I ran out of my meds last week. The doctor closed for carnival weekend and I forgot to factor that in. I figured a couple days without my meds wouldn’t hurt, right?
I’ve been on anti-depressants for 6 years now. I know I need the stuff. Yet every time I come close to running out, I push back on getting a timely refill. Like I can force myself to do without it until the very last day or something. Like last-minute (ill-advised) heroics can take away the fact that the depression I live with is due to a chemical imbalance in my brain.
I like to think I’m pretty self-aware and knowledgeable about my stuff. I like to think I take good care of myself and walk my talk. I like to think that I’m making progress, that I’m not limited or defined by the state of my mental health. I like to think that I’m doing OK.
Then a crummy weekend without my meds comes along, and I realise I’m just as dependent on the anti-depressants as ever. Dang.
Of course I can “do without it” if I really want to, but why would I want to? There’s a huge difference between the bubbly girl who’s on it and the lethargic zombie who schleps around without it.
As you may or may not know, I decided to start writing my book this weekend (woohoo!). I spread the word on Facebook and Twitter, and promptly started typing up my notes from the all the content I’ve written in my journals; 11 notebooks’ worth of content, to be precise. I was all fired up and ready to go and by God, I was gonna make it happen.
Then my mood crashed and I could barely bring myself to talk to anybody, much less continue on my first major writing project. Like, I wondered what the heck I was thinking going public with my declaration and second-guessing myself 2 days later just because I ran out of medicine to prop me up.
But that’s what happens when you live with depression. That’s what happens when you have to psyche yourself up every day. That’s what happens when you have to choose between lethargy and activity, between numbness and being able to give a fig, between livin’ loud & proud and barely living at all.
Here’s the humbling truth about living on anti-depressants:
There will be days you screw up. Days you can’t make yourself care. Days you can’t be happy or carefree or productive because you’re just. not. feeling it. Days you cancel appointments because the thought of faking normalcy sets your teeth on edge. Days when you can’t even remember what normalcy is.
There will be days you just need to go inward. To breathe and give yourself time to heal. To read over the good days in your journal (you have one, right?) and remind yourself that brighter days will come if you just make it through the next 24 hours.
Maybe you’re able to live without medication. Maybe you’re one of the few souls who get by just fine without therapy and checking in and seeking professional help, you lucky soul. Maybe the depression isn’t crippling or chronic.
Or maybe you’re like me. You wake up determined to make each day a good day, and so you drink your meds. You may skip on a couple of them, but you do take the daily ones ’cause you know you’d be jacked up without ’em.
And inevitably, because life is a journey and no two days are the same, you get the doozies that turn you inside out and remind you that you’re not like everybody else. You have your demons, and your wounds, and your reality. You have the things that rip your soul apart, and you have the nights your heart’s so heavy you can’t even cry to bleed the pain.
If you’re anything like me, you know that you do not “choose” to be depressed. You do not “choose” to look at the negative side of life. You do not “choose” to live with something that’s “only in your head” or something you can “snap out of” if you put your mind to it.
If you’re anything like me, you make the best of what you have with what you’ve got. You do what you can, when you can. You don’t wallow in self-pity, and you’re fully aware of when you’re just bellyaching or when stuff legitimately hits the fan. You have your Angel Soul Posse, you have your coping mechanisms, and you do the work to heal for real so you can free yourself from the seesaw of the depression and anxiety.
And because you keep it real, you also know that there’ll be days you fail. That you can’t be bothered. That you choose to just sit with how you feel and wait out the storm. That taking one deep breath after the other is all you can do. That just being where you are is all you can do.
Today’s one of those days for me. This weekend has been a series of such days for me. Sometimes it feels like my whole life is full of such days for me. Sometimes it feels like the joy can’t last and the pain is the only thing that’s real and for God’s sake, why won’t the tightness and heaviness in my chest just end already.
I don’t know the answers to any of the questions that plague me when I’m feeling low. I don’t know why I can’t be OK without shots of serotonin in my chemical cocktail. I don’t know why my brain inhibits all the good stuff like serotonin, dopamine, and what’s the other one again that makes you feel good? Oh right, oxytocin. Like dang, why can’t I just catch a break, yo.
