Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Depression Looks Like

Earlier this year a friend of mine asked if she could take my picture.  She's spending the year focusing on the importance of the people in her life, A Year of Faces.  I was one of many she'd asked and declined at first.  It was a very dark time in my life.  Not a time I would look my best.  I explained to her where I was emotionally and asked if I could participate later, when I felt better.

She said she understood and, of course, we could wait if I wanted to.  But if I was willing, she'd like to capture where I was right then.  The darkness.

And I knew it was right.  I needed this to happen.  Even though it wouldn't be pretty and even though it was difficult, it was also so important.  I agreed to do it.

She sent me some pictures she'd found on the internet of depression.  Some were very stylized, very artsy.  Some were blank stares.  Some were silhouettes.  I understood why people associated these with depression.  And these might represent depression for some people, or even me at some times.

But not this time.  None of these came close this time.

This was my darkest time, at least the darkest I can remember.  This was the most painful depression I've ever had.  And the most unrelenting.  Months and months of pain and numbness and isolation and fear and loneliness and sadness and confusion and anxiety and guilt and exhaustion.

The day she came I was wearing the same pajamas I'd been wearing for three or four days straight.  My hair was dirty because I just didn't have the energy or will to shower.  She was the first person I'd invited into my home in weeks.

She asked me to tell her about my current struggle as she took photos.  She was gentle and kind.  She listened and asked questions.  It was an important moment.

She used one photo for her project.  I've been saving the others for the right time.  Today is the right time.

These photos are difficult for me to look at.  They hurt.  But people need to understand what depression is and I believe these will help.

Thank you, Karen, for capturing a hidden moment that needs to be seen.

My fingertips are pressing on the spot where I've had a headache for nine years.  When I cry, I tend to furrow my brow; this makes my head hurt worse.  I press on that spot to try to get the muscles to release and relieve the pain.  It helps a little.
Depression makes me feel incredibly vulnerable.  I have no emotional energy to protect myself.  That's part of why I isolate.  So often, when I am with other people, I feel the need to defend or explain myself.  When I am in a depression I just have nothing in me to do that.  I have no strength or will to draw boundaries and defend them.  It's easier to just be alone than to feel like a rag doll at the whim of those around me.  I often find myself in the fetal position in an attempt to seal myself off from the world and keep myself safe.
Sometimes my depressions are emotionless.  I feel nothing.  Most of the time it was like that.  Dull.  Blank.  Empty.  Nothing.  Other moments were like this.  Gut-wrenching.  Crying from the deepest parts of myself.  Falling to the ground sobbing.  Unable to stop shaking from the shredding of my soul. 
And this is how I felt so much of the time.  For months and months and months.  Like an empty shell.  Depleted.  Like everything that made me who I was had been taken away.  Worthless.  Like I had nothing to offer the world.  Without hope.  Without purpose.  Gone.  Lost.  Alone.
This is what depression looks like.  It's not a bad day.  It's not when things go wrong.  It's when the world is pulled out from under me and I am plunging to my death and I just don't even care.