Time for my next level of vulnerability.
After my last post, dozens of people have asked me questions about depression and have commented that they never would have expected that I deal with it. Just like the ALS ice bucket challenge, I actually studied about ALS and realized I knew nothing about it. The first time I heard about it, I thought it was American Sign Language Foundation. I'm dumb.
Here are a few of the ideas and thought processes that I have dealt with in my years of depression. I know they do not speak as fact, but if I go through this, I'm sure at least one other person does. Please don't read this and think this is me 24 hours a day, it's usually me 15 min to a couple hours a day. BUT, there are some people who do deal with it 24 hours a day, every day, for years.
1) Depression, Anxiety, and stress go hand in hand for me. I get overwhelmed very easily and I have to go into a zone to deal with everything at once. When I get overwhelmed, I become quiet and easily irritable. It has nothing to do with anyone personally. I get frustrated with myself that I can't deal with it and that it affects me, which causes more stress and anxiety, and that causes more depression. Then I get angry that something is causing me more stress and my anger is layered with the subtext "why are you in my life right now?"
2) I go negative instantly and really have to be in the right state of mind to think positively. The worst phrases you can ever say to me. "I need to talk to you", "Can we talk?", "Call me back as soon as you can". When I hear an open ended conversation that has to deal with me, it can only be bad things. It's never followed with, "I want to give you more money". I go back into my database and try to figure out where I've screwed up along the way. Then I put about 50 things that I could be yelled at or shamed for and that sits in my head until the conversation occurs. Then even if any of those 50 things weren't brought up, they will stay with me for a long time.
3) I can be made to feel like shit in a matter of seconds. It's easy. It's the power everyone has over me. You could tell me one thing I've done wrong and I'll hold on to that for weeks. Tell me two things, and my summer is destroyed.
4) My depression hasn't hit extremely low in some time, but dips into that area every so often. A depressed person feels sorry for all the problems they have caused you. If I hadn't done this, said this, shown this to you, etc, then YOU would be a better and happier person. My existence has caused you pain and anger and I am more sorry than you could ever know.
Are you reading this and shaking your head and saying get over it?
5) Telling me that I shouldn't be depressed or that I should be over something or not let something bother me is probably the worst thing you can do. I remember in college, a friend pretended he was me and listed all the great things I had in my life and then said "But I refuse to be happy" and everyone laughed. It might have been the single worst moment of my life. If I could flush all my paychecks down the drain in order to not deal with this, I would. I dwell. I let myself have too many regrets. If I'm made to feel guilty about something I already know is a problem and already am ashamed and am called out on it, you have beat me in more ways you know how. I absolutely, 100% know that there are things that bother me and that I dwell on that I shouldn't. Telling me that it bothers you and that I need to get over it doesn't make me get over it, it tells me that my mental illness bothers you and I should be better and now I'm depressed that you have to know me and have me in your life.
6) I will avoid conflict at all costs. I doubt everything I do on a daily basis. I have failed and screwed up so many things in my life, I think it's the norm. If I bring up conflict or argue with someone, eventually I will back down because there is no way that I am right. Conflict causes anger, anger causes resentment, resentment causes someone to think less of me and that I'm incompetent, and all of that makes me more depressed.
7) I dwell on things way past the point they should be dwelled about. I know this and I try to not let it. I know it's stupid. You pointing out that I'm still dwelling on something I shouldn't be makes me beat myself up more.
8) The snowball effect: I have learned over the years to identify my triggers that put me in a negative state. Sometimes one blind sides me and anywhere from 10 minutes, to an hour, to a day I will have accumulated 30 things why I suck and why I only bring pain and stress to myself and other peoples' lives.
9) Everyone is better than me. Period.
10) I've gone back and forth on this one, but I can't figure out if depression causes someone to be defensive and deflect blame for everything or accept all the blame. Someone being defensive causes me to be really angry, but I don't know if it's because I say "I'm mentally weak and I can accept blame, so why can't someone strong like you accept blame?"
11) If I hear what people have said behind my back, I might as well chalk the day up to being useless. Goes back to if I wasn't in that person's life, I couldn't cause them anger or stress and that they had to take time out of their life to tell someone else what I do wrong in life or the decisions I make aren't right.
12) Telling me what I do wrong is awarding yourself the Captain Obvious title. I know what I do wrong. And if I don't know what I do wrong, and you making me feel guilty or ashamed of it has now put me 3 rungs down on my self confidence.
13) 100 things go perfectly for me in a day. One thing goes wrong? I will dwell on that one thing for the rest of the day. Wish I didn't. Man, I wish I didn't.
14) Please don't tell a depressed person to "just cheer up".
15) There have been many times in my life I wanted to call out of work "because I'm depressed" but would be laughed at, but if I had food poisoning, a headache, or a fever, I would have a free pass.
16) There are many times I believe I'm the only person who ever feels this way.
17) I HATE that I have to take medication for this.
18) There is a world of difference between asking someone "What's wrong with you?" and "Is everything ok?"
19) Don't ever feel like you have to fix or heal someone who is sad. Sometimes just listening is enough.
20) There is not a human being in the world who can say or do something to make me feel worse than I have made myself feel at some point for the exact same thing.
21) There is a very special bond between people who suffer from stress/anxiety/depression and when they ask are you ok and you say "panic attack", they understand 100% and know exactly what to do.
When someone who doesn't understand goes into "what can I do" mode and you say nothing and they say they feel bad for not being able to help.....that causes more depression and more guilt.
22) Boring people is a huge fear of mine.
23) Being too much for people is a huge fear of mine.
24) Sometimes being in the presence of people is a huge fear of mine.
25) Sometimes being alone is a huge fear of mine.
26) I have imaginary arguments with people in my head all day and lose most of them.
27) I recognize when I'm having irrational thoughts and feelings, and when I'm out of the depression they seem ludicrous, but inside the depression, they are the realest things in the world.
Please don't respond to this with positivity and "Jason...blah blah blah". This is solely an informational post that might just save a friendship, relationship, or maybe a life by someone who reads it. I went through a bad time in my life and that was mostly because I didn't understand it AT ALL. Now that I can look at it from the outside, I can recognize it and label it, I can defeat and conquer it, and sometimes it punches me in the nuts, I have now learned to manage it and have taught my wife how to deal with it. She has a special place in heaven. 20 years ago I went from being depressed and having irrational thoughts and feelings 80% of the day to 10% now. But damnit, that 10% can be a mountain sometimes.