Wednesday, October 18, 2017

There’s No Enlightenment at the End of this Post

Sometimes I think the most difficult aspect of mental health is how self-aware you can be even when things are wrong. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life. Much like my poor eyesight, at this point I can tell when something is wrong. I know when my depression is acting up. I’m perfectly aware when I have a panic attack that that is what’s happening. I even understand that there are steps I could take to improve things—but when my brain is telling me that life is too difficult, doing any of those things seems impossible.

When my depression takes hold, I sleep. Not good, normal, restful sleep but something I call escape sleep. I’ll get off work, go home, and sleep from 5-11. Then I wake up and struggle with insomnia until 2 or 3. I constantly feel tired. And even though I’m exhausted, sleep won’t come when it should. I know a good way to combat this would be to exercise after work. I know it has worked in the past. But I don’t do it.

When my depression takes hold, I don’t eat right. I know I should be cooking myself food that is good for me—but it’s easier to just have cereal or cookies or junk. The thought of planning out meals, going shopping, preparing food, and cleaning up after seems like far too much work. Sometimes when I’m hungry I just go to bed instead of dealing with it. Because my brain says it’s too hard to do all the work it will take to fix my hunger.

When my depression takes hold, you might not even notice. I can still laugh. I can still make jokes. I can make you think I’m totally fine. It sometimes feels like being a functional alcoholic. I excel at “hiding my crazy.” But it’s always there anyway.

This brings me back to the idea of self-awareness. When I read over my words I know­ they must sound insane to anyone not struggling with mental health issues. Even to me, they seem slightly absurd. All things considered, I’ve had a blessed life up to this point. I shouldn’t be sad. I shouldn’t struggle with basic self-care. But it takes strength, mental and physical, to break out of the habits of depression. And when you’re struggling to even get out of bed in the morning that strength is in short supply.

It takes going against everything your mind is trying to tell you. It takes ignoring your natural impulses. It takes finding the belittled, downtrodden, logical part of your mind—the 10% that knows depression lies—and trying to put it in charge of the other 90%. And it’s hard. It is so goddamn hard.

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