When Depression Makes You Feel Like a Dull, Worn Penny
I look out my sixth-floor window and take in the haze of the particulate-filled, cloudless, Minnesota sky like Mother Nature is in agreement with my feelings. We both look like we’re functioning on the outside, but there’s something not quite right on the horizon.
For weeks, there’s been something off, intangible. Granted, in the US, it’s hard not to look around and think everything feels off. When I’ve tried to put a name to my feelings, others have told me that it doesn’t feel right to them, too. Everyone is suffering due to Covid-19, the government, everything. I know people who would rather sleep until 2021 because it’s too hard to be present any more.
Depression manifests differently in everyone.
No one can tell when I’ve sunk. I’m the poster child for the meme of “This is fine,” while looking utterly unflappable. I keep putting one foot forward in front of me to tackle my daily tasks while everything burns.
Inside, my motivation is gone. That’s how I know that I’ve hit depression again. It’s always the same slow descent into lackluster life. Everything feels like a chore — including being around people.
As an extrovert, that’s where it hits me the hardest. When I’m doing well, I’m the entertainer. I see everything as a humorous story. The people I meet all seem interesting. My rose-colored glasses always get me past short tempers and struggles.
When I slide into the cold, dull feelings of a worn penny, I misinterpret everything. Swirled in the snow globe of apathy, everything seems more painful, hurtful, and deliberate.
My rational mind perks up to tell me that I’m seeing what isn’t there, but depression mind is quick to pound down any logical thoughts.
Because my sense of humor is lost in the abyss, small impediments seem tragic. I can’t muster even the irritation and anger portion of my basic personality because all I want to do is be done with this week.
No one notices when I feel this way. Not my kids, my husband, my friends. It’s not that they don’t care about me, but that I’m good at hiding my depression. I don’t mean to hide, but since I’m not in bed avoiding the world, it must mean that I’m doing okay, right?
The truth is that unless I get my tasks done, I feel like a failure and a burden. I don’t have a day job. If I don’t do my part, I’m causing everyone else around me to have a worse quality of life. By the time I take care of dishes, laundry, and two meals every day, I can’t bring myself to do it anymore. I devolve into staring at my computer screen, cycling between comedy and horror.
Sometimes I need to step away from myself.
I know I’m not alone in feeling like this. If anything, more people are depressed now than ever because things are terrible. Of course, not all depression is due to environment. Between hormones, shoddy brain chemistry, and everything else, there are more reasons to be depressed than not.
There’s hope in the darkness.
First, we need to forgive ourselves and quit beating ourselves up when depression hits. When it’s a struggle to do anything, it’s easy to focus on the negatives and feel worthless. If we have the flu or other physical illness, we try to be kind to ourselves. We pamper ourselves. We focus on sleep and getting better. The more that we treat any mental illness like any other normal sickness, we give ourselves a safe space to heal.
Recognizing where we are emotionally is the next step to pulling ourselves out of depression. Focus on the slivers of hope and good little things that happen. Permit ourselves to let things slide. Accept that we don’t always have to be driven, organized, or “happy.” We may not be able to go to a gym or walk outside, but we can meditate and use gentle yoga while focusing on better, healthier patterns.
Whether it’s a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, or a bad year, it’s important to see what we’ve accomplished for ourselves, even if it’s just getting out of bed or brushing our teeth. And if we don’t quite manage? Tomorrow is another day to practice being kind to ourselves.
It’s okay to admit that you need more help, too. Asking friends or family to help with tasks can be difficult, but they love us. They want us to feel better. Finding a good therapist and starting on medications can also help ease our burdens. We are never alone no matter how lonely we feel in our depression.
It may take time to get back to a hopeful space, but it’s worth it. Eventually, the haze clears, and we can breathe freer again.