Here you are, finally breathing after months and years of depression. Everything is fine for a while and you are granted the chance to make the changes that you have been dreaming about for so long. Then, it happens. That same, disembodied fog wrapping around you, forcing you back down the hole you just came out of.
You don’t always know where it came from. What triggered it this time. What you did or forgot to do. You wake up, and recognize the symptoms of depression.
Before we go any further, I want you to know that this is just something that happens. No one is at fault. You will be okay again.
Some people know what their triggers are. This is just a fancy way of saying that you know what it is that makes you feel depressed. What the underlying issues are. Even if you say you don’t, you may already have some inclination. Usually they involve things like being excluded, failing/doing poorly in something, loneliness, issues with weight, self-esteem, … etc., etc.
Sometimes, you can tell when your symptoms flare up again. Sometimes you can’t. In either case, most people don’t recognize depression until much later on, once it has already taken hold.
The simple reason is that it often happens gradually. Something upsetting happens. You believe that you’ve dealt with it (or ignored it). The emotions usually go unresolved and fester. But you know that you’ve conquered this all before. So, you ignore it. Again. But then, something happens that calls to your attention. And you recognize that depression has settled in. And it feels hopeless all over again.
How is this different from just a “bad day”?
Moods are like waves. You have days when you feel happy and days when you feel sad. Usually there is a “normal zone” that most people fall under. Anything higher can fall under manic happiness (or mania) and anything lower can be classified as depression (note: it’s not always one or the other. There are many, many factors that are involved with mood. Only a doctor can accurately diagnose whether you fall outside of the normal spectrum).
Being sad is not the same as being depressed. Sadness is usually more temporary, and about one specific thing that happened. It is like a reaction to an event/circumstance. But, it isn’t lasting.
Depression, on the other hand, doesn’t need anything specific. It is just … there. It colours your whole world in a dark cloud. Nothing feels the same. There is no joy. There is just … nothing. Endless nothingness. This is why it’s often hard to detect it. You aren’t upset, you just aren’t being. You withdraw from hobbies, from friends, from family, from everything. Depression will last for months and years.
The Monster and the Pit
Depression tends to lull you into submission. It feeds off of every single criticism that you have, amplifying words that people may have said in a fit of anger. The worse you feel, the happier it is. The words fill you like a siren song, luring you back into the depths of depression.
Don’t listen to it. Just like the sirens in mythology, they only want to lure you to destroy your spirits.
That’s easier said than done.
When the monster echoes words that are in your head, it’s easy to believe them. It reinforces a negative and gives it power over you. Of course it’s difficult not to listen.
I find it helpful to externalize the voice. Give the faceless whispers an image. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be scary (actually it’s better that it’s not scary). If you can remember to externalize the voice, it may help to get rid of it. You can tell it to shut up, yell it, call it names, and whatever else you want to do. Why? Because now you aren’t putting yourself down (thereby adding to your symptoms), you are silencing the voice. Once it finally mutes itself, even if it’s for a moment, you can begin to stabilize your mood.
Depression can be like a deep pit. You can see the sun far up in the sky, always out of reach, always reminding you of the darkness you live in. That sun represents all you want your life to be and what you think your normal should be.
Climbing out of the pit is difficult. The rocks could be jagged, it could be muddy down there, and the edges are too steep to climb. But you know you need to climb out. After all, digging deeper into it just makes things worse.
Remember that “normal” you want your life to be is just subjective. It doesn’t guarantee things will be better, it’s just another ideal. You have to remember that you are fighting through this, and with each victory over depression makes you stronger, wiser, and more capable than ever before.
You define your life. In order to feel happiness, you must remain flexible. Because what you know to be true today, could be proven false tomorrow. Focus on the end goal, whatever it may be. The path to the goal is irrelevant. It always was.
I want to remind you of one important fact: just because you have one or two “bad days” where you feel depression-like symptoms, it doesn’t mean that you have lost. Moods are always static. There will be ups and there will be downs.
Now, go forth and continue to vanquish your monsters.