Depression: an all-consuming darknessPosted: March 14, 2015
I suffer from an all-consuming depression.
For most of my life, it has been a great source of shame. Many of my closest friends do not know. To the ones that do, I have only revealed a small fragment of what living with depression is like, interspersed with sarcasm and wit to disguise how truly awful it is. This had been a mistake. Depression loves the peddling of secrets. By doing so, I have worsened my sense of social isolation, and dangerously cut off all possible social support, leaving only pain and suffering.
Depression is much more than the sum of constantly feeling sad, tired, or helpless. It subsists as an all-consuming infection in the subconscious mind, constantly gnawing, taunting, humiliating. It is a creeping numbness that degrades and diminishes every aspect of conscious life. It is more than a screaming hatred, a dull apathy, a sinking stomach in the face of joy and a faithless lassitude in the face of hope.
There is no escape. Many things help to postpone the inevitable – adequate sleep, nutritious food, medication, religion, exercise, and light. But make no mistake, these are merely moments of temporary relief, tricking its victim into complacency. It wants to be underestimated, so it can attack when you are powerless to resist.
When it does decide to strike, everything you had planned must be dropped. Were you hoping to have fun with friends today? Tough luck, expect to spend the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing but feeling horrible about yourself. Trivial problems like eating food become impossible. My worst days are spent in bed, starving myself to the point of trembling with great hunger, but being unable to muster the motivation to eat food to save my own life.
Naturally, more complicated tasks like “doing homework” or “paying bills” go into the trash. This often leads to a depressive spiral, where your inability to solve increasingly difficult problems results in even worse ones – like being kicked out of school or becoming homeless – leading to even worse depression. It should therefore be no surprise that around 1 in 6 people with clinical depression end up killing themselves.
Many well-intentioned people ask; “How can I help you fix it?”
Unfortunately, talking about “fixing” depression misses the point – there is no known cure. The best case scenario is merely surviving against it. Even then, merely existing is the hardest thing I have ever done. To be inflicted with this disease is to have one foot always in the grave; the difficulty lies not in saying “no” to suicide once. It’s being able to say “no” to it consistently, every single day, even as depression taunts you with an easy “solution” to this constant feeling of utter exhaustion. It only takes a single moment of weakness to fall into eternal sleep.
As a victim of depression, death has become my best friend – I spend more time thinking about it than I spend with any or all of my other friends, combined. It is the first thing I contemplate when waking up, and the last thing I consider before sleep. I see it even in my dreams. Because of this, I am utterly afraid of being alone – instead I try to spend all my time with others, for my mind is an echo chamber, and isolation will mean my death.
It is a parasite that takes over the mind, subtly at first, overtly when it becomes too late to resist. Many do not realize that the superpowers of rationality and logic are rendered futile before it. Depression teaches you that they cannot be trusted, for the moment you do, they will be used against you. Depression is immune to all forms of persuasion and reasoning – and every time someone tries to argue that “it’s not really that bad” or that “it will get better” sounds like just another reason why I should kill myself. Remember that from the inside, being wrong feels exactly like being right.
I often try to estimate the odds of my own death – but since I don’t trust my own probabilities, I won’t tell you what it is. The fact that I have not died yet is not a guarantee that the trend will persist. I ought to have died many times over. I attribute the success to a combination of sheer luck, other forms of insanity, and being saved by friends I do not deserve.
I don’t know how to end this essay. I don’t even know why I wrote it. I’m not looking for cheap sympathy or pity – it will not help. If there is a moral to this story, it’s that depression is real. Nobody chooses it. No one deserves it. You cannot imagine what it takes to feign normalcy, to show up to work, to make a doctors appointment, to pay bills, to walk your dog, to complete assignments on time, to keep enough food at hand, when you are exerting most of your capacity on trying not to kill yourself.
On the other hand, compassion is also very real. A depressed person may cling desperately to it, and they may remember your compassion for the rest of their lives as a force greater than their depression. I have been repeatedly saved by that compassion. It is my sincerest wish that all others may experience the same.