When the dark days come, those are the times when I least feel like writing. I don’t feel like doing anything, actually. Not writing, not reading, not speaking, not listening, not eating, not drinking, not breathing… but especially not like writing.. especially not like writing about why I feel the way I feel.
And yet, today, sitting thinking about being miserable that I haven’t written here in so long because the time hasn’t come that I’ve “felt like it”, I realize that these are the very days when I should be writing about how I feel… writing about how the weight of depression gets so heavy that I can’t lift my fingers over the keys to type, that I can’t make the words come out of my brain and move down my arms, that I can’t make my eyes focus on the screen, that everything looks wrong and nothing looks legible or sensible or rational. Well, of course it’s not rational.. this state of mind isn’t rational. And I should be writing about it.
So, here I am.. trying to sort out some of the words that are hiding in my head, that want to get out but are stuck in there, stuck in the dark, stuck in the muck and mired in the shadowy goo.
I hear, a lot of times, the words, “How can you stay in bed all day?” and “How can you be so tired when all you do is sleep all the time?” Let me ask you this: if you were to have to go through your day at work balancing a brick on your head, wearing a lead vest, and weighted exercise cuffs on your wrists and ankles, would you be tired at the end of the day? Then you have an idea of what “wearing” depression feels like. When a person suffering from depression is forced to go out into the public world at large, whether it’s to work or run errands or whatever reason they must interact with people, they usually have to force themselves to “put on” an outward appearance of normality in order to get through the event. This is by no means a conscious effort to deceive or impress, it’s simply a survival technique. It’s how we survive the anxiety of being among “normal” people when we feel like we’re going to either implode or spontaneously combust from all the horrible feelings built up inside us. Putting on that outer shell, that front, that mask, takes a lot of energy, it’s stressful, it makes for tense muscles and rapidly firing synapses, leaving you feeling like you’re on a crazy twister ride. And by the time we get back home to our safe haven, carrying all the weight of that persona, holding everything in and keeping that face on for the outside world has drained every last ounce of strength and stamina we have left. Now, imagine doing that every day, sometimes 7 days a week.
That’s when breakdowns happen… when “every day” just becomes too much and we need a “time out” to reset. Physically, as well as emotionally and mentally, we’re so depleted and exhausted that we can’t function anymore. Most people can’t understand how just being depressed can be physically exhausting, you’re not exercising, lifting barbells, doing lunges.. so how can we be tired? Because when the body is stressed mentally, the muscles react physically, tightening and straining in different ways, resulting in a tired body to go with the tired mind. This also can lead to health problems such as stomach issues, bowel and urinary problems, heart and lung troubles, etc. The mind is extremely powerful.
Going back to the whole “staying in bed all day” thing.. this is what comes of dark days. When you feel so crappy, so horrible, so stressed and tired and run down and worn out that you don’t have the energy, the strength, to lift your head off the pillow, you don’t have the desire to see the light of day, you don’t have the need to feed your body.. this is what happens on dark days when depression is at it’s worst. And those are the days when you want to bury yourself into the middle of the mattress and disappear forever… because no matter how hard you try, no matter how long you stay there, no matter how cozy it may be in your room, your bed, your house, you don’t actually get much sleep. You just lie there.. and your mind tries to destroy you slowly.
You lie there until you get thirsty, but you dare not get up to get a drink because you know that if you do, then you’ll soon have to go to the bathroom and that means you’ll have to walk past the mirror and then you’ll see them.. that person that you can’t stand, the one that triggers the dark one in your head to come out and start saying those horrid things you hate to hear. “Oh God.. look at that face! Children would run away screaming in terror! How could anyone think that was even remotely attractive?!” So you stay there lying in bed until the thirst goes away.
You lie there until you get hungry, but you dare not get up to get something to eat because you know that if you do it will draw that voice back again. “That’s right, Porky. Keep stuffing your face and you’ll never loose the weight. You’re always going to be fat and flabby. Forget about that brand new lovely bathing suit again this year. Another summer of long sleeves and no swimming.” So you stay lying there until the hunger goes away.
After a day or two you start to feel gross and you know you need to shower, you hair is greasy and your scalp is itchy, but you’re so tired, your arms feel like they’re tied to 50lb weights, your head feels like a harvest fair prize pumpkin, just breathing makes your chest hurt and the very thought of struggling to get out of bed brings tears to your eyes. Then the voice shows up. “You useless blob! How are you ever going to get back into the real world if you don’t get your lazy arse out of that bed? Look at you! Rats could be living in your hair! You smell! You’re disgusting!” And then you feel so much more miserable that you curl up into an ever shrinking ball and burrow deeper into the covers to try and hide from the darkness that claws at your mind.
It’s a ruthless and vicious beast, living in the back of your brain and feasting on your weaknesses of self-loathing, insecurity, anxiety, and angst. It hides and lies in wait for every little opportunity to leap out and take a chomp out of you. It drools and slavers and gurgles in delight at every chance it gets to chew you up and spit you out. And when depression grips you and drags you into the pit where it lives, you can’t get away from it. It’s on a long leash and it’s hard to shorten it when you’re laying in the middle of its lair.
Now, I see a wonderful therapist, I’m on an effective regimen of anti-depressant medications, I have amazing friends and a loving supportive family… but I still have depression and I still fall into the dark days on occasion for no reason that can be explained. Sometimes they last a day or two, other times they hang on with their sharp talons for weeks. This time it’s been a week already and I haven’t begun to feel the hope of freedom yet… but I know it will come. I know I’ll break out eventually. Because I always do. That’s what therapy has helped me learn: the dark days come.. and the dark days go. I will always have to fight them at times, but I will always survive and they will always end.
The hardest part is remembering that… that they will end. Because right now.. it’s very dark in here… and I really hate that damn voice.