Great question, hypothetical reader!
First, I want to share with you the inspiration for this post: struggling to help people understand [my] mental illness. Second, I want to share with you these two posts by Allie Brosh about her depression. Her posts have cute, funny drawings and mine probably won’t, so I urge you to read them. Third, I don’t expect that this post will be very well-written or -composed, but my thoughts aren’t either so maybe they’re a good representation of my state of mind.
Depression and anxiety are not the same for everyone. No disease, not even those that are well-understood by the general public, is. However, they do have certain criteria associated with them, most notably those in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (incidentally, DSM-5 was published last year while I was taking a psychology class). For me, they influence my daily life, despite medication and therapy. They create a vicious cycle of not doing things, worrying about not doing things, and being too freaked-out to do things. Basic routines normal people complete every day–bathing, tooth-brushing, changing clothes, running errands, sleeping at night, leaving the house–can’t be taken for granted. If something doesn’t take near-zero effort to get done, it probably won’t.
I’m not an incredibly busy person; I don’t actually have a lot on my plate. So my reasons for not being able to clear it can sound a lot like excuses…not that I don’t make excuses, but I’m not always trying to excuse my behavior. I keep my portions small on purpose; if they were much bigger, I would be too overwhelmed to even touch, nay, look at my food. Even if my absolute favorite food ever in the entire universe is on that plate, I don’t always get around to it. (This is actually a bad metaphor, because food is one of the few things that does motivate me, which sucks because I’m already overweight.) At the moment and in general, my responsibilities/to-do list include giving my dog a bath, getting my sleep cycle back to normal, washing my bedding, filing my nails, putting away clothes, studying for my chemistry class, doing homework for my cosmetology class, cleaning my room, trimming my hair, exfoliating my face, posting here about the dozens of things I’ve swatched and photographed in the last two years, washing dishes, going to the gym at the very least once a week, hear/read/watch countless classics, trying on jeans I ordered online, making my boyfriend put aloe vera gel on his sunburn, and so many other chores I wish did themselves. In contrast, the things I can almost always bother to do include sleeping when it’s least convenient, checking blogs, reading reddit, finding something not horrible on TV, snuggling with my cat, and going to the bathroom no more than a few times a day (I included this to emphasize how utterly lazy I am that I have become an expert at “holding it in”).
Not having any of the fucks required to get shit done means being really disappointed in myself, and afraid and ashamed that others are disappointed in me as well. I can’t fathom what kind of monster happy pills I would have to be on to have a job as well as go to school. Right now I’m doing okay, I’m about a quarter of the way through a semester, but toward the last few weeks of a course I invariably slip at least a bit. Procrastinating on studying and homework means rushing the night before class to learn what I may have missed when I was too anxious to attend lecture a week ago, and not being fully prepared for the exam on Tuesday, so when I remember that I have to finish that worksheet I get an anxiety attack and put it away so I can calm down and minutes, hours, days pass and nothing actually got done, despite all my worrying. Everything crescendos into a tsunami that I can’t possibly run away from and I don’t know how to swim through.
Obviously productivity fails me. But also, I haven’t had a real social life in years, which is funny, because in high school I thought I didn’t have a social life. Little did I know how much worse it could get! (Retrospect sucks.) I struggle not just to make new friends, but to keep in touch with my old ones. The only person I keep in regular contact with is my boyfriend, who practically lives with me. When the opportunity to socialize does present itself, it’s hard to come up with conversation that’s not completely awkward, unrelatable, and irrelevant. A lot of times when I sense incoming normal human interaction, I end up averting eye contact and yawning (hey, it works) so I don’t have to put in the effort. It really shouldn’t require “effort,” but damn, it does. “Socializing” on the Internet can even be hard, because I see people who are more successful, beautiful, funny, and liked than I am, and instead of being inspired (which would actually have a positive effect, which we can’t have, nope), I become jealous and self-loathing and sometimes I seriously consider deactivating my Facebook account.
So as to not make this post completely pitiful, because depression shouldn’t be communicable: I do actually go to the gym. Usually begrudgingly, and less often now that I have to semi-focus on school, but it happens. I do cardio and squat and lift weights and use machines I still find strange and amusing. My biceps are more toned, my butt is bigger, I don’t suck at breathing as much, and I’m stronger than ever before. Since March 8th I’ve also kept track of what I eat, because I’ve been slowly, but surely, ballooning over the years. It’s not really a diet–I eat the same terrible-for-me things–but I eat less and am aware of what I’m putting into my body…most of the time; a lot of foods are infuriatingly difficult to find accurate nutritional information for. If you’re curious, I go to LA Fitness wearing this or this (all three of which I do recommend), and use this app (which often pisses me off so I don’t really recommend it, but it’s what I use). Yay being marginally healthier.