I am not going to work today. I am not going to class. I am avoiding my roommates, my best friends, my mom’s phone calls, the pile of laundry in my corner.
I am exhausted although I have done nothing.
Welcome to a day with depression.
For me, depression is like my period. I have very little control over when either will appear, I have a lot of experience with both, yet each time they visit me, I retreat with defeat. They hurt my body and my mind and they give me permission to wear yoga pants and eat ice cream alone, in bed, while watching Jake & Amir videos on YouTube for lots of hours.
Today, I am depressed. And today, I am choosing to let myself feel sad. I am choosing to let myself feel lonely and stagnant and fuzzy and monochromatic.
Today, I am letting the depression consume me. Not because it’s necessarily the right thing to do, but because – right now – it’s all I can muster. It’s all I can give to myself.
Just like with my period, some spouts of depression are better than others. Sometimes, I make it to work. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m able to hang out with my friends, laugh, be loud, be obnoxious, be me. Sometimes, talking to the guy at the Starbucks Drive Thru is all I got. Sometimes I can fake it, mask the deep sadness, the inexplicable mood change; sometimes I can cover the cloud with a filter of sunshine. Sometimes I can’t.
It is important for me to remember that both reactions are okay.
If I force one reaction – if I make myself go to that dinner I planned a month ago that’s really not that important but that feels really important, when I just need a day alone – then I am doing more harm than good to myself, to my mind. If I tell people that I am okay when I am not okay, I am burying my feelings in favor of external expectations. And that’s silly.
Playing pretend is not courageous; playing pretend is insensitive to my illness.
When you’re on your period, you don’t pretend that you aren’t. You don’t wear your white pants, you don’t skip the tampon because you don’t want people to know that tiny little devils are currently invading your uterus, you don’t eat a salad because ice cream is too many calories. No; you wear your baggiest sweatpants, you pack 100 tampons into your purse, you eat fifteen pints of Ben & Jerry’s. Because that’s what makes you feel better. That’s what gets you through the pain.
So today, I’m treating my depression to some simple and necessary self-care. Not self-pity.
I am not mad at myself for feeling a little sadder than I did yesterday, or the day before. I am not punishing myself for having an illness that I did not ask for, that I did not cause. I am not cursing my mind for feeling a little lonely, a little tired, a little bummed out. I do not feel sorry for calling in sick to work. Because I am sick. And the last thing my mind needs is for it to be beaten down more than it already is.
This is a lesson, is a mentality, that has taken me years to absorb, fully and with transparency. It has taken me years of therapy and medicine and trial and error to find a response to – not a cure for – my depression and anxiety. It’s a personal process, it’s not perfect, but it alleviates some of my symptoms, some of my sadness.
And for me, sitting in the sadness – for a bit – is a part of feeling better. I give myself one day, sometimes longer, to be consumed. If I need to sleep a little longer, I will. If I need to go for a drive alone, crying to musical ballads as I speed by cornfields and sunsets, I will. If I need to eat an entire box of mac & cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I will.
But then I am back. Slowly but surely, I will go to class. I will go to work. I will be with my friends, I will clean my room (maybe); I will not hide.
Giving myself a timeline holds me accountable. Giving myself permission to feel my feelings, that lets the feelings run through me a little quicker. I find that if I give my depressed feels some time to do their job, they will get bored and go away – not right away, but soon enough. And if I try and submerge them beneath a layer of forced normalcy, they will linger.
So that’s what I’m doing today. I’m letting myself feel. And then tomorrow, or maybe the next day, I will let myself feel, but I will also make myself live.