Tag Archives: addiction

The Psychological Purgatory of Depression

I’ve heard depression described as walking towards a sunset. You can see the light ahead of you, but even when you’re basking in the warmth of the light, you’re always aware that the darkness isn’t more than a heartbeat away.

sungirl

That sounds pretty accurate, but what makes depression so hard for those on the outside — and even those on the inside — to understand, is that being depressed and being happy aren’t always mutually exclusive.

People with depression can be happy, sad or funny just like anyone else. And while we’re all aware of the dangerous places depression can go, what no one seems to talk much about is that there’s a kind of psychological purgatory that exists somewhere in between the high points and the end of your rope.

When you’re having a good day, no one can tell you’re depressed because the symptoms aren’t as obvious as we think they should be. You might not be feeling that miserable “I can’t get out of bed” type of way, but your internal dialogue and view of the world is pretty similar.

There’s relief in knowing that you appear normal until one little thing sets you off — a comment, an obstruction to your routine, maybe nothing specific at all — and down that slope you go sliding again.

These are the times I sit at my desk at work, feeling panic and claustrophobic with a need to literally go run away from myself.

These there are the times when I’m at home on the couch, mindlessly flipping through the same websites, the same channels, feeling nothing but a need to not think.

These are the times when I should reach out, but the world I created is so narrow that I retreat back into my head, to distractions, to exercise to numb out the pain. These actions become habit, the habit then becomes an obsession and from there I’m stuck in a vicious cycle again.

But in some ways, as miserable as you — well, that I — can feel, you get used to it.

Depression doesn’t ask much of you other than to suffer, whereas happiness — in as much as you can remember it — simply can’t be trusted. It’s undependable and often fleeting, and while depression saps your energy, happiness is exhausting in a different way.

Even though you know there are people willing to help, you can never tell them everything. Revealing the plot of your story would give away that tiny shred of control — or the illusion of control — that you so desperately feel that you need just to get by.

Plus, seeing happy people makes you feel as if you have some kind of obligation to get well, and you don’t want to have any obligations or distractions that you don’t invite yourself.

So instead you avoid people when you can so you don’t have to make yourself vulnerable to questions, to wondering if everyone knows that you’re really a big jumbled mess, unable to figure out how to get back to “happy,” or at the very least, back to “content.”

That’s why it can be such a dangerous thing.

You can appear absolutely normal and functional to the outside, but be silently screaming on the inside. And when you’re down, you wonder why you can’t just “be happy” again, and when you’re happy you feel guilty for those times you’re stuck in the dark.

Then there’s the middle — that psychological purgatory — neither way up or way down.

These are the times to remember that isolation is a symptom, not a solution, and that flowery language aside, there still are those small shards of light. For me, sometimes it’s sitting outside. Sometimes it’s trying to be funny to people I see. Sometimes it’s getting lost in a book or emailing someone I trust.

Those things can spark the good days.

Of course you have to sift through the muck and the mud, but it helps to just enjoy the good days for what they are and not question why. Life isn’t easy all the time, even to the most well-adjusted individual, and the dark times aren’t a reflection of weakness or selfishness or anything you might tell yourself.

In other words, just because you deal with depression doesn’t mean that you are depression. A bad day/week doesn’t mean a bad life. After all, it’s not sunny every day but we know the clouds won’t last forever.

Enjoy that light when you can.

Originally published on The Huffington Post

Like the blog? Buy the books and click below!

P.S. If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to subscribe here on the blog and/or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Magical Thinking

There’s a quote in Augusten Burrough’s “Magical Thinking” that I love:

“I like flaws and feel more comfortable around people who have them. I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”

That’s me, pretty much to the letter.

I had good intentions of keeping things super light here and not addressing some issues, but I also don’t want to be dishonest and act like everything’s fine every day. So today you get this crap.

522369_388604667851424_1108814944_n

Long story short-ish, the past few months my OCD, exercise, weight, depression, etc. have really been kicking my ass. Everything except spacing out on the couch or exercising makes me uncomfortable. When I get uncomfortable my instinct isn’t to sit back and evaluate why, but rather to simply escape.

Quickly.

Enter the (maladaptive) behaviors I associate with relief. But the problem is it’s never enough, and it becomes harder to sit with the most fleeting feelings of discomfort. (And when you’re depressed, there’s a lot of discomfort.)

In other words, it’s a temporary fix for a permanent predicament—that “life” will always happen and things are always in flux.

I guess it’s a little comforting to know that what we all struggle with in our lives can be acknowledged as ordinary experience. Everybody feels the pain of not getting what they want or getting what they don’t want, and most of the time it’s not because they suck and can’t get things right.

It’s life, and we’re not the only ones who feel we can’t keep it all together.

But sometimes the internal issues offer no rhyme or reason—no big life event you can cite—which makes you feel kind of crazy and write blog posts like this.

Because even though my intentions are good — I know I’m not a horrible person — I cancel plans because it might interrupt my “safe” routine. I do a good job at work, but don’t enjoy it or the fact that I’m stuck at a desk for the day. I’m pretty sure at times I come off as a flake.

I’m not a flake.

I’m trying to get by. And while I know these bizarre things I do for self-preservation are technically making my life more complicated, it’s a “comfortable” complicated. I pretend I can deal with that better than I can deal with reality without them.

So why write this? I don’t know.

It doesn’t have some great motivational moment to end with other than the fact that my insecurity over publishing it trumps any insecurity you might have if you relate to anything written.

I can also add that if you do relate to anything here, just know that I pledge to try every day. Most days I fail, but I try.

427727_357790977599460_428690567_n

Maybe that’s it.

Maybe it’s so you (we) remember it’s easy to get sucked into online personalities presented in an edited version of reality, one where we’re often  given the good parts and a sliver of the flaws, just enough so that people relate. We forget that it’s only what they want us to see. 

Of course I’m envious of those who don’t have to deal with this stuff and can just be “okay” without so much effort, but I’m not ashamed that I have issues.

You should never be ashamed.

So while my next post is back to humor—writer’s block, be damned—this one exposes my flaws. After all, “I like flaws and feel more comfortable around people who have them. I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”

Magical thinking, indeed.

Like the blog? Buy the books!