you exist, even when you’re depressed

The thing I hate most about my depression is that when it’s here, when it’s on the upswing and taking over, who I am disappears. I get lost amidst the blackness, drowned in the sorrow, burned up in the anger. All that is me starts to vanish and I’m terrified I’ll never get myself back.

I had another story to tell, about peanut butter and I’ll likely get back to that, but depression has been on my mind today.

I’m better these days. I’m in recovery. That doesn’t mean, however, that every day is depression free. Sometimes, I drop. The drops are shallower now, and shorter. I recover faster and I’m starting to trust it’ll continue this way. I’m starting to worry less that each drop will last forever.

A bit of fear remains, however. I’m afraid now. I’m in a drop now. My chronic pain condition flared up and it’s hard to hold onto my mental stability when I’m in pain. Neuralgia is difficult.

I was thinking about depression as I sat out under the deck today, looking at the snow and letting my mind wander. I was thinking that the loss of self that comes with it is one of the hardest things to deal with. I’m pretty sure it’s that loss of self that tips me over from depressed into suicidal.

Everything circles down to “what’s the point?” When I lose myself, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember what I’m fighting for.

I really, really don’t want to go back there again.

It’s hard to explain what it feels like to someone who has never suffered from depression. It’s hard to explain the eternal feeling of futility. It’s hard to explain the utter despair. It’s hard to explain what it feels like in your body when you start to notice that you’re losing bits and pieces of yourself.

I’ve always thought depression deserved a more descriptive name.

After a bit, I got to thinking about the lists. The lists that are everywhere, the ones that tell you what to do when you’re depressed. The ones that tell you to meditate, and take on small tasks, and take care of your body, and get out into nature. The lists that are so annoying because they’re full of things that work and yet doing any of it seem utterly impossible in the moment.

I thought about what I could do now to help myself the next time I fall, because, unfortunately, there will be a next time. It’s how I’m wired. Which means that I need a plan. A plan that goes beyond medication and weekly trips to the therapist. I need a life plan now so I can use it when.

Which is, I realized, what I’m doing. It’s what developing a daily meditation practice is about. It’s what washing my face as soon as I get up is about. It’s what daily journaling and a daily gratitude practice are about. They’re not just things to stabilize and heal ourselves. They do more than make it possible for us to live in the now.

They’re practices we need to burn into our bones. They’re habits I’m trying to embed concretely so they’ll stick around, at least to a degree, the next time I fall. So that maybe I won’t fall so low and lose who I am again.

There’s one other thing I’ve done that’s important, I think, and that’s the writing. I have a lot of thoughts about recovery that I’ve written down and shared, which means they’re available to me. I can look back and reread, remember what I thought when the world was a brighter place. I can look back and see me and remember that even when it doesn’t feel like it, I’m still in there somewhere.

We do exist, even when it doesn’t seem like it, even when depression is trying to wipe it all away. The things we do, even the mundane things – especially the mundane things – can help us remember that on the darkest days.

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