Depression. What the hell is it REALLY like??

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Battlecry

Mad as a sack of ferrets!
#1
So, having told my story in brief in another post, I thought I would spend some time reflecting upon what it actually feels like to be mental. I don't mean for that to sound flippant - it's simply my way of dealing with it.

And because I imagine this is going to be somewhat cathartic, I'm going to take my time and break it down into individual posts, each tackling a different aspect of my MH.

Let's start with the primary diagnosis: depression.

I've always put the most ludicrous pressure and expectation upon myself to perform, deliver and achieve in every aspect of life. Setting standards so high means you're pretty much setting yourself up to fail because when you achieve them, you move the goalposts. And when you don't, it's just another reason to hate yourself and beat yourself up.

That kind of mentality has been present for as long as I can remember and I have carried my concerns and regrets around like a camel, with my "hump" weighing me down more and more as the years go by and the failures mount. I still beat myself up for the day my first tooth fell out and I ran around the school playground telling everyone that would listen, then told my teacher, who laughed gently and said, "I know, you already told me!"

Nothing wrong with that at all. It's almost sweet. But me? I felt awful - stupid, foolish, embarrassed, ashamed. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. Rational logic tells me how nonsensical this is, but I can't help who I am. So imagine letting those examples build up over a further thirty years. Plus some of the bigger, more legitimate life mistakes. It's profoundly debilitating to say the least. It's like a cancerous growth that just gets bigger with time.

Everything you do and say; everything you are and will ever be... Is shit. And no amount of being told otherwise - by yourself or any other - will change that core belief.

Objectively, I know I'm a reasonably good, kind person. I'm polite, friendly and at least outwardly, appear very normal indeed. A typical "average Joe". I've lots to be proud of and grateful for in my life. But that is all completely overshadowed by depression. Depression makes it virtually impossible to give myself credit for anything. It's the most evil, pervasive, consuming ailment I can imagine. There have been people in my life that have done me such wrong, I could wish them dead. If we're honest with ourselves, I think we've all felt like that once or twice. But never have I hated anyone so much that I would wish depression upon them. No-one deserves that. Ever.

It's bad enough that I judge myself so harshly, so I certainly don't need others to add to that (and even if they don't, my paranoia imagines what they're thinking), so I tend to isolate myself. Alot. Yes, I'm married, I hold down a job, I have a reasonably active social life. But I am not and do not allow myself to get close to people. I am neither confident nor competent at forming friendships and relationships. Ever. I seldom let my guard down. I never completely relax around people. I don't do affection. I don't do social media (although maybe this forum is a first). In short, I don't do people. These days, I don't think I could even if I wanted to. Even if I got better.

And while I sometimes feel very lonely, I also feel safer. You can't get hurt if you don't have people in your life. So keep yourself to yourself. Which makes me sound like I've been abused or something. A form of emotional abuse as I grew up perhaps (unrelenting criticism and no affection from parents) but I can't exactly constitute myself as a victim of abuse in the true sense of the word. I'm just damaged goods.

The depression has triggers. Usually stress. And (unlikely in this forum) if you don't know what it feels like, it's hard to describe. Feeling "sad" is such a pathetic way to articulate the sensation. It's not just emotional or psychological, it's physical as well. It feels like someone is sat on your chest and you can't focus because of the most overwhelming sense of misery you can imagine. As a teenager, I remember that I would sleep for up to 18 hours a day simply because being unconscious was preferable to being awake. Birdsong and sunlight in the morning was the most despairing prospect because it represented the start of yet another day. These days, I generally keep it together and continue to function. But internally, I fluctuate from being completely numb and feeling little (and certainly no interest or enjoyment in anything) to being on the verge of tears and desperate to end it all. Not that anyone would realise.

As for feeling suicidal. Not a day goes by when I don't think about taking my life. I wish for it all the time - for some random act of fate to take me out of the equation and save me a job. I envy those that have died, by whatever means. Sick I know. But that's what depression does to you. When at it's worst, it's an inherently selfish illness. There are times when I go into what I call "survival mode" because every day is struggle and you simply can't contend with other people's problems or even take an interest in their world. It's hard enough staying alive. Thinking of other is not an option. And as for suicide , nothing irritates me more than ignorant people suggesting it's a form of cowardice. Have they any idea how much courage it takes to take your own life???!

I don't know whether it's now the depression or simply force of habit but for those thoughts to go through your mind every single day, for near on twenty years. That's tough. Believe me. <mod edit- methods>

Experience has taught me that my depression goes in 2-3 year cycles. The bad patches can last from a couple of months to the best part of a year. But remember that when I'm what I would regard as "well", I still want to end my life. So, that's kinda life with depression, as best I can describe it from my own experience. For the sake of not writing a book for every post, I'll leave it there. But I need to cover bi-polar, body dismorphia and anxiety to really give a comprehensive picture. Then, I guess I'll reflect upon what I've done to date to try and manage my MH. And next steps (although right now they're looking pretty fucking bleak if I'm honest).
 
