Can We Talk About Depression?
Let’s start with a timeline. Sometime last year (November to be as exact as possible), an idea comes up in the Attic group chat, ‘Can we add a new piece to the anxiety series? This weather is putting me in a mood...’ Come December, the desire is there but the piece is non-existent. The weather wreaks havoc and the mood is to stay in bed. January. The sun is gone. Will the sun ever return? Did it ever exist? There is nothing beyond the length of the bed... food, if at all, exists in beige, pre-packaged portions and even coffee has become the enemy as anxiety pains become ulcers, insomnia runs rampant, and ‘the mood’ is a full-blown depression. And on it goes. 2018 has been a kick in the face if we’re putting it lightly.
That this piece arrives in mid-May (SIX MONTHS?! after its initial inception) is a testament to what your healthy mix of anxiety and depression can do for a person (HA). I had thought of shelving the idea altogether, or perhaps giving it a go next winter, but, as twitter has so kindly notified me, it happens to be Mental Health Awareness Week, and I’m starting to believe “seasonal” may be a term used to describe illness at a specific time, but that that specific time may not necessarily be confined to winter.
We’ve discussed our issues with anxiety at The Attic before, and I’m sure there’s some overlay with the topic of depression as well. Of course, the symptoms and reasons behind anxiety and depression may be different, but the end result can be the same: an inability to function or ask for help, and the biggest culprit to wellbeing can strike both: the stigmas surrounding their existence. Slowly we can study our anxieties, figuring out what may be their cause and ways to prevent or treat them, but can we say the same about depression? Aside from the obvious answer being that goddamned chemical deficiency, can we really talk about why we wake up one day completely fine, and the next not want to wake up at all?
The difference between anxiety is that I can put off writing this for fear it might be seen as stupid, or the belief that people won’t care about my point of view, and depression is that I won’t want to write it, because I won’t care about my point of view. I’m thankful that I can mention a panic attack to friends as reason for not replying to a text immediately, and that when I break into hives in public my family no longer blinks an eye, instead handing me an antihistamine and giving me some space. But I still don’t even know how to put into words an explanation for spending all day under the covers crying, or uncharacteristically bursting into laughter when asked about my day. I still don’t know how to explain my depression.
Recent medical progress has risen a bit of the stigma on a strain of depression, that which we lovingly refer to as SAD. But Seasonal Affective Disorder lives in the winter months, and places its blame on the lack of Vitamin D in one’s system. An easy fix for those with access to supplements and tropical vacations. What of those of us who love winter, and instead only feel depression as winter finally breaks into spring, or worse, all throughout summer, that supposedly fine time of year? In the last ten years, I can pinpoint every single, horrible bout of depression I’ve had to the warm, sunshine-filled days between April and August. I can fool myself into believing it’s SAD when a bout falls on a rainy spring day, but why don’t I feel just as bad when it rains in the winter? And then why do I love summer thunderstorms? I believe seasons can be tied to our mental health patterns, but I don’t think we should only believe in depression as a winter occurrence. I don’t want to feel ashamed or less than when I’m scrolling through everyone's vacation photos, or that there’s something terribly wrong with not enjoying every ounce of sunshine like it’ll be the last, and I want to talk about it because I don’t want anyone else with obsessively mixed ties to the weather and their emotions feel as though it’s only happening to them.
What I can say is that while I still don’t have a tactile reason for why it happens, I have finally learned to know what it feels like, and seeing bits here and there of people struggling with the same thing have given me motive to get it all down in writing. There’s nothing romantic about any of this, and first and foremost I will always say that if you have the access available to seek help, please do so. That we can accept depression and anxiety doesn’t mean we have to live with them. Additionally, our last piece on the topic of anxiety provided a list of self-care and tips by the editors that we use to cope. I live by this list to manage my anxiety, but I know from experience that self-care and depression don’t exactly mix, and so I offer the below supplementary list of suggestions (all of which, by the way, I’ve mentally culled from conversations on the topic with attic editors):
1. Let yourself feel it, but only for a moment. Ignoring or suppressing anything has never done any of us well. Take that morning off, have a good cry in the shower, scream if that’s what you’re into. One of the most innocuous pieces of advice I ever received was to 'write everything down,' and sometimes simply getting the repetitive emotions and insecurities down in a journal helps fade them from my brain, even if I'm writing them down again three days later.
2. Read, or watch, something reparative. If the biggest struggle with depression is getting out into the world to see all of its beauty, you have to bring that beauty to yourself. Flip through your favorite art or coffee table book, watch a romantic comedy or nature documentary, read an uplifting story.
3. Find a way to get outside. I know exercise feels like an insurmountable task right now, so I won’t bullshit you with the idea that you just have to do it (same goes for meditation; sure I enjoy meditation, but in the throes of a depression silence is absolutely not my friend). Get in the car and drive, it doesn't matter where to. Roll down the windows and listen to a really great song over and over again. Don’t drive? Find your nearest public transport and plug in your headphones as you ride all the way to the end of town and back. Literally just sit on your porch and be outside.
4. Slow down. In the process of forcing ourselves through things in order to rejoin the productive, functioning world, we speed through them, making ourselves further miserable. Wash your face and take your skincare as meditation if you can. Choose your makeup intentionally and apply the warpaint you want in order to face the world. Eat something rich and fulfilling, and not just easily inhaled because you know you should be eating. Learn how to cook the meal that makes you happiest, and cook it from scratch. Eat it all week.
5. Unplug. Strategically. Unfollow anything and anybody that makes you feel bad about yourself. You can re-follow them later if you like but the point is to avoid the temptation now. Follow a few funny cat accounts. And while we’re at it, stop posting things that don’t make you happy just because you think that’s what everyone is posting or because you think that’s what people want to see from you. It’s your feed, post whatever you want to see when you scroll through it.
I know this may not all work, or it may not work all at once, but the point is to never give up. Nothing will ever help so much as finally talking about it, even if it’s through breathless sobs in the middle of the night to a generous friend or an anonymous call line. Get it out, go to sleep, and find a patch of sunlight to lay in tomorrow morning.
We take mental health seriously here at The Attic. We hope you do too.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (United States), 1-800-273-8255
Suicide Crisis Line, 1-800-784-2433
Or text ‘HOME’ to 741741
For international numbers and resources, the International Association for Suicide Prevention.