People talk about it

December 26, 2013 § 4 Comments

One of the things that has always bothered me is that I don’t seem to feel the way other people feel. I feel some of the same things – I love my wife, which seems to be a common emotion people express, for example. I’m not sure of this, because I have no real means of comparison. I can’t feel what anyone else feels, or in the manner they feel it. I am forced, as we all are as far as I know, to exist in this limited fashion and experience the world only through my own eyes.

So it is with what people call depression. I have something that seems similar to it. A pervasive sense of pointlessness, an enervation that seems all encompassing. Nothing seems to matter. There’s no reason to do anything, and all emotion is flattened.  Sometimes I physically hurt from this. It feels like I have been beaten. There’s an exhaustion to it, but it’s not the exhaustion of having worked hard but rather of having had to endure beyond my strength. My limbs feel shaky, my jaw twitches.

I’ve read other people’s descriptions of depression. I’ve seen it described as an inability to feel. That’s not what this is, this whatever it is that takes over my thoughts and feelings. I’m capable of feeling. I feel brittle. I feel empty, wrung out, as if I’ve been sobbing and retching for hours and hours, but I haven’t. I can go entire days, entire weeks with this feeling. Things like joy, love, even rage still exist in me, they just feel pointless. I can still have a moment or two of them – I can be delighted in my wife’s cleverness or in awe of her talent, I can read blogs or twitter and be interested and invested in discussions. But behind and surrounding these flashes is the cold grey sea, constantly lapping at the shore and eroding everything. Nothing seems to matter. Anything I accomplish is meaningless. Life itself just seems pointless, yet astonishingly I’m still terrified of its loss. I clutch the things that feel meaningless and empty like a broken spar, desperate not to submerge completely in that cold empty grey that is everything I can see, in all directions.

Emotions flare up. A minor mistake enrages me and I snap, then feel a detached embarrassment that I even bothered to get upset when it is meaningless. I once threw a literal fit over my wife getting the wrong kind of Doritos, or not getting them when I asked – I no longer remember the exact details, just the fit, like a toddler choking back scalding tears and screaming. I can hysterically laugh at a minor joke one seconds, and the next not even react even when I objectively find a statement to be amusing. Caring about other people becomes an intellectual exercise – I’m aware I should do so, and sometimes I even manage it, but more often I simply fake it, simulate empathy or sympathy as the situation seems to require. It is as if I can look inside and see the places where those emotions lay buried under the surface and pretend hard enough that they wake to a sluggish pantomime of what other people seem (always seem, because all I can tell is what I see, I can’t feel what anyone else feels) to be doing.

I don’t know if this even actually is depression. I have thyroid problems and diabetes, and so, for all I know it could be blood sugar being low causing actual physical exhaustion. It feels like exhaustion. I think. I’ve been exhausted. The brittle sensation approximates it. The need to cling to those few things that I can still believe matter, like my wife and our life together. But I’ve felt this way off and on for most of my life – it’s hard to believe it’s just exhaustion when it’s been going on as long as I can remember.

I’ve run out of ways to say this. I’ve run out of knowing what I’m even trying to say. That’s the other problem – my thoughts get muddled. I run out of clarity. Like sitting and breathing fumes until your head throbs and your lungs burn – you stop thinking because all you’re thinking about is that pain in your chest and the giddy, dizzy lack of good air. That’s me right now, gasping, trying to get a lungful of something I can actually breathe. That’s depression to me. Constantly trying to catch my breath.

§ 4 Responses to People talk about it

  • Maryalee says:

    This is not exactly how I have felt, but parts of it do echo. There have been times when I wondered if it was worth it to go on, and to date, I have always found a reason to struggle through. I get mad at things that don’t even matter, and later ask myself why I let my temper get the better of me again. I don’t hate people, but especially in my job I get tired of dealing with them. There are days I want to do nothing, and I wonder where all my energy went.

    A lot of it may have to do with other problems I am having: I was diagnosed early this year with Essential Tremor in my left hand, and I am currently dealing with a lot of financial stress. Whatever our individual instigators, you are not alone. Many experience the same, or very similar feelings, but just lack the courage to talk about them. I feel you do a valuable and courageous service by bringing it our into the open where discussion can take place.

  • Matthew Care says:

    I think your “flashes of light in a sea of grey” metaphor is perfect. The trick I have found is to keep focusing on the flashes of light, because from the perspective of a passive observer life is in fact a sea of grey. A stormy sea at that, but it’s the flashes of light and joy that show us something different. Amid the menagerie troubles in my life, and seemingly endless sea of hardship ahead of me, I glimpse things that show me beauty and give me happiness. They give me hope. Hope of a better life and a sea not quite so grey. And its my firm belief that life is about those flashes of light and not the grey, not that it’s easy to maintain ones focus on the light, but I do believe thats trick to being happy(at least most of the time). I would much prefer to focus on my daughters birth in a few months, then on the pile of unpaid medical bills. Just as I’m sure you’d rather be in awe of your wife’s cleverness and talent, then on the hardships of your own life. I sent you an e-mail of encouragement several weeks back, but I’ll just restate my staunch support of you and that I hold you in very high esteem.

    • diaskeaus says:

      I know we don’t know each other personally, Matt, but I’d like to encourage you. The little interaction online I’ve had with you (both directly and indirectly through your online writings as well as your books) has been very encouraging for me personally; whether you know it or not, you’ve had a positive effect on a lot of people.

  • Edward says:

    I struggled last year with a mild depression and what you describe is pretty similar to what I felt. My advice would be to get some help, but only if you want to, as a lot of people don’t trust or believe in therapy.

    Contrary to popular belief, depression is not a state of sadness, but extreme apathy, witch also manifests in waves instead of constantly. Some mornings are better and more “bright”, while some days you wish you could stay in bed for the rest of the day. It’s difficult to identify sometimes, that’s when a consult could tell you more about what you are going through.

    Good luck

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