Every time I feel it, I panic. It comes swooping in, stormy and scary. It feels like I’m running from that rhino cloud in James and the Giant Peach. I tend to go into defense mode; like when you can feel a cold coming on and you start taking measures to boost your immune system. I pop Vitamin C supplements, drink some lemon ginger tea, take a bunch of Emergen-C, and sleep as much as possible. It’s different with depression though, it arrives much quicker and less forgiving. My hope staggers, my smiles become forced. Sometimes I just stare into space, suddenly unaware of what’s happening inside or outside my head. I either cry more or become an empty vessel, numb to anything good around me. Everything feels heavy, suffocating both words and joy from my body.
I can usually feel and see it coming: I want to drink more, I crave running into the mountains, I get irritable with others, and my nails get bitten to bloody stumps. With these tell-tale signs in place, I retreat to my coping skills: I switch from coffee to tea, I journal and search the internet for inspirational quotes, I make an effort to sleep more, and I visit the mountains or reach out to a trusted friend. Most of the time, the fog will lift. I can keep the depression cloud at bay. Until I can’t.
This is the hardest place to be, this is where the deep frustration and internalized disappointment stems from. The shame cycle is rooted here. I unravel into a sad and self-loathing mess. I get pissed that none of the methods, articles about self-care, or books helped this time. I feel weak for being unable to control my happiness. This shame always hits me at surprising moments, too. The other day I was walking (in an attempt to try and “make” myself happier) and realized it had been three weeks of feeling so damn sad. And that’s when I acknowledged the defeat, that’s when I accepted that I was undeniably stuck in the trenches. But with that acceptance came anger. I berated myself for not building a stronger shield, I analyzed my missteps and made mental notes of what to fix. I tore each thought and feeling and action apart in a desperate plea to make the next time different.
I fall into this mode of analyzing as a way to ignore my human parts, my flaws, I know this. I’m constantly preaching to my clients, reminding them that they are doing their best, that depression and anxiety aren’t their fault. I encourage them to be gentle with their hearts and their waves. It makes me sad that the words I preach and the advice I give loses its strength when I look in the mirror.
I keep hoping that depression and anxiety will become checked boxes. If I just keep “self-caring,” remaining positive, loving myself enough, eating healthy and working out regularly, it will eventually be over. I’ll only have to fight tooth and nail one more time before they’re gone forever, right? I am consistently humbled by how wrong I am. I am a firm believer in self-love, but especially for those who feel as though they are endlessly running uphill. Because no, it won’t go away forever, there will always be storms and clouds and waves. There will be moments when you push that depression a little farther away, and there will be moments when it sits on you, engulfing everything around you once again. When this happens, and it will, know that it has nothing to do with your strength. You did not fail. You are not weak.
What we owe ourselves during these spinning days and gut-wrenching relapses, is gentleness. We owe ourselves kindness for taking on a life-long fight with scary dark rhino clouds, and patience for our bodies and hearts while we search for hope and light as we journey between battles.