I was contemplating what to write about and then I saw an email from WebMD: Do you know the signs of depression? I didn’t read it. I’m familiar enough.
The worst thing that has happened for people experiencing depression is that it has become synonymous with sadness. I’m happy and yet I am depressed. I don’t have the blues. I don’t hate my life. I don’t hate the world around me.
I feel pretty optimistic most of the time. Depression is not like a head cold or mono or a stomach flu. Depression is not like living inside a cave, wanting to injure small animals, and slowly forgetting the words to all the songs you love to sing.
Depression isn’t staying in bed all day, smothering yourself under a pillow, hyperventilating at the imagination of any prospective fear. Depression is not a dark cloud over my day or a shark at the beach or a string of profanity running through my mind.
I get out of bed in the morning at a decent time and usually without grumbling, sometimes even with the slightest spring. I have things I get excited about like checking my Twitter and Facebook. I get cracked up at my own jokes probably a tad more than I should. I like animals but mainly dogs. The other kind should keep their distance. The cats on my porch don’t have names because I’m not a big cat person but I like them enough they get to stay.
I would never choose to live in a cave. Even if all my motivation had bottomed out, I’d scurry up enough to make it somewhere that had a couch or recliner. Caves are a no-go too because caves don’t have television. I like TV most of the time. It dances like sparklers before my eyes. TV is probably my golden god.
I forget all the words to songs but I’ve always done that. I just change the words. If there were a shark at the beach, I’d probably go bowling instead. No big deal. I like overcast days but I don’t like to obsess over the weather report. I’d rather never see it. I’d rather be swept up by a tornado than worry my way through it.
So, you’re probably thinking that it doesn’t sound like I’m depressed. I’ll admit. I don’t have it as bad as a lot of people but it remains a constant in my life. Like Oprah, she’s always on. We don’t always think about it. You may be asking, “Well, if it ain’t so bad why even talk about it?” I’ll tell you. Because it affects my life even as my life can be managed and because people like yourself assume a lot of untrue things about it.
What is depression for me? Depression is not knowing how to finish this sentence and having that problem every time I arrive here. Depression is why I forget to have my hair cut, why I go with the slicked-back look most of the time, why I look thrown together, why I rock “goodwill chic”. Depression is why I keep having the same conversations with myself, why I keep losing my train of thought, and why I worry that I may have early onset dementia.
Depression is why I watch a show two or three episodes into a season and then lose interest or forget to tune in. Depression is why I fall asleep in the car. Depression is why I don’t always get a new pair of socks. I’d prefer clean ones, but it hardly seems worth the energy. I have energy for other things. I run with the dog, for example.
Depression is why I still haven’t learned the names of pharmacy techs, nurses, and receptionists that I see every single week. Because of depression, I feel like I’m floating through the day, hardly interested to engage the person right in front of me. I’m always headed somewhere else and don’t want to get too comfortable. Depression might mean staying up late to write because, “Hey, I’ve got an idea!” and then feeling let down when I can’t marry those subjects and verbs.
I don’t even notice it most of the time but it’s always there and it’s always a weight I’d rather not carry. I’ve gotten used to it but it has changed me. As I carry it over hills and mountains, over the course of months and years, I get stronger. I never am rid of it because I am never not in need of it. I’m going to have the most awesome back and shoulder muscles!
In this way, depression tastes like victory in small doses.