Looking that the situation from a slightly removed perspective really helped. Instead of focusing so much on my emotions, I looked for evidence. I was able to get up and do stuff still. Although I felt disengaged from certain parts of my life, I still felt engagement in some things. The idea of going out to study didn’t feel overwhelming, but actually felt kind of nice.
And if all that hadn’t been the case, and I had found evidence that I was depressed, I knew what to do: book an appointment with my therapist. (Which I actually ended up doing anyway because I have a lot of stuff that I need help working through.)
I’ve got this. I just need to remember that next time.