One of the things I never took into account when I was younger was that mental health was not an either/or kind-of state. As a teenager I, like many other teenagers I knew, held onto my depression and anxiety as markers of who I was as a person. I was concerned about medication or the idea of “getting better” because it seemed threatening to my identity.
In the past few years there have been a lot of changes and most of the time I think I come across as a relatively stable person (certainly comparatively). I don’t spend most of my days depressed, I’m very accomplished (most of the time), my anxiety seems well managed, and I feel in general on solid footing. But what I’m gradually coming to realize is that depression doesn’t necessarily go away, so much as take on different, hopefully more manageable, forms.
These days the pattern is pretty predictable. There is a catalyst. It might be a big deal, like my chosen grad school putting off my application (and me correctly being certain it meant I was not going to get in). It might be something smaller like me ascertaining that the girl I’ve been on two dates with and have fairly fond feelings towards has probably decided things aren’t going to work out. Whatever it is, I spend most of the first day rationalizing it. I explain to myself all of the reasons this is a good learning opportunity and all of the things that I will be able to derive from the experience. A lot of them are often even correct, but probably not at the moment. I think about writing a blog, sometimes I do, but usually I put it off until later. I explain to a lot of people why I am fine and all of the many clear reasons that is true.
Then, by the end of the day I feel that part of things end and I start to spiral. I wouldn’t say it’s negative self-talk, although I suppose that occasionally comes up. Mostly everything just seems grey and I feel incredibly, overwhelmingly sad. I can bring myself to interact with others, and sometimes even to be charming but it takes a lot more out of me and I end the day collapsed on the couch staring at the television.
Once that happens I have realized there’s basically nothing I can do to get out of it. I also know it isn’t really about whatever the thing was that happened. My brain just takes that as a reason, or with whatever the catalyst is I go down the path my neurons have the most well-worn? Whatever it is, once I’m to that point I am aware that we just are where we are and it is time to hope it passes sooner rather than later. The one about school took I think close to a week. This one took two days.
I have a lot of frustration about the whole thing when I think about it. Like in some ways it feels out of nowhere every time. The cycle is predictable once it starts but the catalyst isn’t and it always seems like maybe this long period of being okay is the time I have thought my way out of it. Maybe this is the time I have finally made myself “better” (whatever that means). In fact this is far better than it was before. It is predictable and relatively rare. Knowing that it will pass makes it mostly easier to get through and my awareness of what is happening typically makes me more open, which makes people more supportive. It really is a far more sustainable world.
But I think there was some part of me that always just assumed I didn’t get better because I didn’t want to. Like obviously once I decided to get better, I should be totally fine. Except as it turns out that’s not true. I don’t know how many times I will have to realize that I cannot out-think my own brain. But it’s always disappointing.
So you know. Here we are. Everything is fine, and it will be fine. It’s just been a long couple of days and I am somewhat annoyed.