Guest post by Amanda Mills: Screw you, comfort zone

Most of my life I have struggled with depression. This sentence is very uncomfortable to me for 2 reasons: 1. “Struggled with” sounds so dramatic and trite, but there have been times when it really was a struggle; and 2. I have never really opened up about it like this. Sure, I may have mentioned to my close friends that I was feeling depressed, but only the very closest to me know how deep it truly runs. Now I’ve decided it’s time to start talking about this. Stop brushing it under the rug, or hiding it by saying “feeling blah” or “in a funk”. No. I am depressed – I am not SAD, I am DEPRESSED. And I have dealt and do deal with many different kinds of symptoms – from excessive crying to feeling nothing; from excessive sleeping to staying up all night; from excessive eating to… well… more excessive eating. I have had suicidal thoughts, I have wanted to simply not exist, I have felt everyone was laughing at me, and I have felt like the ugliest, dumbest, most awkward person on earth. Take any random combination of any of these symptoms, throw in some momentary feelings of bliss and exuberance, and that pretty much sums up what I experience on a regular basis.
Depression doesn’t take just one form. In the same person it can take MANY forms, the symptoms can vary drastically in severity, and you don’t necessarily always experience symptoms. So you can see how hard it is to understand depression. There are times when I feel truly happy. It can last for a few minutes, hours, or even a day. I don’t know where it comes from, but it both gives me hope and crushes me when it leaves. When it’s gone all I can think about is how I used to feel happy and now I don’t anymore, so I must be broken. And the only way to “fix” myself is to pretend to be happy, to try to get it back and to avoid talking to others about how awful you feel. “Fake it till ya make it.” Anyone living with depression has surely heard that, and many have adopted it as a way to fit themselves into “normal” society. It is how I hold conversations with acquaintances and strangers. It is how I work in an office full of people. It is how I go to parties and events.
Right now I am just trying to recognize and understand what is happening in my brain. 20 years ago I suffered a major nervous breakdown and I have dealt with functioning depression since then, but last year some of the more severe symptoms started returning. So for the first time in 20 years I am once again on psychotropics, much to my disdain but very much necessary. Through all this I am trying to be aware, to make sure I don’t lose sight of myself – the true me and not the depressed me. Because I am still me and I am still here. Even though some days I don’t even feel human, I keep faith that I am still in there somewhere, and all of this is just bad chemicals in my brain. And some day I will wake up and not feel this way. I live for those days.
Some days I wish I could care less, feel less. Today I wish I could care more – to feel something. I pretend to be happy about things like camping, boating, soaping, because I know I enjoy those things, and I want desperately to feel excited about doing them. But honestly I would rather stay in bed and sleep. A lot of times our loved ones can take that feeling personally – like they aren’t enough to keep us in the game. I can see how that would seem to be offensive. But it isn’t about them. I am the only one that can keep me in this game. And I have to do that. So I wake up, convince myself that getting out of bed is the right thing to do, put forth an effort in my appearance – hair, makeup, clothes – so no one will know what is really going on inside. So I don’t hurt my family’s feelings. So my friends don’t ask me what’s wrong. Because I only have ome answer to that question – me.
If you’re reading this and experience the same thing, I am writing this so you know you are not alone. Thanks to others’ stories I know I’m not the only one who goes through this, and it is through their strength and bravery that I have decided to start sharing. Functioning depression is a real thing, it’s a serious thing, and it isn’t something we need to keep stepping around. Because the less we address it, the less we discuss it, the more alone we all feel. And when our family feels like we’ve turned our backs on them, and our friends feel like we’re shutting them out, we need each other. We need to know there are others out there in these dark holes, trying to figure out what acting “normal” entails, wondering if we will ever truly feel like we have a place in this world.
I’m pretty sure I have a place in this world, even if I can’t see it. I exist, so I take up a place, and it is my place. I am trying to do the best I can with what I’ve been given. Some days that’s not good enough for others, most days it’s not good enough for me. But my story isn’t over yet. As long as I get out of bed each day I will continue to consider that one of my greatest accomplishments.
(P.S. – I have been sitting here for several minutes with my mouse pointer over the “Publish” button, my heart racing. The thought of putting all this out there for everyone to read is tightening my chest and closing up my throat. I have read, re-read, and re-re-read these paragraphs. Good Southern Girls don’t air their dirty laundry. A Lady doesn’t discuss such personal matters on social media. But this has been on my mind for a while, and something in my soul is saying it is necessary. It is time to talk. It is time to stop being silent.)