It’s like sliding into a steaming bath on a frozen day. It makes sense at the time, feels great, it’s comforting. After a short time you’re warm and drowsy, 10 minutes later you’re dizzy, moments later you’re nauseous, your skin is burning and flushed. You need to get out, but it’s so cold outside the bath you’re afraid to freeze. So you stay in because you know eventually it will cool down and you’re unlikely to drown.
This is what my depression feels like. It’s familiar. It feels right. I feel like I’m allowing myself to slip into it without a second thought. No big deal, I’m getting depressed, it’s happened before, it’ll go away like it always does. But, what if it doesn’t?
I’m in it now. I can feel a fairly severe bout of depression coming on and I can’t stop it, maybe curve it a little. Anxiety is on its way, social situations will be nearly impossible to handle, crowds are out of the question, even the grocery store will be challenging. My focus will be hard to hold on to and the memory loss is no fun.
Sure I’ll take my meds. Sure I’ll take care of myself and try to avoid the negative self talk. Yes I know this won’t last, my mood and behavior will even out, life will return to a balance. What I don’t know is how this cycle will affect my relationships. Some haven’t faired well during the storm, either chipping away or breaking completely. Some are constant, always by my side no matter what, but I wonder if that will last. Will they be there next time, the time after that? Should I just go it alone? I often hide these cycles from everyone with happy selfies and a forced smile, but these cycles tend to spark migraines and make me sick so it’s inevitable that friends and family will notice I’m either mid-depression or just coming out of one.
I know why this happens. I let myself get run down, I put myself in anxiety and self-doubt causing situations, I gain a few pounds, I don’t eat the right foods, I don’t sleep enough, I’m affected by the seasons changing. It all adds up to down. By the time I realize all the elements are there it’s too late, the bath is drawn and waiting.
So here we are. I have to cancel plans and hope no one resents me for it or believes I don’t care or I’m stuck-up (do people think that? I wonder.) I have to hide away, clinging for dear life to my # 1 support system and ponder how many more times he’ll go through this with me before I’ve completely exhausted his patience. I have to do everything possible to prevent migraines, flu, colds, etc. I have to get some kind of exercise (which I abhor). I have to stay away from whatever triggers anxiety or makes my depression worse (goodbye Facebook).
I really should give my friends and family more credit for sticking by me. Sometimes this lasts a couple days. Sometimes weeks. Sometimes longer. They’re a persevering group of people. I love them for it, I can’t thank them enough for putting up with my moping, sobbing, long silences, and general avoidance.
I know I’m not alone, not even close. This is inherited. It was passed to me by genetics. I passed it on. It will be passed to other generations. I know my brain is starving for chemicals it’s missing and I’m not simply sad for no reason. I know it’s the most commonly diagnosed condition in the US. It’s not just me, but I still feel alone.
I’ll get through this, though it will happen again. I won’t drown. Eventually I’ll get out of the bath and a fluffy, warm towel will be waiting in the arms of my husband, ready to wrap around me tightly and shelter me from the cold.
Until then I’ll hug myself, touching the dopamine and serotonin molecule tattoos on my ribs and remind myself that these two small, but very important friends will come back to live where they belong and I’ll gain my equilibrium soon.