Depression: Sometimes You’re the Bug
I should start by saying that this post probably won’t offer any solutions to anyone struggling with depression. At best, maybe it will help give some insight to those trying to understand their loved ones’ struggles, and provide some feeling of solidarity for those struggling. I’m writing this post to just release some of my own inner turmoil, in the hopes that it will momentarily quiet the storm that often rages inside my heart and mind.
There is a song by Dire Straits that says, “Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.” This applies so well to depression. Some days, I feel pretty darn good. Other days, I have trouble coming up with a reason to even get out of bed. Sometimes, a good day can turn into a bad day, without any obvious explanation.
During the bad days, even the smallest pressures and anxieties can snowball into insurmountable obstacles. For me, it can start with a looming deadline for a sponsored blog post. Rather than motivating me to write the post, the pressure often freezes me, making it nearly impossible to even think about making progress. And once that choking feeling has set in, it spreads, making the most mundane actions, like replying to unanswered emails or text messages, feel like tasks of herculean effort. Those of you who have ever sent me an email or text, and wondered why it took me a week to answer you, this is the likely reason.
Depression is like quicksand; the harder you fight to free yourself, the deeper you sink. I know I have a lot to be grateful for. I have an exceptionally loving wife, a steady (if not exactly fulfilling) job, three out of four of my kids are very healthy, and my friends define loyalty. My weight loss regimen is going very well; I’m down 26 pounds from this time last year, which is a loss of 15%. People are supporting my Extra Life charity efforts.
And yet, as much as I want to focus on all this good, my messed up brain won’t let me. There is no silver lining to be had. Here are a few examples of the doubt and condemnation my inner voice throws at me:
“Your wife is too good to constantly have to put up with your mood swings. She’d be so much happier without you.”
“Nothing you or the doctors do helps your daughter. Every step forward is followed by two steps back.”
“Your job could be done by anyone. You’re not accomplishing anything. You’re not going anywhere. And the time you’ve spent there has only made you less employable everywhere else.”
“Sure, you’ve lost weight. But why did you let yourself go in the first place? How long until you slip back into old habits? You’ve still got a long way to go.”
“Your charity efforts are just an attempt to make you feel better. The fact is, these kids will continue to get sick and die, and there’s nothing you can truly do to help.”
So how do I combat this feeling of hopelessness? Honestly, some days I can’t. Some days, all I can do is grit my teeth and hope that tomorrow is more manageable than today. Other days, I muster all the energy I can and throw it into something simple. Maybe I’ll answer that text message from a week ago. Maybe that will lead to answering that email, too. And maybe that will give me enough motivation to write a blog post about depression, in the hopes of exercising another demon or two. Days like today.
Do you struggle with depression? How do you combat that inner voice of self-doubt? What makes your quicksand less lethal? Let me know in the comments.
In the meantime, I’m going to try to build on today’s momentum. Because tomorrow offers no guarantees.