There’s not really a lot I know to do right now, laying here in bed in an antibiotic-I’m-allergic-to-and-bronchitis-fueled delirium. I’m doing this 1,000 words a day challenge, and have been doing great so far. But what do you do when you can barely string together two words, much less 1,000?
I took today off from work. I don’t have the time off, just a half day’s worth, even with UK’s fairly decent sick leave policy. It sucks living like this. All my days off go towards managing/catering to my depression, with the occasional wedding or cross-country conference. I could sign up for FMLA, but I feel like that would only enable my depression further, and there’s always the chance I could get denied? FML, eh?
One time, I told a friend about my depression. How it sucks up all my free time, all the days I could be saving for vacation, or a “real” bout of illness. She responded with, “Yeah, well, I have to use all my sick time for my migraines. I don’t have the luxury of taking mental health days.”
Thanks. I feel better now.
When you try to tell someone you have chronic depression, they inevitably tell you how to fix it. “Oh, my sister/step brother/cousin/aunt had that, and they ate Greek yogurt/exercised/took vitamin D/prayed/practiced thinking more positive thoughts, and now they’re all better! They got off those meds—they’re so bad for you!”
After this unsolicited advice on alternative depression treatments, they will usually either patronize or lose patience with you. Coworkers and friends constantly vacillate between sympathetic gazes and tender hearted, timid “How are you feeling today?”s, and a firm change of subject or discussion of how they power through their “real” illness. “Yeah, well, my arthritis/auto-immune disease/diabetes is acting up, and I just come into work because I just can’t take time off right now. I ain’t got time for that shit. I have to pick my kid up from school.”
That’s nice. I’m sorry I’m not as strong as you. That some days I just don’t see the point in getting out of bed, much less going to a job that hasn’t promoted from within in over 15 years.
There are so many times when I just—I almost wish I had a tangible sickness. Where I could say “I have to go to the doctor, my joint pain is so bad I can’t go up the stairs,” or “I can’t come in today, I have to go get my heart murmur checked.”
It’s a horrible, awful, selfish thing to wish, and it minimizes the suffering others go through, but sometimes I still wish it were true.
Because those people get understanding. They get acknowledgement of their disease.
They aren’t told “Wow, you should really just stop getting steroid injections for that knee,” or “You really need to just focus on making your heart work normally—you’re really just not trying hard enough.”
There aren’t a whole lot of ways I know how to handle my depression, other than how I already am. Medication, therapy, diet and exercise—and about one day a month where I just get overwhelmed with the thought of even thinking about life and hide in my room for 36 hours, emerging only to pee, or feed the pets. For 10 years, I tried being more grateful. Ignoring my symptoms and refusing to let myself sleep irregular hours. Making myself feel shitty for not doing everything I was supposed to do, because I couldn’t see how it would make a difference, anyways. Those 10 years I lived on a roller coaster that rose and fell every few years, and each time, the highs would be a little better, and the lows would be a little worse. Even my mother—who lost her favorite uncle to suicide the week before my brother was born—couldn’t understand why I was so lazy. Why I slept all the time.
When I sleep, it’s a form of escape. Why be awake, when I can be here?
In my dreams, I am a superhero. Not literally—usually. But I am amazing. I do everything and conquer every obstacle that comes in my path and even if something horrifically tragic happens to me, I am usually able to overcome it and turn it around to my benefit.
And then I wake up, and I’m just a moderately overweight, 30-year-old woman in a dead-end job who can’t find the will to shower.
So I go back to sleep.
There aren’t a lot of escapes from my mental illness these days. Sleep is one, doing everything is another.
I pack my schedule so that it is bursting at the seams with tasks, errands, meetings, projects and short-term goals. I figure if I stuff enough shit into my life, there won’t be any room for depression. It will spill over the side and roll under the bed to be discovered at another, more convenient time in my life. Of course, the catch is that if I fill my schedule too much, I tip over into the realm of anxiety, which just pulls me back into that depression. If I could find that perfect balance—that busy schedule that kept me running fast enough to keep the pack from tipping, but not so fast that everything fell out behind me—I think then I could be happy. Or at least, I think I would be moderately happy. I would know how to handle the world, maybe, or perhaps just a small segment of my life. I wouldn’t have to spend 12 days a year hiding under the covers, convinced that I’m a sack of shit whose first world problems really just further justify the image she projects as an entitled white American.
I don’t think this will ever happen, and I don’t think I’ll ever really be really happy. I think I just have to fight for manageable. Moderate control over an affliction that affects millions and is legitimized almost exclusively by those who suffer from it.