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.


Kristie Wolf said...

Those of us who know you still see your beauty in those pictures. I wish that each one of the many of us who call you a friend could take away a sliver of the darkness for you. Thanks for sharing. Love you!

Dawnelle said...

What a beautiful comment, Kristie, and exactly how I feel. Thanks, Robin, for your friendship! I do see so much beauty in these pictures and in you.

Savvyworkinggal said...

This week I had a conversation with someone about depression. He said how could Robin have done that to his family blah blah blah... I tried to tell him what depression feels like when it isn't a case of the blues. That I had read a book where the author described what it felt like and I got it. It was the best description of what depression felt like I had ever read. I could not think of what book it was. Then last night when I couldn't sleep it came to me - it was one of your blog posts. So happy to hear you are feeling better. Keep writing - you are a wonderful writer and I still say you have a book in you.

Also, I can see your beauty in your photo's too. Along with your suffering.

Unknown said...

What a moving and educational post. I would love for you to share a picture on my Photo Friday Blog Party.


Edna Guerrero said...

Depression is a numbing thing. I have felt everything you've mentioned. Sorry you are dealing with depression but by talking about it will help.

Anonymous said...

Hopping over from your comment on my blog. I can't see the pictures as I'm blind, but I want you to know I can totally relate to these dark times and the consequences for self-care and care for your appearance. You are very brave for having allowed your frined to take pictures of you during this time, and also for showing them now.

TDashfield said...

Stopping by from Sharefest to give you a hug.

Unknown said...

Thank you for being brave and vulnerable in this fight against the stigma of depression. What an excellent post. So often we put on a face to disguise depression, and you didn't do that here. What an honest look at the darkness. Thank you, thank you! Thank you for sharing your story and your fight in the midst of a difficult battle. Hugs to you.

Kori at Home said...

Thank you for sharing this and for sharing the truth in depression. It's not easy, it can be ugly, it can be consuming. But, by sharing your story- who knows, you may have inspired someone. Thank you again.

Leslie said...

Aww, honey. I hope you find the brightness in your life. I don't know what your facing but hopefully you find relief soon. I was like this and it took me a long time to break through. I'm stopping by from SITS & I know this is the first time coming across you & your blog but it helps to talk. I'm not a judgmental person so shoot me an email if ya need someone to talk to. xHugsX

pattygardner.com said...

I hate to admit that I was one of those people who thought depression was something you brought on yourself by bad choices and bad attitude. And just as you brought it on, you could get rid of it by pulling yourself up by your boot straps and being more positive.

Then I had a bout with depression. It was nothing like you deal with. It was an isolated incident brought on by a bad situation. But I struggled and I cried and I sat on the couch and I couldn't beat it. I didn't even know what it was. Then my friend insisted I go to the doctor. I went and he knew immediately I was depressed. He prescribed an antidepressant and sleeping pills. Once I was knew what it was and got some sleep, I was able to start dealing with it. I was getting better. Then the person I had the conflict with apologized. It was like the depression immediately lifted. But I learned from that that depression isn't as simple as I first thought. In fact, it's nothing like what I thought.

Then I went through it with a family member. I learned a lot more. And she looked a little bit like you did in these photos. I'm certainly no expert but I've learned a lot and I understand a lot more than I did at first. From watching my family member, I know how painful it can be. Praying for you today, Robin.

liz said...

Thank you for sharing your deepest pain and struggles. It helps to know I and others are not alone and that how we feel matters.

Your honesty is moving.

I continue to read your posts.

thank you.


Sherri said...

I have been MIA for many months. I return and am happy to read you are better than when these photos were taken.

I can only imagine how hard it is to share the darkness but I am certain that your sharing will help someone who is currently in that darkness. And I hope that it helps you to share as well.