I thought I had it beat. I was so proud of myself. I crawled out of suicidal depression in May and thought that I was safe for a while.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Depression doesn’t take vacations. It lurks at the boundaries of my psyche and pounces when I least expect it. Sometimes, it’s a massive blow like my last attack in May, wherein the course of two hours, I went from feeling fine to actively hoping that the Uber car I was in would crash and put me out of my misery.
Other times, depression starts with stalker-like stealth, slowly gnawing away at me. I seem almost fine, beyond a creeping sensation that some predator is watching me, waiting for me and the realization that piece by piece, I’m losing myself. The sky stops feeling blue. My concentration begins to completely fall apart. I begin crying randomly, feeling an overwhelming sense of dread, as I can feel it breathing down my neck, waiting for the perfect moment.
And to quote Emilie Autumn, in Shallot “it’s here. It’s finally here.” I hurt myself in my Krav Maga practice and had to lie down because the blood made me so nauseous. Then I had a minor disagreement with someone I admire. Things that should be easy for me to overcome.
Instead, I broke down sobbing. I don’t even know why. I put on my favorite songs and I keep crying. I look out the window to see people happy and I keep crying. I’m in a fall to a black mood, and I am trapped.
I can hear the whispers in my head. They tell me how worthless I am. They tell me I will never be happy again. They tell me I’m a burden to everyone around me, and no one cares about me. They tell me no one will ever love me. They tell me I’m a failure. They tell me people wish they never met me. They make me remember every bad thing I’ve ever done. They whisper how nice it would feel to be free of all of this pain and just fall asleep forever. I know they’re lying to me, and none of that is true. I know I’m in an altered state of reality and logic has no meaning. I still think the voices seem to be making a lot of sense, and that’s scaring me.
I should get back to work. I should drown myself in what I do best, producing good work and filling the emptiness in my life with the happiness of other people. But lately, it’s been impossible to get anything done. It’s hard to write when you are sobbing every few words.
I have a to-do list that is fifteen points long, with charities and law work and articles and plans. I have deadlines I need to meet. I have obligations. I think of a friend whose article I’m tearfully editing. The voices in my head remind me that I should finish their article before I think about myself. They accuse me of being selfish, taking care of myself when other people need my care. They whisper if the friend knew how pathetic and weak I was that I had to stop editing, they’d never want to speak to me again.
I have a test to know if I’m believing something correctly or if it is my depression talking. I write an email to the person describing my thought process and see if I feel comfortable sending it.
I’m really depressed and wishing I was dead. I know I’m being a drama queen and I should focus on helping you. So don’t worry, I’ll deal with my life after I help you,
Yeah, I’m not sending that email. I know their response would be a refusal to accept my help at the price of my sanity. I know they would insist I act like an intelligent person and take care of myself.
I remember I made a depression plan last time, with what helped the most in getting out. So I go into my computer files for the emergency folder. I open it, I scan the list, and know exactly what I have to do.
I need to be irresponsible and stop working. I need to start myself on micro-goals back to normal life.
Micro-goals is about making a list of small accomplishments. Every small thing I do for my self-care is a tiny victory I can add to create a foundation of achievement moving forward. Depression exhausts me, so I make the goals as small as possible. I start making the first goal.
Goal One: Get up from my chair. It feels like I’m weighted down, but I manage to stand up. Sitting is a static position, and depression makes me feel stuck. Standing up already makes me feel more mobile.
That accomplished, I move on.
Goal Two: Stand straight up, with my shoulders squared and my head high, even if I want to curl up like a ball. By standing up properly, I relax my breathing and convince my body I’m not in immediate threat.
Okay, now I increase the pressure.
Goal Three: Get dressed. When I’m depressed, sitting in my robe and nightgown feels so much easier, but it’s a very limiting feeling. Night clothes are for resting, and I need to be active. Even putting on pants and shirt makes me feel a bit more like a contributing member of society, even if it’s yoga pants and a shirt that says “Come to the Dark Side, We do Krav Maga 24/7” which still makes me a bit silly. Well, I throw a sweater over it and I almost look passable.
So, then I move to the big goal. I need to leave the building. When my depression hits, leaving the house feels exhausting I can’t feel sunshine or see the blue sky, I see people around me happy and I feel like I’m trapped in a bubble of my own misery.
I take it in micro-steps.
- Leave my apartment and stand on the steps.
- Walk around the block once.
- Walk around it twice.
- Walk to the river and back.
It feels so small, but I’m exhausted by the end of it. Depression physically drains me, it’s like carrying a large boulder while going about my day.
Still, the voices feel a bit quieter and that feels good. Even by a micro amount, feeling better is still feeling better.
It’s the small steps I need to get myself away from the predator.