I’ve posted before explaining my struggle with mental disorders and spoke about how I wanted to create an open dialogue about mental health. Now I want to explain what it is like to battle against seasonal depression.
First off, does someone with the flu feel embarrassed when they admit they’re sick? Does someone with eczema get ridiculed as being attention seeking? Then why should someone with depression feel society’s wrath when they try and speak openly about their invisible illness? The stigma attached to depression and other mental illnesses is sickening and should be addressed. These are issues that many people suffer from that should be taken as seriously as visible illnesses.
I think it’s important to emphasize that I am happy with my life. It’s simply that my body doesn’t feel like I am. My brain chemistry is causing everything to register incorrectly. But I am more than content with my life. I suffer from a lesser level of depression year-round, but it’s definitely manageable and pales in comparison to how much worse it becomes in the colder months. Once it hits around October or November I basically become useless. I shut down and can barely muster the strength to eat.
A lot of people describe depression as a weight on your chest and/or in your gut. But I relate it more to the feeling of treading water. A constant, exhausting full-body feeling that causes every second that passes to bring me closer to the brink of giving up. Any moment and anything too heavy can cause me to slip under the surface, suffocating as I gasp for air.
As I go into the winter months, I can remember how much easier things had been for me when it was warmer. I could write, paint, even leave the house without becoming unbearably exhausted and unbearably heavy. So heavy. These memories keep trying to pull me under as I dwell on the fact that I know I should be able to do these things. I was able to do them a few weeks ago, why not now? Eventually, as the snow falls and I get deeper into the winter months, it gets easier for me as I am no longer being pulled down by the under tide of the memory of summer. I simply become an entity – an echo of myself – treading water in attempts to keep breathing. Constantly having to put forth effort to do the simplest tasks.
Eventually, I hit a plateau and the world stops crashing down on top of me. All the debris has fallen and the dust is beginning to clear. The weight of life is still on top of me but I can begin to dig myself out. Piece by piece I pull the ruble off of myself and start to return to the me I want to be. Finally, I come out from beneath the broken waves and find the shore. I look around and see spring has sprung.
Only to go through it all again later that year.