It varies from day to day. Sometimes it’s a little easier to deal with but in general that underlying feeling pretty consistent.
If I were to try to help someone understand what it feels like I’d ask them to remember back to a time in life when they lost a loved one. A family member, a pet, a close friend. Remember what that felt like. That tightness in your chest when you think about them and realize that you’re not going to see them anymore.
Now try to imagine that’s your life. Your entire life. Every morning you wake up with that feeling. And it doesn’t go away. It doesn’t get easier. And it doesn’t fade. Everyday you feel that pain just as fresh as the first morning you woke up in a world without that person that you cherished.
That’s what it’s like to live with depression. It’s a horrible painful existence that you couldn’t wish on anyone. You can’t explain why you feel this way. There’s no real reason. It just happens.
There’s no cure. At some point you come to the realization that this is just how life is going to be. The best you can hope for is a little bit of relief.
You turn to doctors with pills, therapists, advice about diet and exercise… hospitals, surgery, drugs. A lot of things help but they only buy you some time before the full weight of it comes down on you again.
You go through this hell and they tell you you’re not alone but if you say anything you get dismissed.
“Why don’t you cheer up?”
“Focus on the positive side.”
“Just stop being depressed.”
Why don’t you defy gravity and fly around like Superman? What you’re asking me to do is no less impossible. But it’s something everyone takes for granted. Being happy is a super power that everyone around you has and assumes you’re just refusing to use.
When it comes down to it, nobody really cares. Doctors get paid to evaluate it and therapists get paid to listen. But the world at large just doesn’t care. Even the people who love you can only stand to watch you flounder and fail so many times before they have to convince themselves that you’re just not really trying. For them it’s so simple that there’s no no other explanation.
So you put on a brave face. You push your way through life day by day faking smiles and pretending to laugh. Because that’s what’s expected of you. That’s what’s “normal”. You do it for weeks or months or maybe even years at a time.
Eventually, you reach the conclusion that the only 100% effective cure for your illness is that one thing they’re always telling you not to do. Then there’s guilt. You feel guilty for thinking it and for wanting it. You know what it would do to the people around you but you can’t deny that it is the only way to make the pain stop.
It’s only a tragedy after it happens.
“Oh why didn’t they ask for help? Why didn’t we see the signs?!”
You did. The signs were there clear as day. But you called it laziness. You pointed the finger and blamed them for not living up to expectations.
Sometimes it’s not an escape. Sometimes it’s just an execution. You can rationally tell yourself that it’s not your fault but that blame always comes around. When you see everyone else achieve life so easily who else could possibly be at fault? When you’re already suffering so much what could possibly be an appropriate punishment?
I don’t plan to kill myself but that doesn’t mean I sure it won’t happen. It’s a thought that comes around just about every day at one point or another. But I understand the consequences for myself and for others. What happens to me seems less important but I don’t want to spread this feeling to others. So where does this leave me? What can I do?
All I can do is keep trying. Keep finding those little bits of relief. Keep working past that inevitable conclusion that I always come to.
What can you do? I don’t ask for or want sympathy. A “poor baby” isn’t going to change anything. And I can’t ask you to make it go away. That’s just plain impossible.
All I want is a little bit of understanding and some patience. That won’t make it better but at least it won’t make it any worse.