This post features a glimpse into my experience with depression, something that I call “Flash Flood Depression”. I know that when you are going through a depressive episode reading about someone else’s experience can do one of two things. It can either give you peace of mind relating to the solidarity of another persons story, or it can stir already tumultuous emotions. For that reason I would like to offer a trigger warning prior to showing you the rest of this post. Still here? Then let’s do what we’ve always done and press onward.
Depression sometimes lulls you into a funk. Like drifting into sleep and one day you wake up thinking “I don’t feel well…actually, I haven’t felt well in a long time”. Sometimes it sneaks up on you and hits you all at once, with a frightening voracity, it’s a cacophony of self-deprecation, “you worthless piece of shit. Why do you exist you waste of space?” I don’t know I’ve never really felt like I fit in. I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to have very close, intimate, friendships and romantic relationships. But I always felt like an outsider to the majority. Even in my own family. Sometimes especially in my own family.
Everyone has demons. Rearing their ugly heads at the most inopportune times. Like being at a crowded bar and having a sudden uncontrollable urge to cry. Having to give a presentation and trying to choke down tears. And most commonly (for me), at night when trying to fall asleep and feeling like gravity has intensified a hundred-fold. Asking the demons why they’re there…why now? And they always say the same thing: “you called for us”. Or perhaps more accurately: “you created us.” I understand that the majority of mental illness cases are hereditary, but by indulging in your diagnosis, by saying you are your mental illness, the grip that these malignant thoughts have on you doubles their reinforcements.
These moments of flash flood depression are more like a levee breaking. You add a bit more water behind the dam with every self-injurious thought you have or action you take. Beating yourself up like: “you idiot, why did you say that?” “You’re too ugly to get a guy like that.” “Why do I even try, everything I create is terrible.” Each of these negative thoughts adds more and more pressure to the wall to the levee and in a moment of “performance”, it comes flooding through. This may be a personal record of how it happens for me, but in a circumstance where I feel I need to be “on” or “perform”, are the times when these floods of negativity hit me. Like being in a crowded bar, seeing everyone talking, mingling, dancing, laughing, and you feel like crying just because. Because you’re not that person, wouldn’t it be easier if you were that person? Or because you can’t dance like that person, wouldn’t it be great if you could dance like that person? Or because you can’t speak up like that person, wouldn’t it be great if you could speak up like that person? Anyone but me…just let me be anyone but me.
This is what depression does. You continue to add drops in the bucket until it becomes too much and overflows. It’s important to recognize just how often you think of yourself in a negative light. Because for me, I never really realized HOW OFTEN I would pelt myself with negative thoughts and actions. Once I began to account for the frequency of the personal mental attacks, I was able to start countering them.
At first, you won’t believe yourself. But the next time you think of yourself in a negative way like: “I hate the way I look.” Start small and counter it with a positive thought, think, “I really like my lips, and my eyes”. Initially, it will be hard for your mind to accept this affirmation. In fact, it will do everything in its power to convince you of the opposite, but nevertheless, try this with EVERY negative thought you catch in the act.
It’s not perfect, but it helps. It’s a hell of a lot better to start recognizing your thought patterns and understanding your triggers than to think, “I feel awful, I am awful, but I have no idea why.
There’s no formula for mental health. No perfect path. Everyone is different. I was told that if you are “sad” for more than two weeks, you were depressed. But what if I’m fine for a while and then don’t get out of bed for three days? Do I have to be sad all day to be depressed? Or can depression not affect me for most of the day and then make me want to hurt myself when I get home?
If your thoughts are starting to become a hindrance to your happiness, especially if you stop doing things that you once enjoyed, or feel helpless or hopeless, please…please talk to someone. If you can afford it, a licensed mental health professional is preferable because they will be much more apt to guide you towards a healthier mental disposition faster. If this is impossibility, go to someone you trust. Someone that will listen to your whole story without judgment. I know it can be difficult to see the surface when you’re floundering in a swamp, but it gets so much fucking better. Believe me, I know that swamp all too well, and yeah I still take a dip in it every now and again, but the difference is now I know how to swim.
Much love & many adventures,