Mental Illness

Days Like These

Days like these I am so grateful that I have my own office. That I have my own office on the top floor of a tall building with no elevator, isolated and difficult to access, with little chance of somebody just stopping by without notice. I am grateful, too, that I have the kind of job where the most important thing is that I get my work done, not that I spend X amount of time on something. I can stay home if I need to, I can come and go with flexibility. I am lucky.

I am lucky because there are days, like today, where the thought of interacting with people is actually physically painful. I can’t smile, I can’t pretend that everything is okay. It’s not okay. There is an emptiness in my being, a completely and utter worthlessness, a despair that feels limitless.

Worse, though, is the shame. The sharp, gut-turning shame. The shame at being unable to control myself, to take things in stride like everybody else can, that I turn everything into such a huge fucking deal. As soon as the shame starts to fade, the despair floods back in, and I am grateful that I have the kind of office where I can curl up under the desk and sob, and nobody will have to see me in my pathetic state. The despair fades, and the shame floods in. I’m 33 years old, and I just spent 20 minutes hiding under a desk, a pitiful mess of a human being.

Back and forth, back and forth, shame, despair, shame, despair. When I have to see people, I avert my eyes, either so they won’t see I am crying or so that I won’t have to feel their judgment for any recent episodes. And I deserve the judgment. I’m 33 years old. When am I going to fucking get it together.

Four words keep me going on days like this. This, too, shall pass. It shall. It will. It always has, and it will again.

I am lucky to have my office. I am lucky, too, that I can somehow manage to break through the depression when I teach, that I can usually force myself into performance mode, get through it. Even this relief, though, plays into the cycle. If I can perform for my students, it doesn’t make sense that I can’t hold it together for myself. I’m such a goddamned drama queen. Despair, shame, despair, shame.

This, too, shall pass.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

23 replies on “Days Like These”

I think this is your second post on depression (I cannot quite remember) but I just wanted to pop by to say thank you for writing them. I too am in the midst of (or possibly working my way out of- I’m not sure yet) a fairly significant depressive episode and it’s really tough, even just the day to day aspect of it. I note the days when I don’t cry, when I can write and think clearly, when I am not absent-minded because I am so sad. Thank you for articulating so well what a lot of us are experiencing….I truly admire your bravery and honesty for putting this out there when MH issues are still so often stigmatized and hidden. I wish very much for health and healing for you (and  the rest of us too).

Ohh, hon. I am so sorry. It seems especially unfair that someone as smart, talented, and kind as you would have to deal with this. I really hope this gets better soon. Please remember you’re not alone or weird…lots of people suffer from depression. It’s not your fault! Take very good care of yourself.

I am having an absolutely awful time lately. I’ve been struggling with unemployment for about five years, always finding minimum wage jobs that make me go fucking crazy, and then quitting them when they get to be too draining. I have a master’s but have never been hired for a job in my industry, despite having done seven unpaid internships and having excellent experience. Right now, I can’t even find a minimum wage job and I’ve been utterly unemployed for three months. I’m down to my last $400. Everyone keeps saying, “Something has to happen,” but they’ve been saying that for five years. I’m out of ideas. I don’t have the resources to get trained in another career. I apparently don’t even have enough experience to get hired in an admin role. I miss having a life. I miss having clothes without holes in them. I miss being able to get a coffee. I miss being able to leave my apartment. My whole life is just trying to barely survive. I can’t keep it up any longer and I’m crying all the time, just bursting into tears three or four times a day. I’ve been to therapists and nothing has got better. I’m not living in a place where I have access to free mental health services. I’m starting to feel like life isn’t worth the effort. What the hell do I do.

Oh, honey, I’m sorry you’re going through such a hard time.

Is there anybody that can help you?  Family?  Do you think this is all related to unemployment/money?  Does it change over time, or is it steady?

I don’t know if this will help, but Starbucks offers full-time benefits (and decent ones) to part-time workers, so if you’re looking for mental health coverage, that could be a place to start.

I wish I could make things better for you.  You sound so full of despair.

Word, girl. I had a little breakdown last night when I realized I couldn’t keep taking this new medication that I’m on, even though it really fixes the depression (the side effects are just too much). Hang in there. This made me laugh the other night:

I was on a drug for about four years that was just SO GOOD for me. It stopped having an effect over the last six months. So now I’m on this new one that fixed the black holes of despair, but makes me really irritable and angry at all my friends. And it’s apparently the worst drug ever to come off of. Hooray!

I just made it up and out of a 2 and a half week episode of life crushing depression. Bah. And I always think the same thing. When am I going to grow up and out of this issue? And in the middle (beginning, end, infinity) I always try to console myself with the knowledge that it always ends (eventually).

The worst is when friends or family will care for about the first few days before they get tired and start judging. Too bad I don’t have control over my brain chemistry! Because I can assure you, I don’t WANT to be like that for days and weeks at a time.


But, hey! I’m doing really well this week! I did well on a few midterms (all in Spanish! except one in French!) and I got three jobs offers for next semester that I was really hoping for! So what if I’m stuck in this sexist country for another 72 days before seeing my family again (I really do like Costa Rica most of the time, just especially not when the melancholy monsters around).

Sometimes my emotions follow an eerily roller-coaster shaped path and I worry about struggling with bi-polar like symptoms for the rest of my life.

Oh, Susan, I wish that, if you wanted one, I could give you a gigantic hug.

You said it yourself (and I will never ever forget what you said): depression is a liar. Neither you nor I is a drama queen for sometimes having a hard time keeping things together when other people in the same situation seem to be just fine. Hell, sometimes a lot of those people who seem just fine really aren’t. They just put on a good front. Just like you do for your students. We try to do whatever is necessary to keep getting through things.

I’ve wondered about this sometimes, in myself. It’s probably most evident when I have some sort of big discomfort, or the flu, or something similar. When I’m going about my day by myself for a while, working on things as best I can. Then the BF gets home, and, seemingly, all of a sudden I feel lousy. I then proceed to whine to him about how miserable I am.

What I realized about this is, it isn’t that I was somehow “okay” before, and then I made a ply for attention when there was someone to get attention from. It was that I was genuinely that sick. I just wasn’t “allowing” myself to feel it. In some ways, that’s a trick I use to try to smack down depression when it crops up. I refuse to “let” myself be depressed. It works. Sometimes. But other times…I just am genuinely that depressed, and around people who aren’t the BF, I feel a need to “hide” it. But often around him I feel I can allow myself to be vulnerable. So, sometimes, around him, it comes out even more than it does when I’m alone.

Especially since mental illness is so stigmatized, since people don’t seem to get how it’s not really something you can just “snap out of,” there’s a lot of pressure on us to hide it, to put on a front. And that’s another Self we show. We pour our strength into trying to show ourselves as okay, even when we’re not. That doesn’t make that Self less genuine, or our vulnerable Selves more fake. But they are all us.

I don’t know if this speaks to your experiences. I don’t know if it even makes sense. But I do think you’re an awesome person. Keep hanging in there.

There must be something in the air. I spent half the day near tears because of something that I knew wasn’t true, but I decided to believe it today anyway. And I’m 37.

Remember that we love you and we don’t judge you, and we have Internet hugs and cyber snacks until you feel better.

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