Sometimes I feel down.
I don’t typically suffer from the debilitating, long-lasting depression that erects an insurmountable invisible barrier between oneself and life. But I have in the past. I know what it can be like. Some days, I simply couldn’t function. Some days, it was all I could do to make it through my interactions with people, holding it all together like Atlas with the world on his head, before I could “shrug”, Atlas-Shrugged-style, and let the dam break and the tears flow.
Even now, although I don’t suffer a year-long submergence anymore, I am prone to days (or few-day stretches) where I simply feel down. Sometimes, very down.
Sometimes there’s a reason, sometimes there isn’t.
Sometimes I feel cut-off from the rest of the world.
Sometimes the rest of the world makes me sick.
Depression, be it transient and passing or intense and chronic, is a multi-factorial phenomenon. I’ve done a lot of thinking, reflecting, and analyzing, trying to piece together various aspects and put them into words.
Sometimes, it’s incompetence, as in, my own. During these times, I feel like I’m not good enough. I don’t measure up. I can’t achieve or succeed. Someone else is always better than I am. Or maybe I can’t do something that I used to, like execute an awesome karate tornado kick. Or look at myself in the mirror without cringing and quickly looking away, embarrassed.
Sometimes, it’s alienation. I sometimes feel cut off from the rest of the world. Sometimes, that’s my own choice; other times, it’s not. It’s during those times that I’m alienated by unseen forces that are not my own choice that make me sad. Here I am, trying to interact with the world, which is hard enough, and here I am, feeling shunned, rejected, or shut out. Sometimes I can put my finger on the exact etiology, and sometimes I can’t. The latter is a more vague, confusing, and general feeling. I might originate entirely within me; I might be imagining it. But who’s to say?
Sometimes, it’s grief. Grief, for me, runs deep and intense. It can be cognitively paralyzing. I feel loss as a whole experience. It’s rich and multidimensional, but not in the way that one would want. It actually intensifies and amplifies the suffering. What makes it worse is that sometimes I can’t express what I’m thinking or feeling, or maybe I can express it, but I feel that words are too mild and trite; what I’m feeling is much more than I can verbally communicate.
Sometimes, it’s sorrow. Grief and sorrow are often used together, and in some situations, their meanings can begin to overlap. But not in this case. This is different. Sorrow for me is when I’ve done something very wrong, made a serious miscalculation, an honest-but-unforgivable misstep.
Or sorrow can begin to set in if I play too much of the “what if?” game, imagining what could have been “if” (if I had been diagnosed earlier, if I had had more supportive teachers in elementary/primary school, if I had grown up somewhere different, if I had taken that job, if I had gotten better grades, if I could’ve disciplined, focused, or motivated myself better and/or earlier on, if I hadn’t had that falling-out with a friend or a supervisor, etc).
Sometimes, it’s helplessness. Sometimes I feel limited or trapped, like I can’t (mentally or physically) do something I want to do (or might someday have to do). For example, I’m fairly certain that I could not live on my own if I had to. Of my 39+ years, I have lived on my own for exactly four months. I had just moved out of my parents’ house to go to college. Even then, my parents had bought a house just off campus for me to live in (encouraging me to recruit roommates to help pay the mortgage), and although I was responsible for utilities and other living expenses, they made my house payments for me. So I never had to worry about a place to live. For the first four months, I was living alone, but not even truly independent. In fact, I never have been truly independent. And I only moved out of that house after I met my now-partner.
Another example might be a particular task; I’m not the handy-person around the house–my partner is. I can’t cook (Kitchen Disaster = me)–so my partner does. The idea of making phone calls to people I don’t know, especially to try to solve a problem, petrifies me–so my partner makes them. On the surface, I appear to be “normal”, independent….but in reality, not so much.
Sometimes, it’s inertia. It’s that whole “objects at rest tend to stay at rest” thing. If I’m not active enough, I fall into a lull, a rut. Sure, it’s comfortable and familiar, but it’s also confining. It doesn’t promote progress, evolution, maturation, or improvement. It’s tempting, and also limiting. And if I’m not physically or mentally moving or doing much, a sort of muddy slowness begins to set in. My mind clouds. I gain weight. I think more slowly. There’s not as much to be excited about. There’s not much point to each day. I hate being in that place.
Sometimes, it’s because I feel ignored. Most of the time, I like to fade into the background and be forgotten about. But that’s different from feeling insignificant. Feeling ignored/insignificant is to be forgotten about at a time when you want to be noticed or remembered, or at least recognized. It’s a Forgetting that is hoisted upon you without your consent. It sends the message that people don’t care, that I don’t matter, that the world would go on and be the same, even without me in it.
Sometimes, it’s because I’m feeling unloved. Some people have brought out the worst in me. Others have manipulated me, such that they’re the perpetrators but I end up being the one who feels at fault or in the wrong. And still others have repeatedly pointed out my weak points, points that I can’t change (despite a lifetime of trying), or traits ingrained into my neurological firmware that just aren’t going to be excised. It’s like those people can’t simply accept me as I am.
And last but not least, partners throughout my adult life have chronically neglected to show me much attention or affection. I’m not a drama queen, nor a bottomless pit for praise or attention. But to go for a week without a single hug? I’m actually a pretty “huggy” Aspie; I thrive on the right kind of hugs (and I’m not real picky) from the right kind of people (I’m slightly more picky), so failing to hug me for that long a time stretch can be devastating to my mental health. Hugs are free and easy to give. Why would a partner not think to do so on a semi-regular basis? Am I that unlovable?
Sometimes, it’s because I feel left-out, or excluded. This is similar to the unloved thing, the only difference being how close the other person is to me, how central they are in my life. The left-out feeling pertains more to the people in the outer layers of my life.
Sometimes, it’s loneliness. In my experience, loneliness has nothing to do with the presence of other people; it has to do with how they make me feel. It has to do with how much I feel that they care. It has to do with how enthusiastic they are to interact with me. I can feel perfectly fine (not lonely) when I’m by myself at home, on weekends my partner is gone. Conversely, there have also been times where he’s been home, in the same room with me, and I’ve felt extremely sad and lonely.
Sometimes, it’s isolation. This is different from alienation, I think, because isolation for me is alienation with a homebound feeling, where the idea of leaving the house is too overwhelming for me to contemplate.
Sometimes, it’s distance. As in, geographical distance. I’ve lived in a lot of places, and made a few good friends in each place. Thus, many of the people I care about are flung across the continent. I’m always missing someone, and some of the people closest to me are some of the ones who live the furthest away. So, I spend a lot of my time “grieving” their absence.
I’m fortunate in that each of these feelings passes in a relatively short period of time. The hard part, though, is the fact that these all take turns surfacing, so I’m fairly apt to be experiencing one (or more than one) of these at any given time.
(Image Credit: Cyril Rolando)