Demystifying Depression

It’s still light out, the overcast kind of day where indigo lines the clouds.  Birds chirp.  Children play.  My next door neighbor sits on his front porch, too.  It’s the kind of Hampton summer night with that dip in temperature that invites the average person outside to enjoy it.  I’m not average though.  I wrote half this post inside because going outside didn’t match my writing mood.

I still Google depression in varied search terms about once a day, figuring that someone out there must have found an effective, immediate cure for the abstract mental illness that’s found its home on me.  The causes seem logical.  My mother would name disillusionment and mourning as two potential culprits.  I’m mourning my old career at Kecoughtan and a relationship gone wrong, so disillusionment follows as two primary pillars of my life are in disarray, both being a part of a school community where I loved going to work every day and being a part of a marriage that would have likely led to a family.

But identifying the root causes hasn’t produced a cure, hasn’t snapped me out of this funk.  My searches have focused on unearthing coping strategies, always hoping I’ll find something I haven’t already read in another article or blog post.  Advice bears some commonality.  Exercise.  Eat right.  Go to social activities.  Engage in a hobby.  Talk to a cognitive behavioral therapist.  Write in a journal.  They’re all good suggestions.  I try them all, to some degree.  Nevertheless, I’m still not back to being me.

I can only guess that writing a blog post can’t hurt, if it does anything to help.  The problem is that I always write about what’s on my mind.  That’s the authenticity of blogging night.  And if I write about what’s on my mind, this channel is going to be all me, all the time, because that’s what depression is.  School’s out.  The days are long.  I think a lot.  And it’s always about depression.  I don’t know that I’ve come across anything published online by someone written while battling this illness.  There are plenty of survivors who over hopeful tips, but I imagine, like me, during the darkness, who wants to do anything, much less write about it on the internet.  Unfortunately, tonight that’s what’s on my mind.

School let out at a half day on Friday, a welcomed gift to most teachers.  I, however, didn’t know how I would use up the extra time.  I eventually landed at the beach.  It was one moment that, for me, defined depression.  If I wanted to explain what depression was like to someone who hadn’t experienced it before, I’d use my experiences – like this one, at Fort Monroe beach after school let out, to the spot I would have typically called my favorite place.

Depression is sunbathing at the beach, being aware of the way the skin warms even as the insides chill when subjected to prolonged cerebral conversation.  It’s hearing nearby children laughing while building a sand castle then reciting the pledge of allegiance that they’d probably just learned in school, now out for the summer, and it’s finding all of that is somehow absurd.  All the while, you tell yourself that that is normal, combating those negative thoughts, simultaneously only reminding yourself you’re still not normal.

Depression is plotting to fill all the empty hours between rising and sleeping again, searching for tasks to occupy those waking moments at a functional level and for purpose and worth at a spiritual one. It’s doing those things even though you don’t feel like doing them because you secretly hope that doing them will bring you out of the darkness. It’s knowing that just because you can’t feel God’s presence doesn’t mean He’s not real – in reality, you don’t feel anything anyway.

Depression is failing to see a photograph worth taking, browsing through the camera roll to discover what used to be worth capturing in digital, and wondering if you’ll ever see beauty in the horizon again.  And when you realize that, you force yourself to stop and snap a selfie, then frown at the image on your screen.  Depression is watching family home videos and trying to remember what all that joy and inspiration once felt like.  It’s questioning why, when you want it so badly, you can’t just be that person again.

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Depression is clicking “Delete” on every piece of junk mail in the inbox, instantaneously resisting any possible temptation, unable to fathom how one could possibly need anything at all.  More things would just require more to maintain and take care of and more locations and organizational systems to store them.  The muchness and abundance of life overwhelms you.

For years, I found comfort perched on my front porch in this white wicker love seat.  I long to feel that again.  I don’t know if I’ll write again next week, but I gathered the gumption to try and contribute something to the online community that might be beneficial to another human being that’s out there Google-ing the same search terms as I am.  I may have started this post inside, but I came out into the light when I realized what I was doing in avoiding the brighter mood.  Shouldn’t that be another sign of progress?

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