I don’t remember all the details of what it actually felt like to be that depressed. I can make an effort to remember – if I sit here and close my eyes and embody a glimpse of the lethargic, heavy, sobbing memory. After all, it had been my norm and my way of being for over a decade from age thirteen and well into my late twenties. It was like being wrapped in a heavy blanket that restricted my mobility, with chains hanging from my limbs and neck, and my own voice talking more loudly in my own head than any noises around me. What I do remember clearly was how much effort it took for me to be present to reality. It was like swimming against a heavy current with everyone watching very closely and screaming “what’s wrong with you? Just swim and stop crying.”
Because my mind was so absent, distracted, and disconnected from what was happening in real time, I don’t remember much in terms of the sequence of events and I don’t share memories in the same way as my friends and family. I just remember things as someone who was watching passively from the sidelines. Or better yet, I was sitting on the couch and watching life go by on a screen from a completely different experience of place and time. My favourite thing to do and what I craved all day long was the feeling of closing my bedroom door, hibernating from the world, curling in a ball, crying profusely, and ruminating on how much I was hated by everybody including me. No joke. I craved it. Although I could somehow function through most of my schooling, sports, and other activities, my body spoke so loudly – begging me to just get out, get home, so I could sink and wallow in my self-pity. I just don’t remember everything that went on around me for that decade because of my foggy brain activity.
I see it now in people who come to see me to heal from this same feeling. And those who are courageous enough to admit what’s going on will say “but what if I don’t want to get better?” or “what is wrong with me that I actually like wallowing in my self-pity?”. I usually respond by acknowledging that reality as just a part of the ironic symptomatology. And I let them know that there is also a way out of that irony. Because while it’s comfortable in that predictable and familiar kind of way, it’s also an extremely lonely place to be. I do remember that very clearly. I remember feeling so alone, so on my own, and the ruminating was always about “why me?”. Yet, by curling up into a ball and literally shutting out the world around me, I got to not have to be responsible for anything including my own well-being. My room was my sanctuary where I could cry as heavily as I wanted to and just be with my sob story. It’s how I could let everyone know how badly they had hurt me. Come to think of it, it was a delusion of my only means of communicating what was going on with me. I kept hoping that someone would help me, instead of standing by the side of the river screaming “What’s wrong with you? Just swim and stop crying.” I finally did meet someone who showed me how to swim more efficiently – how to focus my mind so intently that I became able to get through the heavy current and breathe and see everything around me more clearly.
It wasn’t a straight forward, linear process. I’m talking another decade of on and off craving for the comfort of the sadness and loneliness that had been my identity. But eventually, it all became a distant memory. Healing is just that way – two steps forward, one step back, three forward, two back, as we meet and overcome all the obstacles along our way. I haven’t wallowed in that way in years now – turns out I know how to be happy.