depression · mental health · personal · self care

Does this sound like you?

There are dishes covering every open inch of counterspace, filling the sink, stacked on the stove. Three full bags of trash are waiting to be taken out. The laundry lays crumpled in the basket from three days ago – it’s laundry day again. There’s garbage strewn about the floor. The cat’s bowl needs water. We’re out of towels. And I can hardly get out of bed.

How did it get like this? I’ve had a headache or a migraine for the past three days. I used to be that person who never took pain relievers, now I can’t function without an ibuprofen. Or two. At least I take those, I guess, unlike my medication that I keep constantly forgetting. Was class tonight? I’ve only attended one this week and that was because CJ reminded me. I need to get that clip to her. The video I was working on is maybe a quarter done and I was hoping to upload it tomorrow. Remembering the video I posted literally last week, I laugh. What a fucking well-intentioned fool. How didn’t she see it coming?

I’m fucking depressed. It didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual onset. And I didn’t notice it because the thing about depression – at least for me – is that I don’t feel it 100% of the time. Sometimes I still get happy. I can still pull it out for stream. The performer in me knows how to turn it on when it’s time to hit record. And if there’s any activity I’m capable of gritting my teeth through, it’s writing. Though today’s writing is more of a necessary release. A confession. And I have a feeling that many of you reading this will feel the familiarity in these scenes.

“So what are you going to do about it?” is the sentence my partner spoke to me once. And before you recoil in horror, you must remember: the first time this man talked me out of killing myself we were sixteen. He is not a stranger to mental health issues. There is no one more patient, understanding, thoughtful, or considerate than him. So when he said this to me, it wasn’t unkind. It was a very soft yet firm little poke reminding me that there are still things I can control, even if I can’t control my mood.

Unfortunately, a few months have passed since that day that I told him I was depressed and now. And there are two different kinds of depression in my experience. Short term and long term. Being a person with borderline personality disorder, I am usually most intimately related to short term depression. I get very severely depressed for hours, sometimes days, but then the cloud passes and I’m able to see the sun again. Those periods of time are when I lie on the floor, refuse to leave bed, stop brushing my teeth, and lose interest in food. Anything more than watching something is too much effort; I don’t even play video games. The “what are you going to do about it” is much more helpful for short term. Because going for a walk or taking a long bath or crying my eyes out at a movie all have the capacity to help me “snap out of it”. It’s just a matter of forcing myself to do something to shake up my brain space.

Long term depression, not so much. This is the kind of mood that lingers for weeks or months. It’s not as obviously dramatic. I tend to overeat to compensate for my chronic low mood and maybe feel something positive for a short while. I still struggle to make myself do anything other than lay around and play video games. Things start to pile up and I fall behind and slowly I become overwhelmed. I’m in an interesting position because I think this is probably the soonest in a depressive cycle that I have actually caught on to the fact that I’m really quite fucking depressed.

That’s the upside of living with these problems for a while. You start to recognize the signs faster. Something about consciously acknowledging that I’ve been forcing myself to brush my teeth every night, that I’ve been using every ounce of willpower I have just to wash my fucking hair, that the only thing that is making me do dishes or laundry is the fact that I know these are the jobs I do in order to make Nicholas’ life easier (and honor the unspoken social contract we have – he earns money, I act like a 1950’s housewife [except instead of valium I take lexapro])… taking a step back and really seeing how much I’ve been struggling lately made the lightbulb go off. Historically, it wouldn’t be until I threatened divorce, drove out to the middle of the woods with a gun, and quit my job that I would recognize I was depressed. PS, this was only three years ago.

So. A small moment of celebration for growth! I guess all the meditation did help me become more self-aware, huh? “So what are you going to do about it?”

I’ll be straight with y’all. Although I’ve come to while I was not quite so deep in the hole, it’s still a pretty sizeable hole. Being honest with myself and you guys, it’s not like I’m gonna be able to just ~will myself into feeling better~ or something. I have to make consistent changes with less energy and willpower than I usually have. This is what makes dealing with depression so incredibly difficult. It’s not that you don’t want to feel better – it’s that doing the things that supposedly would help sound absolutely fucking exhausting.

Exercise? Bitch, did you not read me say I can barely brush my teeth?

Go outside? Hahaha. In case you’re reading this post in the future, we are experiencing some unprecedented winter bullshit. Good ol’ climate change.

Meditate? Probably should, huh? The hardest part is starting, they say.

I need to set alarms for my medication and *actually* take the medication when my alarms go off. Back in the day, I just had all my medicine on my nightstand. My current nightstand is so small that I already have to put my waterbottle and phone on the floor. But I suppose I will just have to put my medicine down there, too. I need to see if there’s a way I can change the way my computer is plugged in so I can have my HappyLight plugged in all the time. This might sound silly to the neurotypicals in the room but having to get up and change the things plugged in so I can turn on my HappyLight is keeping me from actually using it. The fact that my seasonal depression has only really gotten hardcore in February (during a pandemic when we couldn’t go home for the holidays, no less!), is how you know the HappyLight was doing its thing before we switched rooms and therefore had outlet real estate problems. I need to honor my intentions to stay off my phone in the morning. On the days that I’m capable of resisting immediately worshipping the black mirror that accompanies me throughout the day, the tone of the entire day is so much more positive. I eat my breakfast mindfully. I usually meditate or do yoga. I spend time with my cat. I don’t get distracted and forget to take my medication. I’ve been pretty good about the gradual unplug of devices throughout the night, though on the nights like this one where I can’t sleep until I write, I bend the rules. But an hour after I shut off my computer, I’ll silence my phone. An hour or maybe two after I turn off my phone, I’ll power down either my Switch or Kindle. I know technically you aren’t supposed to have any screens before bed but until I live in a space where I’m able to read actual paper books in bed before I fall asleep, that just isn’t going to happen. What, you want me to raw dog falling asleep?

I probably need to actually up my medication instead of just talking about it. Though, if I went back to my normal dose instead of forgetting to take it 5 out of 7 days a week, that might be fine. By the way, zero shame for using medication to feel better. My aversion is due to the side effects – my SSRI makes me grind my teeth worse than I already do normally and my TMJ is just getting worse and worse as time goes on (see: three days straight of headaches. These all originate from my jaw tension). Were it not for the increased bruxism, I’d probably be on a higher dose without any qualms.

So that’s the plan. That’s what I’m going to do about it. If things start to get better, then I’ll add the more difficult things like exercising because god damn, it’s almost as if every doctor and therapist recommends it for a reason. Preventative behaviors help you from digging a hole in the first place. And if I do these things and nothing improves, I’ll up my dose. I might have to go back to therapy. We’ll see. For now, the fact that I’m aware and I’ve accepted that I’m depressed rather than just trying to muscle through it or shame myself for being less productive is a victory. This isn’t indicative of a personal failure. It’s not like I’m not trying. I am. Very hard. But instead of just pushing on the accelerator as hard as I can and wondering why I’m not going anywhere, I need to stop. Breathe. Refuel my tank. Get an oil change. Do the maintenance necessary to allow me to run the way I used to be able to. Until I can get these systems in place and give my brain a chance to reset itself, I’m going to try to be patient with myself. Self-compassion tends to help a lot more than self-deprecation.

Life is already hard enough without me beating myself up about things out of my control.

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