[TW: Depression]

The first day of what I’ve been calling my “facebook fast” has ended, and it seems to have gone pretty well. Sometime in the last few weeks/months (I’m not sure how long it’s been, really), facebook started to occupy a crazy-unhealthy place in my mental and emotional landscape. It was becoming a very reliable trigger for negative and disordered thinking. Which is something I am prone to anyway, thanks to a fun quirk of brain chemistry. I knew I had to take a hiatus from facebook, but I also knew I wouldn’t be able to keep to it for very long if I didn’t put some kind of actual barrier in place, which is why I decided to give the keys away. That is, I asked my fiance to change my password, so I can’t log in.

I’m a little concerned I may have unduly alarmed some people with my explanation, which mentioned I was in the midst of a depressive episode that was more severe than I realized. I feel a little bad about that now. Sometimes I forget how serious “depressive episode” sounds. It sounds serious because it is serious, in general. Depression kills people, and it came frighteningly close to killing me back in my younger days. These days, though, my depression is well managed.

Well managed depression doesn’t mean that the depression goes away (at least, not for me). It’s not something I think can be cured, because it’s built into the architecture of my brain. Well managed means I know how to deal with it. I know how to recognize it when it rolls up, and I know how to cope with it and minimize the risks. So for me, a depressive episode is like the mental health equivalent of a bad cold. I can take precautions against it, but it’s not possible to always prevent it. Once in a while, it’s going to happen. And when it does, I have a strategy! For a cold, I eat lots of soup, I drink tea and orange juice and water, and I get as much rest as I can, watching tv in bed with a stuffed animal friend. If I have to go somewhere, like work, and staying home is not an option, I take OTC cold medication to take the edge off the worst of the symptoms. Basically, I make myself comfortable and ride it out. It’s always temporary. In a depressive episode, I try to eat more veggies and salads and stuff. Drink water. Get more exercise, especially by going on long walks. Limit my exposure to things that I know are triggers for emotional spirals. And I make myself do things and be active (this is so important). Today I did laundry! I get my body and mind feeling better, healthier. And I wait it out. It’s always temporary.

It took a long time to get to this point, of course. I’m 29, and I’ve had this illness as long as I remember. And depression is a pretty sneaky thing. It’s evolved over the years; as I get better at recognizing it, it finds new angles to attack. And it loves to undermine me, to pick at me, to tell me I’m awful. I picture it like a little stone gargoyle, perched over my head. One with bat wings and kind of a scrunched-up bulldoggy face. Kind of like this little guy:

a thoughtful gargoyle with a squished-up face

via Sculptor Dude

Except that gargoyle is pretty cute. Depression isn’t particularly cute. It can be pretty ugly. And it’s damned inconvenient, when I know that the thoughts I’m having aren’t true. Imagine that little stone guy whispering to you all the time that your friends aren’t really your friends. That they’re just waiting for the excuse to drop you. That little gargoyle will just make you miserable, if he gets his way. And then he’ll blame you for feeling bad! “You think you’ve got problems?” he sneers. “Your life is awesome. What kind of selfish asshole are you, that you feel miserable for no reason?” Damn you, gargoyle! Using your own successes against me. But I know him by now. He’s been my nemesis for a long time. I’m not worried about him.  Irritated, yes. But worried, no. I wish there were an easy way to explain that to other people. I don’t think there is. What I end up doing, a lot, is lying. “Oh I’m fine,” when really, I need to do some self-care. But I don’t want to worry anyone when there’s really nothing to worry about. It’s a mental health cold. It’ll pass. But lying about it is not such a good solution either. It’s the kind of faux-solution that the gargoyle loves, because it is isolating, and isolation makes you easier prey.

I’ve always been shit at writing conclusions. How do I wrap this post up? I seriously don’t know. But at least I’ve written something! I really have to go to sleep, though. Insomnia is balls.