Even with the high probability of judgment and harsh criticism with exposure, I want to take a moment to be real about something people just don’t seem to understand.
So the Pokemon Go app has crashed and there are a lot of discussions going on about how beneficial the app has been for people as motivation to get out of the house. I get that it can be an excuse to do that if you have no other reason to and I certainly won’t judge anyone who needs this motivation when we live in the digital age. How many people play Facebook games for any given length of time? Now imagine if that game required you to walk around outside of your house to advance to the next level, wouldn’t you be likely to get more exercise and sun? Luckily for me I have little kids and I feel obliged to take them outdoors and to parks and libraries and things of that nature even without this app that I downloaded about two days ago. Although it is not the Pokemon game that I grew up with it’s still a way to share a part of my childhood with my own children and I enjoy it for that reason.
I saw some comments from people saying that this app can help people who have depression and anxiety because it forces them to get outdoors and I had to take pause at that. There is just so much that people don’t understand about these illnesses because the only way to know what these illnesses are like is to experience them yourself and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. As someone who has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and even agoraphobia though its a small degree and I can handle very small crowds so long as I have personal space, I really wanted to say something to these people about what depression is really like.
Before I write further I better first clear up one common misconception about depression. People who suffer from depression are not depressed all of the time. They may be depressed for several days to several weeks but then they may get a reprieve like their depression has blissfully went on vacation and they can finally come up for some air. (Perhaps this isn’t true for everyone with depression, but it is my experience along with a lot of others with depression that I’ve talked to.) It’s during this time that I do everything I can to make up for all of my depressed days while dealing with the guilt of having had them in the first place. It’s hard to have an illness like this and be a good parent or a good wife or a good friend at the same time. I do the best I can when I’m depressed and sometimes I win the battles being fought in my mind, but sometimes I don’t and I hate that because I’m not the only one who suffers for it. Remember that commercial from a long time ago; depression hurts everywhere, depression hurts everyone? It affects not only you but everyone around you as well which only adds to the guilt and depression in the first place.
Depression is a debilitating illness. Although it is a mental illness it has very real physical ailments. An overwhelming number of people suffering from depression also suffer from chronic fatigue. This is no surprise since depression is emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting. Depressed people sometimes even feel physical aches and pains from which there is no apparent source. Depression can cause a person to have insomnia and not get sufficient sleep or it can cause a person to sleep too much; personally when I’m depressed all I want to do is sleep though no matter how much I get I still feel extremely tired. It can cause either an increase or decrease in appetite, unfortunately I’ve always been one to eat my emotions. There are ingredients in food that increase endorphins for a temporary chemical “high” so you feel better while you eat them but after a short period you feel worse than before you did. I try to eat really healthy on my good days but on my depressed days I just don’t care.
When you are depressed doing even the bare minimum takes so much effort. Everything becomes a chore you just have no motivation for. Even the simple task of just getting out of bed in the morning is a tiresome struggle. You feel like your in slow motion; you move slower, you think slower, you have trouble concentrating and remembering things. You have trouble making even simple decisions or carrying on a normal conversation. This is one reason I avoid people on really bad days, I just don’t have the energy. I stay in my pajamas, I don’t care to brush my hair or wash my face, the house needs work that I’m too exhausted to take care of; it’s all I can do to take care of the kids and make sure they are getting everything they need. I don’t feel like faking smiles but I don’t want to have to explain why I’m not okay to people either.
I hate the question, “What are you depressed about?” I don’t have situational depression; I have no reason to be depressed – I just am. I believe for me it’s hormonal, linked in to my thyroid issues and the PCOS. People suffering from either of these conditions seem to also have to deal with depression and anxiety and I’ve been diagnosed with both. There will be no difference from one day to the next except for how I feel when I wake up in the morning.
It is not just the physical toll on the body that makes depression debilitating. Aside from being exhausted and feeling so completely weighed down, when you are depressed you just don’t have interest in anything. All of your passions and all of the things and hobbies you took joy in before you suddenly could care less about. You have no motivation to do anything; you are just there taking up space wherever you are. I love to read, to paint, to do activities with the kids, to take them outside and enjoy the sunshine, but when I’m depressed I don’t love those things. I dread the thought of having to do them. I don’t have the energy, I don’t have the desire, I don’t have the motivation. You don’t feel hopeful or happy about anything in life when you are depressed. Sometimes you cry a lot about anything and everything, sometimes you cry about nothing at all. Sometimes you just feel empty, like there is a giant gaping hole inside of you that nothing will ever be able to fill. You don’t feel happy, you don’t feel sad, you don’t feel angry; you don’t feel anything. You can’t imagine ever feeling anything ever again but the nothingness inside of you, you can’t remember what anything else even feels like. You feel “off” and “wrong” but you can’t explain how. It feels like drowning, like suffocating. Everything is dull and gray and dark and cold and ugly. Your thoughts are continuously bombarded with memories of every bad thing that has ever happened to you, every failure and negative experience or conversation, like a television program you are forced to watch that’s stuck on repeat and you can’t turn it off or change the channel. When you think of the future it’s bleak and colorless and hopeless. There’s a little voice that streams constant negative thoughts about yourself and how worthless you are and how unlovable and undeserving and stupid and insignificant. Nothing you do or try will ever amount to anything so why bother. You can’t drown out this voice off no matter how hard you try, it’s unrelenting and eventually it becomes the only voice you can hear.
You may start to feel like life’s not living. That you have no purpose. That everyone around you would be better off without you. That people secretly feel about you the way you have started to feel about yourself regardless of what they say to the contrary. You can no longer see a point to life. You can’t see any escape from how you feel. Visions start to flash inside your mind without permission: car-wrecks, razor blades, the prescriptions in the medicine cabinet.
I’ve not been suicidal in a long, long time. My children gave my life the purpose to go on even on my darkest days. My depression did get better after having children, unfortunately it didn’t completely go away. But I know that they need me and I would never willingly leave them or do anything intentional that would hurt them in any way. I don’t have these kinds of visions anymore, or else they are easy to shut off the second that they start, but I do remember them. I remember that feeling of such complete despair that I thought there was only one way out and I tried to take it.
Someone who is depressed doesn’t care about Pokemon. If they are outside catching Pokemon with their friends they are only doing it to hide that something is wrong. I’ve spent a great deal of my life trying to fake normal; I’ve all but perfected false smiles and insincere sincerity while feeling like I’m dying inside. Not everyday, of course. Like I mentioned earlier, depressed people have good days where they are actually able to take joy in things. But during those dark days of total depression, do you think the prospect of catching digital creatures on my smartphone is going to motivate me to get outside? Do you think it’s going to give me even the slightest joy or satisfaction while I’m feeling everything I’ve mentioned in this post? If my children who I love with all of my heart and soul and every fiber of my being can only just keep me from being completely swallowed whole from my depression do you really think a Pokemon app is going to be my salvation?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Let’s not talk about depression like it’s a form of laziness and the depressed person just needs a little extra motivation to get off the couch. I’m not saying that is what anyone is trying to say, but it kind of sounded like it is what they are saying regardless. Depressed people can’t just “snap out of it” or “get over it”, not even for Pokemon. So if you suffer from depression, please get help. You are not alone and you have no reason to feel ashamed. With counseling, other forms of therapy, or being placed on medication (and maybe a combination of all three) you will be better equipped to manage your depression.
You are not weak.
You are not lazy.
You are not worthless.
You are not alone.
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255