On coming to terms with cyclical depression

For as long as I can remember, I’ve dealt with depression. It’s a kind of depression that comes and goes; when it comes, often out of the blue, it knocks me off my feet and makes me feel desperate. It makes me sure that I need help beyond what I could ever do for myself. When it goes, it talks me out of following through. It makes me feel like the feelings of desperation and anxiety I experience on my “down” days aren’t valid — like my complete lack of energy is just evidence of my laziness, evidence of my lack of worth and drive.

But when these down days come back around again, I know that this is not the reality. I realize, once again, that it’s not a choice to stay in bed, it’s just that I physically do not have the energy to move. On these days, I often lie down in bed on my stomach, flat as can be, and I’m honestly shocked that I don’t sink all the way through to the floor. I feel that sad, that heavy.

On other days, good days, I have the energy to get my to-do list done ahead of schedule, and I feel lighter on my feet. Somehow, it feels as though I catch every train right away, my hair looks good, and the last everything bagel at the coffee shop is MINE. On these days, I have the ability to get some writing done, and to take my dogs on a long walk, and to make plans with the friends I’ve neglected to text back. Sometimes, I even do my laundry. On these days, I want to cry happy tears for once.

Because my depression is cyclical, this up-and-down cycle can shift in a matter of hours, or a matter of weeks. How much it shifts varies, as well, and often the changes in my energy and mood are subtle. Other times, they’re drastic, and I can feel both my heart and energy level plummet.

For a long time, I was hard on myself when I’d have to cancel plans because I wasn’t feeling up to going somewhere, or when I’d have to take a nap in the middle of the day, but now, for the most part, I have learned to just accept the ebb and flow of things — to be open and honest with those close to me about my needs (whether those needs are space or intense closeness), and to be easy with myself, but it’s a process.

Sometimes, self care is easy, and is a simple matter of a hot shower or cuddling with my dogs. Other times, I find myself sobbing uncontrollably, wishing I had a logical reason for why I’m feeling the way I am. Honestly, I’ve wished for broken bones before just so that I had something to point to and say, “This, this is what hurts.” It’s harder to stop crying when you are forced to come to terms with the fact that what’s ailing you is more complicated than something gauze and plaster can put back together.

I am starting to realize that I can’t do it alone. I’ve recently become much more open about my depression, both in my personal life and in my writing, and it’s made me feel so much less alone. And while I’m not on medication, nor do I see a therapist, I’m coming around to the idea that I might like to try a treatment plan that involves both. Though I’m actually doing okay right now, perhaps it’s the perfect time to schedule appointments while I have the energy to do so.

I know that I’ll never be fully cured of my depression — it’s a part of me, and will be something I deal with forever. But accepting it’s something that will come and go forever is much easier than denying it, and it’s the only way to build a solid support network for when I need it most.

(Image via iStock)

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