For me, a day with depression often looks like this:
The alarm goes off, and I hit snooze. One, two, three times.
The air is too cold and the light is too bright and I can’t for the life of me think of any good reason to get out of bed. My bed is warm, safe.
My head and stomach hurt; I realize that I definitely didn’t eat enough yesterday. My body is sore, a physical manifestation of my mental exhaustion.
I remember that I canceled plans on someone last night. It’s only 8AM, but I already know I’m too tired to do anything tonight. I wonder what I need to bail on now. Should I call in sick to work?
You can call in “sick with the flu” but you can’t call into work “depressed as hell” so I’m either outright lying to my boss or I’m going into the office. Just the thought of asking for the day off makes my heart race and my mind panicky so this morning anxiety beats depression and I get out of bed to go to work.
I spend forever deciding what to wear, which is funny since it doesn’t matter—I think everything looks awful when I feel awful. But I pick my favorite skirt and shoe combination and top it off with bright red lipstick. Somehow that helps a little.
I get to work and finish my coffee as I settle in for the day. I enjoy some alone time before other people start to arrive, and I summon up my best fake smile. On one hand, every interaction with people today fills me with dread—I just want to be left alone. On the other hand, as I talk to people throughout the day, I do start to feel bit better as people ask how I’m doing, how my applications for school are coming, and what fun plans I have for the weekend. It’s tiring, answering all their questions, but their presence is strangely comforting.
The end of the workday finally rolls around, and I have a half an hour before I’m supposed to be meeting friends for happy hour. Happy hour…it’s an ironic event to go to when you’re this depressed. I spend 20 minutes of that half hour sitting in my car, debating whether to go or to cancel. I decide to go, and when I arrive I’m early – the only one there so far. My anxiety kicks into overdrive, wondering if they’re bailing on me. I wouldn’t blame them; after all, my depression reminds me that I’m worthless, a burden, and my friends don’t really like me anyway. But they arrive, and I am relieved to see this small “truth” of depression proven wrong. I am both overwhelmed and pleased to see my friends; I am still mentally exhausted, but being with them gives me energy. We talk about life, work, love, plans, and I start to feel the tiniest bit of the cloud inside me dissipate.
The sun is setting and, for as dark as my mood is, I have to admit that it’s beautiful. I pull into my parking spot at my apartment and sit in the car a minute longer to finish the song I’m listening to. I check my mail and see I have a letter from a friend. I set it on the kitchen table, knowing it will make me happy to read in the morning. I change into my pajamas and crawl into bed.
I pull out my book but after only a chapter I’m ready to sleep. I put on some music that reminds me of the ocean, and I take a deep breath.
Sometimes, when I’m depressed, it takes every ounce of strength I have to just get through the day. Days like these aren’t great. Honestly, most of the time they’re not even good.
But I get through them. I can get through these days, even if they aren’t pretty. And if I can get through those days, I know I can get through tomorrow. Some days, that’s all you can ask for.
Often, it’s hard to remember this. I have to consciously remind myself: Some days, the accomplishment is just getting through the day—and that’s OK. Stories of people doing big, awesome, important things while living with depression and anxiety are wonderful. They should be proud, and I am grateful for those who have stories like that to share. But it is 100% OK if surviving the day is the only thing you checked off your mental to-do list. That counts as a “big, awesome, important thing.”
There will be days like these. There will certainly be days worse than these. But a beautiful truth remains—there will be better days, too. There will be days you will laugh more than you cry. There will be days a smile creeps up on you and takes you by surprise.
I have a journal I like to look at on the bad days, and I use it to remind myself of the good days. It’s mostly notes and cards—words from people I care about, things that make me feel valued and loved. I hang on to these things to remind myself of the people and places and things that make me feel alive, the things I stick around for, the reasons I don’t let myself give up after a bad day. On bad days, on days where it feels like depression is going to win, these are the things remind me to hope for the next good day.
And there is reason for that hope: I know there will be better days.
So take care of yourself.
Do what you need to do to survive the day.
Meet yourself where you’re at.
Be kind to yourself.
And most importantly, fight for the next good day and hold on to the hope that the next good day will be the one that greets you in the morning.