When I’m moving out of severe depression and into something closer to happiness, I’m intensely aware of the fact that I will soon forget what it felt like to be depressed. Not intellectually, of course. Having the experience of depression makes me forever able to empathize with others and remember, in objective terms, what it felt like. But the internal feelings– the heaviness, the soul numbness, the twisting slowness of being utterly squashed by life’s requirements- all of those will trickle away until I can only comprehend them from afar. Just as I can’t quite grasp the truth of happiness when I’m depressed, I can’t quite understand depression when I’m well.
It’s a problem I contemplate fairly often. Holding two perspectives at once isn’t fully possible, so I find myself slipping between two conclusions with different contexts. When I’m depressed, I vaguely remember feeling better. That memory, however, always pales in comparison to current pain. I eventually end up concluding that dragging myself back to mediocre happiness would not be worth the effort.
Inevitably, when the depression ends or at least improves, I understand how clouded my judgment was. Over time, I forget just how sharp and all-encompassing depression can be. I disregard its immediacy, letting healthy coping skills fall to the wayside. When I move beyond the basics– eating, bathing, stepping outside– to more advanced skills like socializing and nurturing my ambition, the basics are the first to go when stress hits. This is especially true when time has faded the memory of how quickly depression can return.
It scares me that depression so thoroughly warps my thinking, and recalling the cycle of depression and recovery makes me wonder if any number of episodes will teach me to ignore my depressed brain. It’s easier when each day is different; I can tell myself that this will pass– and I might believe it. But when I’m entrenched in depression, it stretches ahead of me until it’s all I can see. Then, the lies my brain tells me seem awfully convincing.
Right now, I’m going day by day. Things aren’t wonderful, but they’re not terrible, either. When I want to crawl back into bed in the middle of the day and not get up until tomorrow, I try to remember that I’ve been here before. I’ve been here before and I’ve done that before, and it never changes anything. Eventually, things will get better, and maybe I can get there faster if I make those hard but healthy choices. So, I’m back to the hardest self-care of all: doing what’s best for you even when it’s the last thing you want.