I do know, however, that I can choose to react in a positive way to the circumstances around and within me. I can choose to stay open to the lesson in every challenge even when my heart grinds to a close and it feels like my soul shuts down. I can choose to extract something good from every day, so help me, even if the effort kills me.
Because I can. Because I choose different. Because how I feel can’t kill me (been there, done that) and how I feel can only break me if I let it (again, been there, done that). Because I can choose to take comfort in the fact that I may feel like mud, but at least I’m able to feel.
Sometimes I’m not able to feel. Sometimes I’m not able to care. Sometimes I feel trapped in my skin and I’m aching to burst loose just so I can feel something that tells me I’m alive. Sometimes it feels like the good days are way too fleeting and the bad days are way too many.
And sometimes I feel like no one understands because no one feels my pain, or feels my heart break, or the weight of unshed tears in my chest. Sometimes all I can see are the negatives, piling up one after the other like a multi-lane freeway crash site.
During such times, the meds don’t help. After all, they’re there to help me cope, not to heal me from the inside out.
During such times, talking about it doesn’t help. Yes, I know that this too shall pass, and I know that I can choose to feel different. Tell me something I don’t know, why don’t ya.
During such times, I can’t reconnect to my joy because I can’t believe in my joy. How can I when I feel like my heart’s been put through a meat grinder?
The humbling truth of being on anti-depressants is simply this: there’re things I’ve not expressed that I’m deeply angry about. There’re fears I can’t mention that mangle my soul. There’re things weighing heavy on me that threaten to break me if I let them. There’s just baggage weighing me down that I have to work every day to let go of.
I don’t tell you this so you feel sorry for me. Sympathy does zilch for me, and it’s actually insulting sometimes. Like, “she’s depressed, the poor thing”. Thanks but no thanks.
I tell you this because it’s the reality of what happens. If you live with depression, you know what I’m talking about. If you have someone close to you in your life who’s depressed, you know what I’m talking about. If you work with depressed people in a hospital or other care facility, you know what I’m talking about.
I battle to have good days. I battle to keep my chin up. I battle to make something of my life and not let the depression crush it all. I’ve let that happen before, and all it did was eat away 6 years of my life. I won’t let that happen to me again.
I do all the right things, and talk to all the right people, and take my meds, and I still feel like mud. That’s what it means to be depressed. That’s what it means to battle to make each day a good one, or at least as good of a day as you can make it.
That’s reality, people. Not what’s in my head, or what I choose, or what I want, but simply what happens. That’s the humbling truth of needing medication to cope so I can actually do stuff.
This is why I’m passionate about loving yourself more so you thrive in spite of depression and anxiety. This is why I try to connect as often and as deeply as possible.
I never know when a bad day will hit, and I never know how long a string of good days will last.
I never know when the meds will fail me, I can’t feel the light, and I’m stuck in darkness + pain for goodness knows how long.
I never know any of that stuff.
I’m putting this out there because I want you to know that you’re not alone.
I want you to know that you’re not broken, you matter, and you don’t need fixing.
I want you to know that you are loved even when you can’t feel the love.
I want you to know that you are strong even when you can’t feel your strength.
I want you to know that you can make it through the storm even when it feels like it’s going to blow apart your heart.
Maybe you need medication. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you need therapy. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you just need someone to love you and care about you. You always do, and that someone can always be you.
Love heals the pain. Love soothes the fear. Love reminds you that you’ve come this far and you can make it much farther than you think you can.
And sometimes you really can’t feel the love. You’re cold and empty inside, and nothing can seem to warm you up no matter what you try. You can’t feel, can’t care, and aren’t even worried that you can’t care that you can’t feel.
Such times don’t last.
Do you hear me? THEY DON’T FRICKING LAST.
They don’t last as long as you think and they don’t cut as deep as you think. What you think you know about your depression is usually a few degrees different from what you actually feel about your depression. It’s different from what’s actually real. It hurts like heck, but it’s not life-ending. Not the way you think it is, anyway.
