I thought I’d talk about a feeling that seems to be awfully common to everyone who deals with depression: That everyone else is moving forward in their lives except you.
I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say I’m guilty of this. Social media is especially bad for that just because among pictures of your breakfasts and outing with bae people tend to announce major life events on social media. That’s just how it works. But it’s understandable to feel frustrated when the whole world seems to be completing their studies, putting in a deposit for their first house or getting engaged while you were just about to give yourself a pat on the back for brushing your teeth.
Depression by is an isolating experience by it’s very nature. It’s difficult for people who haven’t been through it themselves to understand what it’s like and many depression sufferers also isolate themselves physically from other people. I know that I become a complete hermit when I’m down. Not only you might feel too tired to spend time with others but their experiences and announcements might be just too much to bear.
It is frustrating. And the fact that depression works on the slowest schedule in the world does not help. Your life may often appear to be a fucking remake of ‘Groundhog day’, except more boring, and everyone else is gliding forward effortlessly while you stay firmly stuck in your rut.
It doesn’t matter that people tend out to leave out the mundane and the horrible bits when they share something on social media. Compared against major life events the bravery of going to the shop and talking to another human being does look puny in comparison.
The thing is, tough tits. Because this is where you are right now. Through no fault of your own and unfairly but this is the reality. The illness dictates a new set of difficulty levels and all you can do is to painstakingly peel your gaze off the Facebook post and concentrate on your victory of the day: I cleaned. I changed the sheets. I got upset but didn’t harm myself. When comparing against the levels of energy and motivation depression offers you, all of these things become achievements comparable to the joy and pride of putting the deposit in for your first house.
Depression has taught me new perspectives on things. I’ve had to come to terms with the concept that doing my laundry is an achievement worth a fanfare and that on a bad day the fact that I made it through is a victory in itself. Things considered as achievements in the ‘normal’ world are so much work that it’s inconceivable to think about doing the same. The thing is, I don’t have to either. It just isn’t possible at the moment.
That’s why the expectations need to change. They just do. Otherwise you’re just going to give yourself an ulcer. It is unfortunate but at the moment there’s nothing you can do about it. This is your life and unfortunately you have to live it in the new experience of time that depression gifts you: One day at a time.
It’s easy to forget when looking at filtered social media posts that these people are at least supposedly healthy. To them the tasks that form everyday life are not overwhelming because they have the energy levels and resilience required to magically turn what seems like an overwhelming challenge to a depressed person to a chore that you don’t even think about. That’s because they are well. Their experience of reality is just different.
Also they may be feeling poorly themselves but not showing it. I know I posted my fair share of achievements for the world to admire and felt absolute shit while doing it. You do it because you want to keep the appearances up both for yourself and others. You want to be OK. And also this just might spur you on to face another day: “It’s going to be all right.”
I know how frustrating it is. Believe me, I know. Depression has the clock of its own but it’s one of those ones where you can never trust that it hasn’t stopped working within the last five minutes when you haven’t paid attention to it, is running late and seems to differ completely from other people’s sense of time. To some people it might be incomprehensible how someone who appears the same on the outside can still be so unwell months and months later. That’s not anyone’s fault though. It’s just the depression. The fucking bastard.
I also know that nobody wants to hear this because it seemingly leaves you stuck where you were but you can’t compare yourself to others. At the moment it just isn’t possible for you to do things that they’re capable of. If you had a broken leg it would be just as understandable to be envious of someone running but your attitude is the thing that makes the difference. Your leg is going to remain broken whether you like it or not. So are you going to seethe or shrug and say ‘OK, I can’t run at the moment but that doesn’t mean I’ll never run again’?
I KNOW how incredibly annoying that sounds. Not only you’re unwell but you’re also expected to be the fucking bigger person as well. It’s all right if you want to wring my neck. That makes two of us. But that doesn’t change the facts.
You’re ill. You didn’t ask to be ill. You don’t deserve to be ill. Nobody asks or deserves to be ill. It’s not your fault. The road to recovery is long and hard and hazardous and fucking exhausting but you still have to walk it so that you can get away from the mist. Keep walking, one step at a time, one day at a time, taking breaks and moving in your own pace. This is perfectly fine. Also it’s good to ask advice from the people who have made that trip before you. They know what lies ahead of you. There is no right way to do it, only your way.
Every single step forward is a small miracle to be admired. It doesn’t matter if you have a wobble or a strop. It’s understandable because you’re exhausted and scared and just want it to be over. It’s human. You’re still going to get out. It’ll just take time.