Depression is like climbing up a slide the wrong way. You have to grab on tight to the sides and hope you don’t slip. Now and again however you lose your grip and slide back down to the bottom, only to try to struggle with making it back to the top. Sometimes you can stop yourself before getting to the bottom. These times are actually considered accomplishments, as you don’t have so far to climb to be back to the top.
If you do make it to the top, you are scared of letting go to grab the handrail as you might lose your grip and start sliding once more. If you do manage to grab onto the rail, you never seem to have the strength to pull yourself totally up, so you sit there suspended on the slide, hanging onto the rail for dear life.
It is hard having depression. It is like alcoholism in that it is something that you struggle with every day for the rest of your life. There really is no cure. As an alcoholic struggles with sobriety, a depressive struggles with feeling normal. Normal is of course a subjective term. But for depressives, it means not feeling worthless all the time, being able to feel happy some of the time, and being able to enjoy some of life’s little joys.
The Slide goes something like this:
You seem happy for the most part. Maybe you even convince yourself that you are. Money is good, relationships are good, bills are paid and food is in the cupboards. Everything seems fine and others around you agree you must have it made.
This is when you are at the top of the slide.
Then something happens…a trigger. It can be something as little as being late on a bill to something big as the death of someone close. You manage your way through it but you tell everyone else you are ok, though you still feel shaky, unsure.
This is when you start to slide.
A depressive has a hard time enjoying anything, but like the alcoholic they look pretty normal to everyone else. They may seem a little aloof at times, or maybe anti-social, but they are pretty normal. Like alcoholics, we depressives are good at seeming normal; we don’t want anyone to know. How could anyone possibly understand? We also don’t want anyone to feel sorry for us. What could that accomplish? It isn’t right to put our problems on anyone else. They could probably care less anyway, right? Besides, you don’t want to go to the loony bin. Others may also question how good a parent you are.
You slide a bit farther.
A depressive has a tendency to paranoia, which in turn leads to anger. Others must be talking about us…and they must be talking bad things. So you start to look through emails; check voice mails; eavesdrop on conversations to see exactly what is being said. You get defensive of everything, no matter how minor or benign it is. They are laughing! They must be laughing about me. Oh, they aren’t talking about me? Well they must have heard me listening and changed the conversation. Why aren’t they talking about me? Am I not good enough to talk about? Can they not see what is wrong? Why will they not offer help? Everyone else seems so happy. Why can’t I be happy too?
You slide a little bit more.
Then come the bad thoughts. My kids want me to play with them but I just don’t have the energy. I am so tired all of the time. Why can’t I sleep? I just don’t have the energy to clean the house. I think I might call out of work, just for today to catch up on some sleep, and then maybe I will feel better. Why am I so achy all over? I must be getting sick, must be getting the flu. That’s what’s wrong. I just need to take something. If I take some medicine I will feel better.
You slide a bit more.
Then come the really bad thoughts. If they are happy and I am not then something must be wrong with me. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I have had this flu for a long time and no matter what I take it won’t get better. I am sick of being sick. I am tired of being tired. I am just a burden. The kids drive me crazy. Everyone drives me crazy. There are always questions…why won’t I go here, why can’t I clean the house, why am I always tired. I wish people would just leave me alone! I am just a burden to everyone. I can’t do anything right. I took a few pills yesterday and they didn’t help, maybe if I take more today it will help…
This is when you are at the bottom of the slide.
Some people never make it back up to the top. Some do. Maybe someone close realizes and gets the depressive some help. Maybe the depressive realizes and gets some help. Maybe they overdosed trying to block out the pain and got to the hospital quick enough. Maybe not. It is different for everyone.
Some of us make it, some don’t.
For some of us it is a relief to know that there is something wrong that can be corrected with medication when we finally hit bottom and get help. Some of us don’t want meds and don’t see how it will help. Some of us don’t really see a problem, even after one or more suicide attempts.
Some of us slide to the bottom only once or twice in a lifetime, some multiple times. But make no mistake; we are always on the slide. Never quite making the top, barely holding on.
We are always on the slide.