Helpful hint: it’s probably not the word you’re thinking of.
I finished a blog series last week that came from a piece I wrote a couple months ago, which I then decided to split into four parts for this site. So for the last month, I technically haven’t had to come up with any new posts. This turned out to be quite fortunate, because during this time I have had absolutely no desire to write. At all. This is coming from a girl who revels in maintaining three journals simultaneously, taking copious notes in classes, and writing daily/weekly/hourly to-do lists. I have also managed to convince myself that nothing has happened that is worth writing about – this is hardly true.
Although there are countless other signs which could/should have caught my attention earlier, it was this subtle yet prolonged absence of my will to write that finally made me admit to myself that something was wrong.
As a person who prides herself on being very self-aware, I’ve always possessed this uncanny (and at times annoying) ability to pinpoint the exact rationale behind all of my emotions: “I’m just angry at myself because I got mad at you for not flushing the toilet before I realized I was the one who forgot to flush it” or “I’m exhilarated but also weepy because I just watched a movie about people having an adventure in Africa and I loved it but it makes me want to be there” or perhaps “I’m confused and slightly neurotic because my period is starting tomorrow and my hormones are completely jacked up.”
But for the last several months, I’ve experienced a range of oppressive, crippling emotions with roots I have been unable to trace. Oh, I’ve attempted to attribute them to various life changes, such as finishing my college volleyball career, or nearing graduation, or worrying about a job… Now that I think about it, it could be that playing volleyball for the last four years actually helped to mask these monsters in my head, allowing me to put off the moment of confrontation. Volleyball gave me endless distractions, a full schedule, constant company, and lots and lots of pressure – all of which either allowed me to ignore my uncomfortable thoughts and feelings OR provided me with something intangible on which to place the blame for my discouragement and despair. Now that that crutch has been removed, there is little to nothing keeping the monsters at bay.
Maybe you’ve figured out what the D-word is. Please just stick with me – I need to get there myself.
Not knowing why I feel sad terrifies me. Some nights I suddenly find myself in tears when I’m trying to do homework – it is initially brought on by a feeling of overwhelming sadness, and it then persists because I am so frightened by my emotions and their inexplicability. Other days, my throat tightens and my eyes begin to well up in the middle of class, without warning, while I’m in the professor’s direct line of sight, so I look down and pretend to be thoroughly engrossed by my notes. When I drive to school or work, I play my music at the highest volume I can handle and sing at the top of my lungs so that I don’t have to deal with my thoughts and their implications; sometimes when I get home I just lean my head against the steering wheel and will my brain to shut off and leave me in peace, just for a second. Waking up in the morning is touch-and-go; sometimes I feel my heart plummet into my stomach as soon as I open my eyes, because I remember that I have to go through another day, and that means another meaningless routine, another 12 hours minimum of trying to drown out the exhausting flow of anxious, analytical thought. I wish I could just stay asleep.
It doesn’t matter if I’m volunteering, coaching, in class, talking with friends, reading, writing, or watching 30 Rock on Netflix – in every situation, I am acutely aware that the activity is just a momentary relief. None of this is to say that all days are bad days; I most certainly have days where I go to bed with a genuine smile on my face. The problem is that the difficult days have become increasingly commonplace, to the point where my genuine smile after a good day is tempered by a feeling of dread as I wonder what what kind of day tomorrow will be. I despise the unpredictability of it all.
My friends and family know me as a generally upbeat and optimistic person, and I love to be known as such. Even now, I greatly enjoy the company of others: laughing at their jokes, sharing stories, extending compliments, quoting movies, singing songs… It’s just that I’m beginning to see that my reactions are often forced, even though I don’t want them to be. I know exactly when I should marvel at someone’s cooking, congratulate them on a spectacular achievement, or smile and nod when they share advice – even if inside all I’m thinking is “What is wrong with me?? Why do I feel nothing??” My acting skills are truly awe-inspiring – come on, Academy, where’s my nomination? But, forcing situation-appropriate reactions all the time is very draining, to say the least.
Let’s see how many words I can use to describe how I feel on my worst days, before I say the one that I NEED to say in order to be truly honest with myself and others:
Empty. Aimless. Numb. Desperate. Hiding. Weak. Anxious. Leaden. Blank. Scared. Wiped out. Alone. Dismal. Broken. Dishonest. Disillusioned. Disconnected. Depressed.
There. I said it.
I have the utmost sympathy and respect for others dealing with depression, but I have none for myself. I am angry and embarrassed that I feel this way, because in my opinion I have absolutely no reason to. I have an unbelievably loving family, caring and thoughtful friends, limitless opportunity, a gracious and powerful Savior…and I live in Denver, for crying out loud! I would love to simply be known as the girl who’s always smiling and loves to tell funny stories, but I’m learning I need to let go of my pride and let others see the sides of me that are “witty” as well as the sides that are simply “not.”
This post serves as a confession, and I am not going to seek solutions just yet – I need to let what I’ve written sink in for a bit. However, I am clinging to one idea that has given me a glimmer of hope for my current situation, at least in regards to regaining my powers of life-observation so that I can continue to notice and share witty stories. Inspired by this pre-Lent blog post, I’ve decided to spend the next month or so compiling a list of the things I love about life. I know it won’t serve as a quick fix by any means, nor will it be a simple task convincing my brain to focus on the positive things, but I hope that re-opening my eyes to the strangeness, the beauty, and the color around me will begin to shed some light into my darkened mind.
If this is something that would benefit you too, I invite you to join me.
Thank you for reading and for being a part of my journey towards openness and vulnerability.
Note: if I was ever going to work up the courage to admit that I am depressed, it was going to have to be here, using the medium with which I am most comfortable expressing my thoughts. I am thankful to my best friend and roommate for gently suggesting that I attempt to write about this in the first place, and I am also thankful to Hyperbole and a Half blogger Allie Brosh, Libba Bray, and other bloggers, who have demonstrated how to approach this topic with honesty, frankness, and even humor.