In Which I Discuss What Depression Looks Like (for Me)

Someone posted this on Facebook today, and it made me think of Shelob.

Big, lurking monster, just waiting for some naive soul to cross its path so it can squeeze the life out and devour them. But there is a way to beat Shelob.

Too powerful to defeat with weapons and too strong to beat with fighting skills, the way to destroy this monster is simple. All you need is light. 

So I’m gonna be my own Samwise Gamgee today and illuminate some of the struggles I personally have when it comes to depression. 

Depression is different for everybody. I mean, we all have different personalities and brain capacities to start out with, so logically something that affects your brain function would have as wide of a range of manifest symptoms as there are personalities in the world. There are a few general characteristics:

  1. Apathy about things that are usually enjoyable
  2. Creating distance between yourself and other people
  3. Fatigue, exhaustion, wanting to sleep ALL THE TIME
  4. Yet insomnia, ugh! 

But below are the things I personally go through, which may or may not be applicable to other cases of depression. I share them to shed light on them to make them shrink, to give others knowledge and tools if this is relatable to their situation, and to give my friends some cues if they see this going on. 

  • Extreme insecurity. Almost all the other behavioral manifestations I have for depression are based in this. And I’m guessing this is pretty common for depression. Basically I’m convinced that no one actually likes being around me; they’re all just being nice. This was MUCH worse as a teenager than it is now. Back then I was unable to tell if people talked to me because they wanted to, or because they had grown up in a culture that pounded being kind to outcasts into their heads. Now I have some friends who have withstood the tests of time, distance, and seeing all my weaknesses, who still regularly tell me they enjoy my company, and even love me! Because I have them, everyone else’s opinion matters a little bit less. I have also learned how to fit into my family (yes, I had to learn that and it wasn’t easy. My family was no exception to my insecurity) and that has helped a ton as well. 
  • Jealousy. I hate feeling it, but it happens nonetheless. If there is someone that I enjoy being around and it seems like they enjoy being around someone else more than me, then I get crazy issues. I have taught myself not to act on this, but occasionally it leaks through. And this is absolutely not limited to romantic potential. Most times feeling like someone you think should be your best friend doesn’t have the time for you because someone, or something, is more important to them is actually much more painful than real or imagined rejection from a would-be lover. 
  • Easily offended. Ugh. I hate being offended. It’s the stupidest thing in the world because I know it’s 100% my issue (even if someone is being terrible purposefully). I can ALWAYS choose my attitude. But sometimes I don’t have the emotional strength to withhold the Sea Monster of Rage who dwells in the Sea of Depression. So when people simply disagree with my point of view as they are completely entitled to do (except when it comes to certain fandoms 😉) I sometimes take it as them saying something totally disproportionate like “your experiences are worthless,” “your opinion is invalid because you’re a ridiculous person,” or “you’re really not that smart.” Fortunately I can stop myself from acting on this most of the time too, or at least hiding my anger behind the thin veil of a locquacious and hopefully logical argument. 
  • Spending excessive time alone. This one is tricky, because sometimes being alone is genuinely healing and sometimes it is super dangerous. I want to be alone because I my emotional stamina is about one inch deep, and just about anyone could burn that up with the wrong word or look in my direction, so it’s easier to avoid too much contact, especially with strangers whose behavior is unpredictable. But sometimes I “want” to be alone because I’m convinced that my company is a burden to everyone. That’s when it is dangerous to stay alone. How to tell? If I say I want to be alone but still keep texting, if I’m saying a lot of weird, incomprehensible things, or if I’m being passive aggressive, that’s when I should not be alone. But if I am clear and logical, even if I can’t give you a good reason besides “I want to be alone” I’m probably okay. If my head is above the water of The Sea of Depression, then you’ll understand what I’m saying. If I’m drowning, you probably won’t. We’re pretty literal over here in Crazy Land. 
  • Unreasonable selfishness. Because my brain is so full of doubt and frustration, I seriously don’t have room to think about other people’s needs. Most of the time manifest by am inability to talk about anything but myself. If you see me starting to reach out to others again and take interest in their lives, you know I’m on the mend. 
  • Anxiety. This is a new one for me – I didn’t experience it a lot when I was depressed as a teenager. Mostly back then it was centered around people’s acceptance of me when I disclosed my true emo self. Now it is still situational and rarely generalized (thank goodness) but it is intense when it happens. I think I’ve mentioned on here before about how for a whole year I cried after almost every date because men are so scary. Haha. That’s one of my anxiety triggers. Driving on the freeway and around intersections is another one but I get through it every day (not quite as scary as men). Pretty sure that’s because if the terrible accident I got in almost a year ago though.

    Now, how do I deal with these? I mentioned that I’ve trained myself to not act on a lot of these emotional impulses. Well, I like to imagine that within the Sea of Depression there is an Iceberg of Sanity. And when I recognize a sane thought amidst my depressed delusions, I cling to it like my life depends on it. Then I pull myself up on that ice-cold piece of sanity and get my head above water. Sometimes the Sea of Depression is so deep there is only a tiny tip of the Iceberg of Sanity showing, and it’s really hard to see among the sloshing of the waves. But when I find it I grab on to it. 

    Here’s an example: someone comments on something on Facebook (the source of despair, honestly) that disagrees with me, and as such is offensive. In the midst of the flailing of the Sea Monster of Rage, the thought crosses my mind “but she’s my friend and she’s usually so nice.” Ding! There’s my sane thought. I grab on to it; usually I literally have to repeat it to myself until the Sea Monster calms down. And once the Sea Monster sinks back to the ocean floor, THEN I am allowed to take action. If I take action before then, I will almost definitely drown in the churning Sea of Depression and be swallowed up by the Sea Monster of Rage. I literally imagine something like this:

    Obviously that portrayal is after the Sea Monster has been subdued. 

    It is much easier to deal with depression and all of its symptoms when I look at it as a quest to vanquish formidable foes rather than an endless onslaught of terror and weariness. I must always expect an end. I’m sure in the moment Samwise came upon Shelob’s lair, he was beyond discouraged. They were so close to Mordor, so close to their goal, Frodo was being totally useless, and here comes this huge enemy ready to suck out Sam’s life. But he shone light on it, and because he believed that there was something worth fighting for, he carried the ring, saved Frodo’s life, and got them back on the right path.

    So cling to the Iceberg of Sanity, shine your light as often as you can and dry up that Sea of Depression bit by bit, and force the Sea Monster of Rage back into the muddy hole from whence it came. 

    Don’t hold anything in reserve for the return journey. Because you won’t be the same when your fight is over, and you’ll never go back to where you were before. Not really. But you’ll be stronger, and wiser, and you’ll bow to no one. 

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