Depression is an odd bedmate. It weaves its fingers through your life in imperceptible ways, often presenting subtly. The common misconception is that depression is misery, where the darkness is so deep that you can’t move, and can’t get out of bed. That is depression in its most severe, but it’s so much more nuanced than that.
Depression can be general malaise. It can be uneasiness. Restlessness mixed with lethargy. Lack of enthusiasm. Irritability, frustration, an underlying sense of dread. All can be signs of depression.
Before I was medicated, my depression was of the abject misery variety. Crying myself to sleep, praying to never wake up. Suicide plans, attempts, and a deep hatred of everything. Since being medicated, my depression has shifted forms, and become far more sly.
The truth is, I generally don’t know right away when I’m depressed. It often starts as a lack of motivation, an absence of creativity, and slowly inches toward a force that holds me in place, halting progress. I become irritable. Frustrated. Eventually it sinks me into a poetic sadness. Not the type I once dealt with, where death beckoned at every turn. No, the medications keep that at bay. But they don’t turn it off, they just turn it down.
Those subtle, nuanced fingers weaving in and out of my life. This time around, I was depressed weeks before I realized it. There were some ups and downs, as any bipolar is bound to have, but it took me awhile to recognize that the ups have been less frequent, less enduring, and the downs have been longer, heavier. I’m stagnating.
This is that mental lethargy, that mild dissatisfaction in everything. The feeling that somewhere just over the horizon is doom. That “ship is sinking and no one else sees it” kind of feeling. Batten down the hatches, we’re in for some rough weather.
I keep a gratitude journal. I do daily affirmations. I try to throw myself into things that bring me joy. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t matter. Don’t tell me to think positive. Don’t tell me there’s no reason to be depressed.
I hate when people offer advice on how to get past depression. Especially when it comes from people who don’t share my mood disorder. Telling me to take a walk in the woods doesn’t fix this, and the law of attraction isn’t at play here. Positive thinking doesn’t banish a chemical imbalance.
That’s actually the entire point of this post. Positive thinking doesn’t cure depression. And if you suffer from depression, it’s not your fault if you can’t think positive. While adjusting your mindset is helpful, you can’t think your way out of a depressive episode. That’s not how any of this works.
I find myself extremely lucky that over the years I have been able to surround myself with understanding and patient people. They understand that mood instability is something some people just can’t control, and to expect otherwise is uneducated misunderstanding of mental health.
No amount of positive thoughts cure my illness. Sometimes, that breaks my heart. Other times, it brings me comfort. Knowing the madness I have always known will always be mine.