A Taste of My Depression

I’ve experienced some pretty severe depression. And I know I’m not the only one. It is lonely. It feels hopeless a lot of times. Then my brain starts to try to explain what the feeling means. In reality it doesn’t mean anything. It is a feeling and chemicals are involved. In reality depression is a survival technique of the brain helping you to pull back, get rest, recover, stay safe. It is also a necessary feeling to help us understand and appreciate the good feelings in life. Depression is part of the equation, part of the balance, and it is there by design. But reality doesn’t always get center stage in my brain. I also naturally try to avoid depression. I may think things like I shouldn’t feel this way, or I want to get rid of it, or something’s wrong with me if I feel this wayI must have done something wrong, I’m just not good enough to feel happy. Then my brain tries to help me in my desire to get away from it. With ideas like let’s cover this up by eating yummy food, or seeking pleasure will fix this, and if it doesn’t at least I get some relief from it for a bit. It would even throw the idea of suicide at me. This could work. This would stop the pain. Then I feel worse for having a suicidal thought: I can’t believe I would even think that. That is so selfish of me. I’m horrible. And the spiral continues. Yikes! You can see how this can go south pretty quick. But it is so real and happens with so many people. It can be a disease. It can be life-threatening. It can require professional treatment. The need for treatment and help is urgent. And I’ll bet it affects somebody you know, if not you.

Hearing other people’s experiences has helped me a ton. So I thought I’d share some excerpts from my journal a few years ago during times of feeling very depressed.:

7/14/16

I feel like my mind is being swallowed up by darkness. I want a way out of it but it will not relent. My therapist says to go toward it but that is the last thing I want to do. I’ve heard it said that people can become addicted to suffering and that’s why it’s hard to change. Because we become comfortable with it. Am I addicted to suffering and self-punishment?

The last week and a half have been really hard. I have felt almost constantly depressed and tired. I feel like I’m in a fog inside my head and it’s hard to see anything clearly. It’s hard to want to do anything when I feel crappy before, during, and after activities. I feel good occasionally playing the piano, playing basketball, doing yoga, being with dog, being with Linz and kids. But these things still feel overshadowed by a sinking feeling inside. Then I feel guilty about feeling down around kids and Linz. I feel like I’ll bring them down. Linz tells me this isn’t true. I want to believe her but can’t. I don’t know how to do this. I want it to go away. I feel numb to life a lot of the time.

9/2/16

Been feeling really depressed for the last 3 days straight. Would be nice to have a break. It starts getting extra hard [in the process] about now. But good days always come and I just need to weather the storm. It’s raining outside right now with lightning and thunder. Storms come and go. Clear skies always come at some point.

The depression fills my head and feels like sand is continually pouring from the top of my skull and seeping down, scraping along the way, until it’s touched every part of my mind. I accomplished many great things today and felt like shit (almost edited this word but it’s the right one) the entire time. I have so much to be grateful for and I still feel like crap. Lindsay says “That’s a sign that it’s something chemical.”

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I remember days where just getting out of bed felt like I had climbed a mountain. I could literally lay curled up in fetal position for hours. If I fed myself, showered, and brushed my teeth it was a huge victory. Sometimes I would cry. Most of the time I felt too depressed to cry. I am not proud of these things. But I’m not ashamed of them anymore either. They are just things that happened. They were part of a disease. They just are.

Sometimes the only thought that got me through was that good days always come. Because they do. Like passengers on a bus, the negative feelings eventually get off and the positive ones get on. I’ve learned that a lot of times both positive and negative feelings can be on the bus at the same time.

At that time in my life for some reason that movie Saving Mr. Banks, about the creating of the movie Mary Poppins, where the dad is literally falling apart drinking himself to death, meant a lot to me. A podcast called The Hilarious World of Depression and finding ways to laugh about depression was helpful. Therapy every week was absolutely crucial for me, especially when I was dreading going more than half the time. Finding enough restful sleep was a glaring factor. Medication helped some. Regular exercise was very important and one of the best kinds of medicine. There are so many resources available that are both healthy and helpful for depression. But a lot of times I didn’t even want them. Well I did. But I didn’t.

