Depression and Being Nice to Yourself

There are at least as many kinds of depression as there are people with depression. The Bloggess, for example, describes the onset of her depression as a literal darkening of her world as her peripheral vision disappears and everything she sees becomes trapped by darkness.

Mine has been a bit different. Up until last week, my depression has always arrived in a somewhat menacing fashion, like the earliest whisper of an enormous wave. The world rocks sideways and the boat tips slightly and I feel the absolute despair of knowing that I’m caught in the grasp of something much bigger than I am. It isn’t there yet, not quite, but the wave is coming, and it’s going to dash the boat to bits, and there’s nothing in the world I can do to stop it.

(Now, oddly, it turns out there actually are some things I can do that usually help somewhat, but the feeling at the time is one of helplessness.)

Last week, I learned that depression doesn’t always manifest the same way even for one person. Frankly, I feel like I could have done just fine without knowing this, but I didn’t get much choice in the matter. One moment I was having a spectacularly bad day, and the next, I found myself sitting vaguely at my desk, wondering why it was so difficult to believe that depression hurts so badly even when it’s actually happening to you, and also thinking vaguely that I should probably stand up and do something. Eventually, I did, which is to say, I managed to sloth myself upstairs to the bedroom and curl up in a miserable little ball in the dark.

This was actually a more productive action than it might appear to be on the surface. You see, what with the long lead time on my usual waves of depression, I have plenty of days to get more and more freaked out about the pending disaster, which means that I go farther and farther down the rabbit hole of pushing myself to work like mad before it hits. It doesn’t take much more than a moment of thought to realize that this is wildly counterproductive, and yet I do it every time, only to proclaim, after it’s all over, “I really have to be nicer to myself while I’m dealing with this stuff.”

This time, I was halfway through trying to push myself to work late into the evening (a process that mostly involved me doing nothing productive, just staring teary-eyed at the wall while waves of pain welled up and ebbed away) when I realized that I was falling into the same trap all over again. I was even composing a grumpy post about it when I realized – ta-da! – I could just, you know…put that “being nicer to myself” thing into action right then.

And not only did I go to bed to get some rest, I even managed to brush my teeth. Like a boss. (Okay, so depression warps the normal life goalposts a bit sometimes.)

It took a bit to get back to normal, as it always does, but allowing myself to rest, freeing myself from the barrage of angry, hateful insults I so often throw at myself during those periods, made a huge difference. I guess the point I’m making is, whether it’s something to file away for later, or something to put into practice right now, being nice to yourself when you’re dealing with runaway herds of brainweasels is something that really helps. I know how difficult it is, and I know there isn’t even a good reason for why it’s difficult – it just seems like an impossible thing. But I’m here to say I’m struggling along with you, and I hope you’ll cut yourself a break.

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