The hardest thing to cope with for anyone that suffers from depression is the downward spiral. It could be triggered by something big and life-changing or a series of small things. What begins the spiral is irrelevant. It is the feelings associated with the spiraling down that makes it so devastating.
The feelings of hopelessness and despair become overwhelming. Depression will strike out at all those weak spots, targeting them with a barrage of absolute negatives, reminding me that I have no one and that nothing will ever get better, nothing will ever work out. My rational side that usually fights to keep those feelings at bay is cast aside, nowhere to be found.
Mentally, I feel like I’m flailing, free-falling, with nothing to grab onto, nothing to catch myself on or to break my fall. The world feels like it is slipping through my fingers though I keep desperately reaching out, hoping to find something, someone to cling to so I am not alone in this darkness. My head is spinning, dizzy from my spiraling fall down.
Again and again my brain will tell me of course this has happened and ask what else could I have expected? My mind is flooded with all I’ve gone through, all that’s gone wrong in my life. I try not to listen and to push all those feelings, thoughts and memories aside but I feel like a failure, a loser, a waste of space. I feel guilty for burdening everyone with my problems and my mess of a life. I beat myself up terribly as I spiral downward because I can see nothing of value, nothing worth loving in myself. I have trouble understanding how anyone could love me, like me or even want me around. It is not a pity party. I honestly hate who I am as I spiral down.
The tears flow and my body quakes. I try desperately to hold it in, to not make a sound. I don’t want to burden anyone else with my issues or my pain. My leg is bouncing a mile a minute as I desperately try to stave off a panic attack induced by these endless waves of hopelessness. I can’t even close my mouth because I’m shaking so badly that my teeth chatter when I do. I clench my eyes closed tightly to push out the tears as they continue to pour. When I open my eyes, I see the world through the blur of watery dots.
Again and again I blow my nose. I have no idea how I make so much mucus. I am slumped over, wracked with sobs, clinging tightly to my blanket, wishing it was somebody, anybody, that could hold me back, hold me tightly, make these feelings go away. My entire body aches, not just from my sobbing but from how lost and alone I feel. My chest is tight like a weight has been placed there. I have trouble catching my breath in between sobs. I feel raw and full of despair.
Times like this honestly frighten me more than anything else. Though I am not currently suicidal, when I spiral down that ledge comes clearly into view. It always seems to beckon me when I can see it, tempting me, promising me peace, a way out, a way for the pain to end. I can feel its presence in the back of my head, that little kernel, calling to me, beckoning me, promising its own sickly sweet release from my torment.
I have walked that ledge before. I have been tempted by its charms. I have listened to its siren song and wanted to give up, give in, be free. I can’t let it have me again, though. I can’t give up. I must stay strong. As much as I am tired, so very tired, of feeling this way, I need to keep fighting. I can never give in.
The hardest part of spiraling down is that desperate climb back up. Climbing away from the promise of a peaceful end back up into the viper’s den, back into the torment that I call my life with depression. Digging in my fingers and my heels and climbing back up, telling myself lies that things will get better, trying to convince myself that others need me and that I have to hold on and be strong.
I feel like such a liar telling myself things will be better because the struggle feels like it never ends. Life is a series of numb days where I have trouble functioning and agonizing days where I spiral down and have to fight for my life to pull myself back up, peppered here and there with days that aren’t too bad but that I know are fleeting because I always end up back at one extreme or another. I desperately want to remain hopeful and to believe in better days, better health, a better life but this has always been all that I’ve ever known.
I’d love to tell you that these agonizing, hopeless days are few and far in between, but I strive to tell the ugly truth about my struggles with mental illness, not spin beautiful fairy tales with happily ever afters. The truth is that this is a regular occurrence when suffering from depression. Sometimes these feelings last hours, other times days. The spiral could appear once a week or again and again, for days on end. I never know what will trigger it, how long it will last or when it will rear its head again. Eventually, I cry all I can cry, the agonizing pain throughout my body begins to turn into a dull ache and I find myself numb again as my mind and body shut down to recuperate.
Those who have never experienced depression assume that we just feel sad sometimes, maybe cry a little more than average, that it’s something in our heads and we’re just not trying hard enough to be happy. I wish more than anything they could understand that depression is so much more than some extra tears. It is a constant fight with my own brain to not give up, not give in and continue living even though the world around me feels completely hopeless and not worth the effort. When my depression begins to spiral down, it is an agonizing, terrifying ordeal.
Republished on The Mighty on 11/14/16.