Understanding depression

The thing people misunderstand about major depression is how relentless it is to those of us who live with it.

People expect it to pass the way a broken arm heals or a cut clots. Some depression works that way, short-term and remittance.

But the kind I live with lingers.

Even on my very best days, there’s a niggling thought that my emotions will turn against me and I will see darkness in the brightest sunlight.

It’s hard to describe major depression. People associate it with sadness. That’s true, but there often isn’t a specific cause.

Someone asked me what was “bothering me this time?”

Well, when your depressed, everything makes feel low. Everything is irritating. Yet, at the same time, there is a numbness.

I feel about a step and a half off behind reality. I stare unfocused like a Netflix stream buffering.

I was getting dressed to go to my therapy today and I sat on the edge of my bed to put on some socks.

It probably took 20 minutes because I kept losing focus. Conversations are sometimes a struggle. I hear people, but my focus goes soft and I drift away.

Sometimes it feels as if I’m a tiny person who lives at the back of my skull and I’m looking out my eyes through long binoculars with dingy, smudged lenses.

Yet I also question my depression. Is this real? Am I really sick enough to take medical leave?

I’ve spent a lot of time and money in therapy to recognize the symptoms of depression and see how they effect my daily behavior.

And even then I don’t trust myself. Someone will ask, “Didn’t you have this trouble about the same time last year?” I did. So what?

If I could control when this would happen, I would never allow it. I think of depression like wind chill in the coldest part of winter.

Sometimes the wind chill is intolerable and dangerous. Sometimes it’s barely noticeable.

But it’s always cold.

Chronic depression is like that. It’s always there, but sometimes, like right now, for me, it’s especially prevelant.

So I’m taking a knee. I’m getting some treatment. I’m doing the work necessary for me to function as best I can, trying to reset the thermostat to tolerable.

I have a friend who asked me how my day is. I usually answer, “OK.” She says, “Just OK? Why not great?”

She means well, but I don’t aim for great. I am for comfortable. If feelings could be measured on a 1 to 10 scale (they can’t), then I’m aiming for a solid 3.

A 3 seems low, but I figure the fall to 2 and 1 is a lot less traumatic and a 4 or 5 day feels pretty good.

A 10 is like an orgasm or other high that can’t be sustained for very long. People who live at 10 everyday are either lying or bipolar. I’m not saying people aren’t happy.

I am saying that maximum happiness everyday is unrealistic and unhealthy. So I’m shooting to get back to 3.

Right now I’m a 1. I’m in the odd mental space of knowing the sadness I feel isn’t fixed in reality yet simultaneously feeling that sadness is absolutely real.

I will be OK. I’m not suicidal to the point of having a plan though I do think about being dead a lot.

That’s how depression expresses itself. I thank everyone who has sent well wishes and prayers.

I am humbled. If you want to do something for me, I would ask this:

The next time you want to angrily rant on social media or let loose a savage zinger, even if you’re just kidding or righteously upset, don’t.

Choose kindness.

You never know what someone is going through. If they’re being a jerk, maybe they’re having a bad day.

You can’t choose how others behave, what they believe or where they are in life. You can choose to accept people as they are and recognize everyone deserves love, dignity and respect. You always have the power to choose kindness.

With love and hope, DPF

Published by Daniel P. Finney

Daniel P. Finney is a professional paragraph stacker who grew up in Winterset and Des Moines, Iowa. The local newspaper paid him $25 for his first story when he was 17. He has typed for cash ever since. He is a flawed human trying to be a little less Incredible Hulk and a little more Mr. Rogers.

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