We all have different ways in which we cope. Tragedy can often leave the strongest people on their knees, resulting in desperate attempts to do something, anything, to make whatever pain they’re feeling go away. Even if it’s temporary. Some of these things however, can be destructive. They can develop habits that walk next to them for the rest of their life. Have you ever lost someone who you loved? How far did you go to numb that pain? If you’re one of the people who has experienced this already, can you remember what that felt like? The complete loss of care or self worth, filled with sadness, grief, maybe even anger? And at the time there’s nothing anyone can really say to help or make those feelings go away. It’s something that takes time. But in time you learn to live with the fact that they are gone, and you do little things to remember them by. To carry their legacy, you move forward.
Now, imagine feeling that kind of helplessness a little more regularly. I won’t go as far to say that depression feels like the loss of a loved one, but I mean it when I say at times it does. It feels like a piece of you is missing. And when that feeling of helplessness and grief continues for extensive periods of time people can begin to seek means of numbing themselves. Drugs and alcohol probably come to mind first. But there are so many others that sometimes aren’t even realized. Sex, binge eating, and extensive use of finances and materialistic things can all be methods in which people cope to numb feelings they have (or feelings they don’t have, apathy is also all too common). I hope to start posts entitled Coping, with different entries either by me (personal or researched) or guest writers about what they do to cope with different mental illnesses. My biggest one personally is depression, so here it goes.
Entry 1: Often times I’m asked what it feels like when the depression hits. Is it just sadness? Do you just want to isolate yourself and be alone? I mean yes, it is. But theres so much more. It feels like there’s a hand inside of my head that is pulling on the back of both of my eyes, slowly encasing me in myself. It makes you feel like you want to cry, but for me, no tears ever come. It’s like there’s a black hole sitting in the middle of my chest that is sucking any little bit of life that I have out of me. From the tips of my fingers to the bottom of my feet, I feel everything start to retract. And I go numb. It can happen when I’m in a room full of laughing people who I could consider my best friends. And out of no where it’ll hit me like a truck. And often times all I can do is watch as the truck approaches, caught like a deer in the headlights. I’ll start to slip. And my mind feels heavy with pressure as doubts flood in and I start to question even the most concrete parts of my life.
Am I actually a good friend?
Does my girlfriend actually like me?
Have I let my family down?
Now multiply this times a hundred and you get a lot of sleepless nights. I shut down. I often joke around that I feel like a robot. Programmed to go through the motions and react to things a certain way but I stopped feeling genuine. Especially when I was in those droughts when the depression was harder. I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed this being a part of me, but I can one hundred percent say that I’m on the path to accepting that this is part of me, and that’s okay.
When it comes to coping personally, I have a few methods I have tried and integrated into my life over the years. The biggest thing for me is to exercise myself creatively. Writing is one of the biggest ways to help me feel better. Getting my thoughts down on paper can really help me see two things.
1.) This is what’s going on in my head. It’s all sorted out now. It’s not so bad.
2.) These thoughts are really irrational and I just didn’t realize it until I put it down on paper.
I know I’m good to my family. And I know I have a girlfriend who really cares about me. But those thoughts do pop in my head. No matter how irrational they may be. That’s what depression does. It tells you that you can’t instead of you can and that things aren’t working when they are.
Apart from writing, music helps me a lot too. Over the last 5 or 6 years I’ve been writing music and a part of several bands. Putting out two cd’s in the process. Those cd’s actually became the titles for this blog, Dear Hope and We Must Be Broken. Both albums coverer a lot of personal struggles with identity and depression, and the music was a creative way for me to outlet a lot of what I was feeling in a healthy way. Lyrics, poems, stories and music all became a way for me to put my emotions somewhere, and it’s helped me extensively.
Scan The Sky released Dear Hope in 2012
Also, besides exercising my creativity, exercising in general tends to help me out a lot too. Which is unfortunate, because when I’m depressed this is something that can be extremely hard to do. It’s hard enough to get out of bed sometimes, let alone go for a run or start lifting. But here’s me being honest with myself for a second. I feel better when I’m being active. Even if it’s just a short run to clear my mind. I used to be an athlete all throughout high school and was in really good shape (not the case anymore) so sometimes I feel like I’m never going to reach that point again. I probably won’t honestly, but I need to look at it as something that’s going to make me feel good. Even if I’m not into the full hardcore fitness anymore. Exerting those emotions and sadness into a physical burning when you’re working out can help extinguish some of those heavy feelings.
And as hard as it is to do sometimes. Being around people is often the best cure. Having a strong support group is something that I have been blessed with and believe me when I say there are days I want to stay in my room with the lights off and have no one talk to me. I want to isolate myself and just stay in the sadness. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. It has become something I’ve gotten so used to that I just accept it sometimes without trying to fight. But on the occasions I do, and force myself around friends and laughter, sometimes I can snap myself out of it.
These are the positive ways in which I cope. But I have had my share of negatives. There was a cutting incident when I was thirteen back when I had less of a grip on what depression was and what I was feeling that I regret. I think it was more a call for help than anything else. I try my best to stay away from drugs and alcohol or binging on either. I try and live life without a crutch, and I want to be able to say that I can be comfortable with who I am before doing something to numb me. But again, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t drank to numb before. A last one is food. Food is always my weakness. In fact, it’s one of the only senses I can still feel when I’m depressed. Often I’m reduced to an apathetic state and taste is the only thing that still works. So I eat. And eat. And eat. What can I say, I love food. Even when I’m not depressed. But I do realize how unhealthy this is. And I’m trying to be better with it. And I think that’s the important thing to remember. Be aware of your pain, and be aware of how you cope. In the heat of the moment it can be hard to care if the choice is a negative or positive one, but when you keep it in the back of your head you get stronger everyday. I fight almost daily still, but I’m getting better. I know I am. Here’s a picture of me (left) with one of my best friends the other night celebrating my 21st birthday. Not the best picture quality wise but I love it none the less.
You are loved. Feel free to comment below with how you cope, or if any of these methods have worked for you personally.