Depression is the opposite of Love. If Awake is the most expansive being, depression is the most contracted.
Depression is deep futility. Every emotion is numb. You can’t feel pleasure or pain. You can’t remember what emotions felt like. You can’t imagine how it is possible to feel anything but the way you are feeling. If you remember what normal felt like, you could perhaps reach for it. But you don’t. Your state knows no other state, cannot even guess that there are other ways to feel.
There is no energy, turning your head takes conscious effort. If there were a magic pill that will make you feel completely better, and you have to cross to room to get the pill, you cannot do it. It’s a weight of chains around your neck.
Depressives always use the same imagery. It usually has something to do with darkness and falling. It has to do with spiraling down an abyss, falling into a pit, crawling in or out of hole….It feels like, first slow, then accelerating vertigo, like you’re falling when you’re not; it confuses the fuck out of your mind. Where are you? Please stop the spins just for a second so you can know where you are and who you are and then you’ll be strong enough to handle this.
And that’s how depression feels, but slower, so that you can enjoy and appreciate the terror in excruciating slow-motion. You beg, just give a little bit of relief, for five minutes, so you can gather your personality and your strength and fight the battle. It is not a grayness, it is a blackness. There is no pin point of light to reach for. There is blackness, fear, dread, hopelessness, suffocation. Even your face looks different. You don’t have the energy for even the small muscles in your face to work; your expression is dull and blank. Your eyes are hollow. You cannot focus.
And you get up and go to work and pull through the day, and then another and another. Sometimes you can’t even do that. You stay home for days, weeks. You don’t do anything. You don’t watch television or read. You just sit.
There are months during which you cannot sleep. Literally, cannot sleep. You gain weight rapidly. You lose strength and muscle. You know it’s happening. You don’t want to face it so you say it will pass. Just get through the day today, and tomorrow will be better. When you feel this way, what does it matter? What does anything matter? Does morality matter? Can you have empathy for anyone? It feels like your head is simultaneously empty of all emotion and full of dread. You do feel pain: headaches, stomach aches and sore muscles.
You have anxiety, where you have fevers and profuse sweating and nervousness, and claustrophobia. Your bed sheets are wet with sweat. Plane travel is difficult; you have to breathe consciously to get through it. You can actually be claustrophobic in your own skin. Where ever you are, you want to be somewhere else. Whatever you’re doing, you want to do something else. If you’re alone you want to be with people, if you’re with people you can’t wait to be alone.
When you drink, the first glass of wine or beer or vodka, you feel relief. You feel an emotion. You feel like smiling. Then another drink and you may say something. Another and you are funny, the world is funny, and there is reason to live. Another, and you have desire; women are beautiful and emotional and warm and safe. There is no mystery to why you drink. When you don’t drink you are scared and you are numb and you feel nothing and you enjoy nothing. When you drink you feel again, and the world lights up and people are interesting and funny. It is the only time you feel human. The pinpoint of light in your darkness is through booze. What’s the price of drinking? Ruining your body, jeopardizing your job, losing your woman? That’s a small price to pay for relief from a living death.
Getting better is not hard. Get up early, exercise, do yoga, meditate and go to work. That’s all you need to do. Get in a routine. Don’t drink. Be honest. That’s all, and you do it for a few days and it will seem hard, but then it will get better and it will be natural. You can then snap out of it.
This is the biggest fiction. This is what other people tell you, snap out of it, just get better; it’s in your head. This is what you tell yourself, buckle up, you’re a disciplined, accomplished, intelligent person, maybe the first few days will be hard, the first month, then you’ll feel better. Just do it. You can get a master’s degree from an ivy league school while working, you’ve built a house, you’ve been a single parent; you’ve been a refugee; life has been hard and easy; how hard can it be to show up for work?
Medication helps sometimes, sometimes not. But the best it does is gives you a little boost when there is no internal drive. It is like drinking coffee when you have the flu. You don’t feel better; you’re just more aware that you don’t feel better.
Then there are times when you are better. You want to make the most of it because you know it’s temporary. You will slip again. You live as much as you can. You think how lucky most people are, that they feel this way all the time. Projects, travel, exercise, whatever, you want to do this, cram it in. And sure enough, sure as black death, one day you get up and you know. And you know you will drink again, and you will get fat, and people will look at you and wonder what’s happened to you, and you just have to go through it again.
The dread and fear are not exhilarating; there is no adrenaline. When you are startled, or frightened, there is a quickening of your heart, a more acute awareness, shallow and rapid breathing, and a survivor’s sharp fear that runs through your core. Anxiety is this, but without the physiological benefits. It is a fear deep in your core and it is not short-lived.
This is what you have, this is who you are. You will be this way all your life. You get better but it never lasts. Getting better is now in fact frustrating. When you’re better you are motivated to lose weight, to work out, to work, to fix relationships, only to watch all that recede away from you. Feeling better is stressful, because you are walking along the edge of the abyss, going around and around the circumference, waiting for the inevitable slip. Does love matter? Can you care how someone feels when your life is this way? Do you have time for morality, for empathy, for love, for how others feel? And then it happens. You fall. It’s happened so many times that you don’t even panic. You smile wryly, here we go. When you are falling backwards into a blackness, and you are looking at the world spinning and receding away from you, watching your love and your relationship and your work and your body and your self-worth spiraling away, does it matter that someone loves you?
You tell people that you love that you never have thoughts of suicide. But it isn’t true, is it?