I didn’t plan to write all this. I didn’t plan to pull my heart out of my chest and slam it down on the table.
Sometimes I think we need to, though.
Sometimes I think we need to pull the curtain back just so other people can see the reality of where we’re at. Sure some people may judge you or deride you for it, but there are those who will see you. Those who will care about you. Those you will acknowledge your courage and tell you, “I see you. I see you.”
At the end of the day, that’s all I really want. I want to be seen, and I want to be loved, and I want to be connected. I want to feel like I matter, like my friends care about me, like my life isn’t being wasted. I want to feel like my dream can happen, I can make a living doing what I love, and I’ll always be in the right place at the right time.
I’m largely responsible for a lot of that. I know. I don’t deny or shirk it. Heck, I don’t even expect people to give me what I’m unable or unwilling to give myself. I don’t expect anyone to heal or save me; I’ve waited for that and that stuff don’t work, y’all. Just saying.
At some point, you decide to choose for yourself. You decide to heal for yourself. You decide to be strong for yourself. You decide to make your life matter, to let yourself care, to let yourself be vulnerable and open even when it’d be so much easier to close off and numb. You decide not to isolate yourself even though that’s what the fear’s clamouring for you to do.
You decide to rise. You decide to climb. You decide to breathe through the pain and just acknowledge where you’re at even as you work towards where you want to be. You decide to do what you need to do so that you feel good, and you do the inner work necessary so you can feel good more often than not. You decide to live unlimited by what you feel or what goes on in your head. You decide to live.
It’s hard. It’s so fricking hard sometimes. It’s more than you can handle sometimes. It’s huge and overwhelming sometimes.
You’re still here. You still walk this Earth. You can experience something different with your next breath. If not the next one, then the one after that, or the one after that, or the one after those. Whenever that something different comes, you know that it’s possible if you just stay open to it. That doesn’t mean you’ll never have to do the work or you’ll never feel like mud. It means that you’ll get something from doing the work and you’ll free yourself to feel joy and not just the mud. Feel me?
I’m still here. I still walk this Earth. I can still feel something different with my next breath, even when I feel I’ve been stuck in the same place for too long, for too many breaths.
If there’s one thing the depression has taught me, it’s that things can change at any second and I best be ready to roll with the punches.
If there’s one thing my experience has taught me, it’s that I never know when joy is just around the corner.
If there’s one thing my experience has taught me, it’s that my holy work is to stay open and vulnerable even when I feel I can’t. Even when I feel it’s too hard. Even when it feels beyond me.
If I’m able to stay open, and breathe through the fire, and just sit with the pain, I can transmute the fear into courage. I can transmute the tightness into lightness. I can transmute the dark into light.
If I’m able to stay open, I can transmute the dark into light.
If you’re able to stay open, you can transmute the dark into light.
If we’re able to stay open, we can transmute the dark into light.
May we have the grace to always, always, transmute our dark into light.
One last thing:
If you live with depression and/or anxiety, please get the help you need. Reach out to the people who’re trained to deal with what you’re going through. You can’t do it alone, and you shouldn’t do it alone. Take therapy if you need to. Go on medication if you need to. Get a coach (hello!) if you need to. Find God if you need to. Do what you need to.
If you know someone who’s depressed and/or living with anxiety, empathise. Let them know that they’re not alone, they’re not broken, and they don’t need fixing. Let them know how much you care. Let them know how much they matter.
And if none of the above applies to you, just remember to be kind to people. You never know what they’re hiding behind their smile, and you never know how low they feel when there’s no one around to fake it for.
Just because you can’t understand it doesn’t mean you have to look down on it. You don’t know how you’d act in their shoes until you actually wear those shoes, so don’t be a jerk about it. Words can tear us down or build us up. Choose the latter, why don’t ya.
For all my people out there who battle depression and strive to live unlimited by it, I made this video for you.
Life gets hard. I feel you. I see you.
I see you.
I see you.
I see you.