I’m a mental health advocate who also lives with mental illness. I experience the symptoms of bipolar disorder just like anyone else would. Bipolar and anxiety disorders cause me to feel depressed, manic, anxious, and a host of other less-than-fantastic symptoms. Because of my status as an advocate, I almost never discuss the negative aspects of the disease as it relates to myself. When I do, I discuss it as something from the distant past. I have blogged before about how I have bipolar and anxiety disorder and I’m a hypocrite and why I feel that is acceptable. Today’s article is going to be a bit different from my usual hopeful, inspirational, and educational offerings. Today, I am going to air my dirty laundry, because I am depressed and I need to share what that feels like to me.
I’m Depressed and I Hate Everything
When I’m depressed, I hate everything. The other night, I slept for two hours. Two. Hours. I considered this an improvement because the previous two nights I slept for two hours – combined. During the insomnia, I sit on my couch, mindlessly watching television and texting other people to tell them I’m depressed. Despite my understanding of my illness, I still believe that telling enough people I’m sad will make me feel better. I update my Facebook status around midnight with a polite and caring message. I post a cute picture and type out, “Night-night, smooches on your heads.” “Smooches on your heads” is my social media sign off. I do mean the sentiment as I type it. Even in my misery, I still deeply care about others, but it provides no relief to the swirling emptiness in my head.
A while back, a friend suggested, during one of my “I hate my life 2 a.m. text messages,” that I make a list of all my accomplishments. This way, when I feel like a failure, I can look at the list and see that I am not. A good idea, in practice, but as I read the list of awards I’ve won, I quickly come up with reasons to consider them failures. My writing stinks. I just got lucky on that one. None of these awards have led to fortune and fame. In fact, by accepting these awards, I’m an attention seeker, a braggart, and this is proof I’m not trying to help anyone. I’m using other people’s misery to pad my resume. The list quickly became proof I’m a terrible person.
I’m Depressed and I Deserve to Be, Because I Am Bad
I’m depressed and I deserve to be, because I am bad, and this is punishment from the universe. As the day drags on, almost in slow motion, I see all my failures stack up. At work, I wanted to complete a certain task last week and I’m still working on it – failure. My wife should have married a man who wasn’t mentally ill, who could achieve something and make something of his life – failure.
I deserve to feel this way. This isn’t an illness. I’m lying to myself and to everyone else. This is a result. I feel this way because these are the feelings I’m supposed to feel, given what a horrible person I am. I’m a liar, thief, hypocrite, con-artist, and I am hurting people simply by living. My very existence is proof of my failure.
The world moves slowly around me, and every sense is heightened to ensure the worst possible outcome. If someone says hello, I hear the insult in their tone. Sight, smells, and even touch annoy me, offend me, and cripple my ability to focus. My thoughts begin to race with multiple, fast-moving insults. I know all my buttons and my thoughts begin to press them with impunity. I’m a bad son and husband, I’m unworthy of love, I’ve ruined people lives, and I’m a fake. I’m worthless and need to be put in my place.
Feeling depressed is a soul-sucking, never-ending pit of self-hatred, darkness, and mental torment. I’d rather be stabbed, because the body heals easier than the mind.
I only tell you this and write it down because, even during my worst depression, if you walked up to me and asked how I was, I would smile, make you laugh, give you a giant hug, and say I was great. Because, after all, I’m a liar and you shouldn’t trust me.
Being Depressed Today Doesn’t Mean I Will Be Tomorrow
The struggle I face (that many depressed people face) is to remember that being depressed today doesn’t mean I will be, tomorrow. Not the easiest task to accomplish when racing thoughts are pulsating through my subconscious the way light pierces darkness. In a way, pretending to be happy and mentally healthy around people has the benefit of reminding me that it feels good to be happy.
Perhaps the old adage, “fake it till you make it” has some merit. Or maybe I do it because I don’t want to bring the world down with me. Perhaps I am modeling good behavior, or maybe I am just afraid of the world seeing a man with mental illness actually “act” mentally ill. My quest to be a shining example of recovery could have the downside of preventing me from being truly vulnerable.
Most likely, though, it means something different to every person witnessing it. My life is seen as an inspiration to some, as a failure to others, and is totally unknown to far more. Underneath the depression, the anxiety, and all the darkness, there is a little ray of something. I believe that something is me.
This article originally appeared on Psych Central as “Confessions of a Depressed Mental Health Advocate.”