When I was depressed, I felt disconnected from the world.
It’s a hard feeling to describe, that feeling that nothing in the world matters.
That no smile is good enough.
That each task is pointless, especially the ones that should take the least amount of time and energy.
I’m fortunate that I haven’t had bouts of depression throughout my entire life — because many people do.
Through my volunteer work at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), I’ve worked with families whose children just couldn’t shake the depression curse. Nothing seemed to work for their kids. All I could do was console the frantic family members and tell them that everything would be alright. Because it’s an awful, whole-body feeling, depression is.
It’s the feeling that transforms into full-body, all-encompassing thoughts and questions.
Will everything really be alright?
Can I make it through this existence?
Most people feel like this at some point in their lives, and that’s why it’s a shame we don’t talk about it more often.
Depression is not weakness, just like love is not perfection.
Its qualities are mutable; as bad as the feelings get, there is always hope.
But when I was in the midst of a serious depression, during a period of about five months when I simply stopped sleeping, I didn’t see much hope at all.
I remember walking outside in Montana, where I was living at the time, into the most pristine spring days. Montana is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever lived in.
But mired in a dark pit of despair, it’s possible to know something logically but not actually feel it.
This is what some people don’t get about mental health issues.
I’ve also dealt with moderate to severe amounts of anxiety and depression in my life. I know, when I’m in the thick of it, that I’m not doing things that make much sense.
That’s why people with anxiety and OCD learn to hide it.
They don’t let everyone into their worlds when the world feels so small and constricted.
Because all of life, not just mental health, exists on a spectrum. We are all living on this continuum.
When I’m feeling my best, the world feels broad and airy and anything seems possible.
When I’m at my worst, which fortunately doesn’t happen very much anymore, I can’t see the connections that I know are there, the gossamer threads that are binding us all together.
I know now that my task in life is to swim along the spectrum, to manage the best I can.
But if I’m not mindful of my location on the gargantuan, dizzying spectrum, I get lost in the unfathomable distances.
It helps me to break it down into manageable chunks.
Sometimes I feel that I can’t get through the insufferable tedium of the day, but can I get through the next hour? The next 15 minutes?
I know I can.
The brain is the most powerful weapon in the world, but it’s still a weapon, and if not monitored carefully, it can get the best of you.
That’s why you must remember that you are on a spectrum, and there are other people swimming along on it with you.
That means, even when you feel disconnected — from others, from hope, from reality — there is someone else out there currently having the same experience.
We come from the same stuff.
Our brains are wired in ways that are at once unbelievably complex and beautiful.
All of your worst days have been lived before by someone who came before you and will be lived again by the ones who come after.
And the more you can gain that perspective, the more you will get yourself back into a point of connection and purpose.
Connection, for me, is a mentally healthy place to be.
And that’s because connection is a place of balance, of stasis.
Rather than talking about mental illness and mental health as binary, as either good or bad, we should be talking about the spectrum.
Rather than identifying people as weak or strong, we should be talking about the spectrum.
It’s the spectrum that is based in reality because even when I feel awful, I know that I’m still connected to a broad spectrum of other feeling states.
And I know I can get back to them.
Because I know it’s all part of the same chaotic, magical, incredible thing.
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