Having supportive, non-judgmental, loving family and friends made a world of a difference. People trying to fix it for me or give me a pep talk didn’t really help, in fact, sometimes I would let it make me feel worse. Stuff at church was a nightmare and I started going for just social reasons. Others asking how I was doing (some people stop asking) and being willing to listen to my crappy feelings and validate and just be there and not expect anything from me seemed to be the most helpful when I was really down.

There is a song that sums up the thought that was often the only tiny sliver of hope that I could barely hold on to, but that helped me get through my worst bouts of depression. There are a lot of good songs that help me. I would sometimes listen to this song while getting out in the sun and moving (walking, running, etc.). Opening all the blinds and letting the sun in helps too. The song is called For a Better Day, by Avicii. Here are a few lines from it:

In the road of life
I tumble forward
But I’m going on
I’ma keep it strong

Maybe it might be time
For a better day
For a better day
For a better day

One thing I know for certain is that good days always come. And if that is the only thought you can have when you are feeling down, it may be just enough to get you through. It was for me.

Learning to pay attention to what was going on in my mind and just being aware of it has helped me so much in drastically reducing my symptoms of depression and improving the way I weather the storms. Having someone help me with this from an objective perspective has been insightful and powerful for me.

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5 thoughts on “A Taste of My Depression

  1. Thanks for this long post about depression. Its describe well the feelings of this state I have experiment several times and the way we can cope with it or the way relatives should behave : just accept, listen, sometimes encourage and advise. These practices help me to overcome or feel less depressed, or going too deep : Physical exercices (fitness, workout), meditation (mindfulness), spirituality (scriptures study and reading), accomplish 1 (little) task that you don’t like to do a day, 1 pleasure a day, accept 1 social opportunity a week to connect/link with other, are the little victory your brain likes and will give back. The positive side of having experiment several depressive episode, now i know how to behave and help people that copes with depression with a lot of empathy, i assumed it’s what you do. I was nice to meet you.

  2. Thanks Danny. I have often been at a loss for what to say or do to friends suffering from depression so it was helpful to hear that non-judgmental friends who are willling to listen to you was helpful. Love you and love thinking about you all in So. France. XO.

  3. You have gone through and learned so much. Thank you for sharing and teaching us. I hope I can be as courageous, compassionate, and strong as you have chosen to become through your trials. I appreciate knowing what goes on inside your mind during the very low times. You are a great blessing in my life for so many reasons. Thank you.

  4. Love this article Danny. We all have some Traverse Goff in us. When I first saw that film I was on a Disney Cruise, happiest place on earth right, but I cried like a baby. Seriously. Sobbed. It underscored the pain I felt connected to clinical depression, work struggles, personal failures and marital resentments. And finally, to the need of constantly being strong for my kids, and mostly my now ex wife who lacked any compassion for my struggles. You are so lucky to have a supportive wife through this. Life is hard enough without the mirror of constant disappointment from the one we love most. Love you.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Bryce. I haven’t seen that movie. Depression can be so hard. One question to ask is “how much of this depression am I choosing?” Not always a fun question to consider. But I’ve found it to be a very useful one to propel me toward feeling so much better so much of the time. You are right, I am so lucky to be married to Lindsay. But we each have had our resentments at times. And I will always be responsible for my resentments whether I see it that way or not. And she will always be responsible for her resentments. Likewise, my depression, my getting the help I needed, and navigating through it was and always will be my responsibility. This is good news and so empowering. That way I don’t base whether I’m going to feel better or be okay on someone else’s behavior that I cannot control. That breeds a feeling of powerlessness which can lead to hopelessness. But when I take claim my power and own my responsibility for my feelings and the thoughts I choose (which cause feelings), I progress, I feel empowered, and it can be incredible. This morning I woke up feeling so naturally grateful for life and excited to be alive. How cool is that! I have lots of mornings where I wake up and my brain sends tons of negativity at me. But my default this morning was gratitude and excitement. I have come a long way from where I was in this blog post and I credit myself for taking responsibility for my emotions. I also credit all of the amazing help and resources along the way. But I chose to go after it. You da man Bryce.

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