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#2
And while I sometimes feel very lonely, I also feel safer. You can't get hurt if you don't have people in your life. So keep yourself to yourself.
I know that feeling all too well. My two cats are the ones that see most of me. I've forced myself to get out there and meet people, and slowly I'm learning to open up more.

I'm still cautious when it comes to being myself completely in front of other people, and even letting people in in the first place. I'm one big 'mystery' to most. (And I've been told this many times.) When someone asks me a question about myself in real life, I usually avoid answering it by giving a shallow answer, followed by another question for the other person to answer and I can listen to them the whole conversation. It appears as a normal response, but in reality all I'm doing is preventing them from knowing anything other than what I want to share with them at the time. I hide. I cover. I redirect.

One reason I've decided to start opening up, breaking down barriers, and initiating a change in my life is because of a book that I read, called Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown.

In it, she describes the conundrum of how we don't want to appear weak when we cry, but also how when we watch someone share raw emotion and let it out that it's almost revered as an act of bravery. It's an interesting read, if that's something you're into.

After I read that book, I felt safer knowing that someone felt the same way I did. I started to think about the possibility of living my life a little differently, and looking at it from another perspective.

Now when I share something that I thought others would hate me for, what I find is that they usually regard me with respect and admiration. The tricky part is sharing it in an environment that is safe. Usually, I find it easier to open up to someone when we're just one-on-one, because the conversation can flow naturally and it's easier to control what you share and when.

I've started to develop friendships outside of my own little world now and while I'm still afraid of trusting them completely, I find the world to be a brighter place because of it. I've shared, I've opened up, I've revealed myself. I'm not hiding anymore. Not only that, I've been accepted, or I feel accepted. Now my trust issues seem like something that can be overcome, even if just a little at a time.
 
#3
This post is amazing. @Battlecry, you have described everything that I have ever experienced being the way I am - about never being good enough; about setting standards that are not achievable; about not being able to give yourself credit for anything; about suicide; about not being able to get close to others ; even about needing to sleep for 18 hours to have an escape. I thought I was utterly alone. It feels like life is suffocating me everyday and this forum has been the first place to release a bit of my anxiety and 'sadness'... or maybe it's just an illusion. It's amazing to finally gain some knowledge from someone and talk about depression freely. I think that depression, to those who are ignorant about the subject or judgmental about something they personally haven't experienced, perceive it as a person's excuse to be weak. Which I think is really unfair. As it is, being criticized by others is difficult enough- but now having to deal with their criticism of an actual problem is even more oppressing. Which is why I have never been able to admit that I actually have a problem.

I have always felt that I have and will never be good enough for myself or anyone else. I didn't know whether that feeling would change when I achieved more and/or accomplished bigger goals. Others take it as modesty, meanwhile, I myself couldn't appreciate the things I have achieved. Eventually I stopped trying all together because all of my standards were just too high. And after all of that, I thought someone else could support me through it... How wrong I was. Because I was just too afraid of getting hurt.

I always think life is going to get better... and it never does. Suicide is a constant thought and sleeping is my escape. I don't know how to get through this...
 

Emma bella

Well-Known Member
#4
Your post is such a good description of clinical depression . I've had it since a teenager and nearly 30 years soon and I've been thinking about it and my life a lot recently and what a massive impact it has had on me and how truly awful some of the episodes have been and how each one has a slightly different horror or flavour to it. I don't want to say it was good to read your post as obviously I wish u no ill and would not want u to suffer if i could stop it fot u but its catharic to hear someone describe it. My standards were always impossibly high and its only recently I've been able to set the bar for myself lower. as a teenager I remember taking deep breaths and saying new start and trying to start a 'perfect life' which bizarrely meant I had to make everything perfect even down to walking in a perfectly straight line no wonder I started losing it....I think one of the worst episodes although its hard to compare rate them obviously was when I felt like I could see reality with such clarity that it was like time stopped and I felt like I could see every atom in every object. It was as if god had truly left me (and I'm not a strongly religious person) and I was the only survivor after a nuclear war or something. I remember smoking a cig in my garden and almost wanting to vomit because of the awful clarity of it and that night I took steps towards something that would get edited here but I didn't do it
Obviously or I wouldn't be typing this ha ha. I have often thought about how terrible it felt sitting in the garden that time and how clear everything seemed and looked down to seeing flecks of paint on the fence in great detail. I can still remember bits of the fence in forensic detail!?

There is no point saying why me because the world is consumed with tragedies that make my things very minor. I know that. But its good to type it. I have thought a lot about it recently and its good to type it. I'm sorry I have replied to your post n talked about myself! I am interested to read your experiences i send my regards to all things Yorkshire.
 
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