Do I know when something bad is about to happen to me or do I just expect it? Have I been happy for too long? Was my happiness real? Was my happiness a delusion? These are questions I often deal with. And this isn’t necessarily about any one thing in particular.
I wanted to write this entry, which is almost a follow up to one I wrote just a few months back, because this is the last day of Mental Health Awareness Month, and also because the thoughts and worries described in that opening paragraph often show up, with no warning. But, instead of rehashing the exact same entry, I want to dig a little bit deeper into what it does to me when I feel a depression coming on. Especially if I fear it could be a big one.
The first and most prominent feeling is anxiety. I get so anxious and my focus drifts. I’ll feel completely empty inside, and I’m not talking about being hungry, that comes later. I’ll start to just feel afraid of everything around me. My heart will start racing, and that will make me more afraid.
At night, I won’t be able to sleep because I can’t shut my brain off. I’ll lay in bed in deafening silence. During the day, I’ll doze off because I hadn’t slept at night. But, that happens at times when I’m not supposed to be sleeping, like when I’m work or maybe when I’m driving. I’ll yawn a lot, and each time it feels like a breath taken during hyperventilation.
As I said earlier, my focus will drift. My attention span will vanish. If I’m listening to a podcast, I may have to rewind a certain portion two or three times because I won’t remember what they said just seconds later…
Ironically, it’s been about 15 minutes since I wrote that last sentence.
I’ll feel a need to talk to someone about my problems, but I’ll have the desire and instinct to shut down and and overwhelming urge to leave everything. I’ll want to go back to my bedroom, turn off the lights, and just sit there. I may have the TV on, but it may only be YouTube clips because there isn’t any way I would be able to watch anything longer than five minutes. If it’s the summer time, I’ll make sure the air conditioning is off. I’ll sit there in the uncomfortable heat and humidity because I’ll feel a need to suffer, because my brain tells me that I deserve it. I may have my phone off during this time to avoid anyone contacting me, even though I started off by saying I may have a need to talk to someone.
My instincts will be to quit things I’m involved in. I guess that if I have less to do or if I’m in involved with less things, it’ll somehow lessen my burdens and lessen the figurative weight holding me down. And once my mind is set to actually quit something, it does feel like a relief, unless I need to talk to someone about it, then I get very anxious about it.
I’ll want to do absolutely nothing. Every day tasks become a complete and sometimes overwhelming challenge. So much mental strength will be used us just to get out of bed, shower, and leave my house. Getting through a day at work, even if I’m enjoying what I do there, is still a challenge because I know whatever the problem is will still be there when work is done.
But while doing nothing I’ll wonder if doing nothing is actually hiding from my problems? Why am I not confronting them? Or is it just doing what I need to do at that time to deal with them? But, what exactly is it that I need to do about the problems? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and that makes it all worse.
Recent memories will start to feel distant while distant memories starting being prominent.
The emptiness I spoke of earlier will grow and grow until it’s a loneliness that can’t be subdued by talking to just anyone. It just lingers there until it goes away, but that could be hours, minutes, days, weeks…
It’s never consistent.
I could be in a situation where none of the blame lies with me, but my instinct is to feel guilty. I will accept blame for things that aren’t my doing. That weighs me down too.
I want you keep all of this mind right now when I say that all of the symptoms I’ve discussed so far are how I feel before the depression really kicks in.
If I’m truly going through a depressive episode, you can take everything I’ve talked about, multiply it a few times, add a total loss of appetite, the non-stop taste of bile in my mouth, and a constant fatigue. You’ll also notice that I may have no ability to communicate with you since I’ll lose focus during a conversation and forget what you’ve said, if I heard it at all. I’ll have the desire to find a corner, and sit in it, curled up in a ball. It’s a feeling similar to what people with claustrophobia feel, because it’s like everything is caving in on me, even if I’m in a wide open space. And the fact that I’m using so much mental and emotional strength to push away feelings, situations, and people during that time is exhausting.
I’ve done so much to avoid getting to that point. It’s been A LONG time since I’ve been there. I fight it off as much as I can, and it takes a lot out of me. I do what I can to distract myself from getting there. And sometimes, fighting it off can be such an arduous task. Sometimes, it just seems easier to let it happen and embrace the suffering than trying to fight it, but I don’t want to do that. I’ve been there and I don’t want to do back.
If I do get to that point, socializing is more difficult for me than it normally is. I will withdraw a bit, but if I have to be in a social setting, I’ll do my best, but what will that look like? I wrote something a while back that you can look at if you want to. That entry went into some of my social anxieties. If I remember correctly, the gathering I was about to attend around the time that I wrote that one had my so anxious and nervous that I actually lost track of where I was while I was driving there and made a few wrong turns, and it wasn’t intentional.
This entry is a bit more manic than others I’ve written. The thoughts aren’t nearly as fluid as I would normally like them to be, but I want it that way. I want anyone reading this to be able to see what my mind goes through during these times. I want to somehow convey the chaos that goes on in my mind.
I’ve read about mental illness and I know that not everyone experiences the same things. I know that how I handle, process, and deal with my depression may not work for others. I’m not even sure how well it works for me. But, for now, I have a sense of control of it. I’ve been through it enough times to know how to not let it get too far gone.
I don’t know how much control I have over certain aspects of my life and I certainly don’t know if I have that much control over my mind, but I can do my best to control how the two interact. There’s no choice in that matter. If things get bad for me, I will fight. I will get through it, and I will be wiser.
Maybe I’m not much wiser than I was a few minutes ago, but maybe you have a better understanding of what it’s like in my head at times. It can be a roller coaster with a lot more declines than inclines and getting out of there can be difficult.
Winston Churchill famously said “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” I’m not quite in a Hell now, but where ever I am, I’m still going.