Hi there. I’m here to talk about depression fatigue today. If you have chronic depression you know what this is. If you love someone who has chronic depression you should know what this is so please keep reading along!
First of all, I’ve pretty much gotten over what other people think or wouldn’t be writing this for all to see. But I know there’s still a stigma, so, on behalf of all who have depression, I want to let it be said here that we can’t turn depression on and off like a switch. We appreciate positive affirmations and deciding to have a good day (and we do try to do those things) but depression makes it ten million times harder than it is for the average person to just talk yourself into a good mood. Furthermore, no one fakes true, chronic depression for attention.
Depression is not our fault. Depression is not a mindset. Depression is not a weakness in our personality. Depression is a diagnosis. It is a disease. It is a silent and potentially deadly disease that can strike anyone. Chronic depression is lifelong and requires medical and psychological treatments. It requires medication. Just as a diabetic has to monitor and keep track of their blood sugars for the rest of their life, we have to monitor and keep track of our depression. It doesn’t just go away.
To illustrate, imagine this…someone has an invisible disability who has a career and family and all of the same responsibilities as anyone else. They need to be able to function like anyone but depression comes along and kicks them down. They have to get up by themselves over and over again throughout their lifetime. Even with support, ultimately they have to be their own cheerleader fighting against this depression which, at the same time, makes them feel worthless and sad. Oh and they have to do this in a world where people don’t understand depression and there’s a whole stigma around it.
Enough about that.
Not only do I not accept that depression is a “weakness” but when I fight through a depression episode, I feel like a survivor. I imagine I feel similar to someone who has a physical disability but battles through and defeats it. Like the person who is told they won’t walk again and proves them all wrong.
But with depression, no one sees that fight. The struggle is silent. I may be seen as antisocial or lazy. People may think I have a negative attitude even though I’m doing the very best I can and getting out of bed was a huge accomplishment that day. It is what it is. All I can do is try to educate them and realize that their thoughts or beliefs have nothing to do with who I am as a person. I’m not looking for sympathy but understanding.
I am proud of my own self for facing this condition in the best way I know how.
For people to view me (or anyone with depression) like that, would be equivalent to them looking down on someone who has a physical disability. To think that someone with depression has a choice is wrong. To tell us to “snap out of it” or “just think positively” would be the same thing as telling someone who is wheelchair bound to get up and walk. It’s not that easy. If it were, no one would have depression. Because, I promise you, no one wants to feel like that.
All of that said, the fatigue that comes with depression is just one of the crippling effects of it. It’s when you lose all of your energy to do the things in life you want to do. It’s not that you no longer want to do those things but depression won’t let you. It is the heavy weight or dark cloud people draw pictures of when they are trying to depict what depression feels like.
The first day of the depression and fatigue I just rest. I personally feel like it’s my mind and body’s way of saying I need to just stop. If it’s a work day I get through it then rest. I’ve only ever had to call off for depression symptoms once or twice in my career, thank goodness. I know it effects some other people much worse and can be extremely debilitating if it’s uncontrolled for a long period of time. It is for me too, at times, but I’ve learned to control it for the most part by working with my doctor and trying different medications (slowly and with supervision) and figuring out on my own what works. It’s required switching doctors who weren’t willing to work with me as an active participant in my care, as well.
If I have the time off from work and it’s hitting me badly I will rest for up to a few days.
I naturally eat light on those days simply because I’m less hungry.
I make sure I get enough fluids. I do have to force myself to drink sometimes because, for some reason, I’m also not thirsty (which is weird because I normally always have something to drink at hand all day long).
I get out of bed to do as many normal things as possible like bathe, eat, feed the dog, clean up a little if possible, etc. I know that doesn’t seem like much but everything takes an extreme amount of effort during a depression episode. There’s a list down below.
Mentally, here’s what’s going on:
For me, depression attacks are just an overall feeling of not being able to function as a normal human being anymore. It’s like all of my self-love, self-esteem, joyfulness, playfulness and positive energy just slipped away somewhere out of my reach. Yet I do know it’s there somewhere.
I know from personal experience that I cannot stay in this place. The longer I stay there, the further out of reach those positive qualities are.
My support is my husband. He doesn’t judge me. He supports me. If I need to be a burrito he will be a burrito with me. He brings me water and a vitamin when I get depression. He makes sure I drink fluids so I don’t get dehydration symptoms on top of it all. He doesn’t try to talk me into a better mood or force me to do things. He gives me a reason to want to get better just by being his loving self.
Even if you don’t have a partner who understands and supports you, there is SOMEONE in your life that you can talk to. Find him or her. This is what friends are for. True friends and people who love you are there to help you through difficult times in life. Acquaintances and superficial friends are the ones who only want to hear about how great you’re doing and have fun times with you. Those are not the ones to contact at this time.
Robot-hugs illustrates this so accurately and wonderfully. RH is a feminist robot who has their own website and comic all about depression. You really should check them out if you haven’t already.
I know I have to follow a routine and do what has worked for me in the past. I remember these things:
After several days of resting, I know that my body definitely no longer needs the rest. At this point my body needs to move despite what my mind is feeling. Resting now will be giving in to depression and would be allowing it to dictate my life. I refuse to let it, as crippling and debilitating as it may try to be. I’ve been to that pit of despair and will do everything in my power to never go back down that rabbit hole.
Over resting causes or contributes to:
- muscular pain
- stiff joints
- slower metabolism
- bed sores or tender spots on your heels, elbows and other pressure point areas
- illnesses like pneumonia.
- more depression.
Over resting depletes you of:
- Enjoying the simple pleasures of the day such as fresh air, sunshine, a warm bath and feeling fresh, hot or cold tea, a clean house, a good meal, etc.
- Interaction with other human beings
- A feeling of contribution to your family and the world
- Your energy
- Your time
- Living your life’s purpose
So, knowing all of that, I drag myself out of bed and do something. You’ve probably read things on Pinterest or Instagram that say things like “If all you did was get out of bed today that is enough.” When depression hits hard, I have to accept that I have limitations due to this illness and cannot beat myself up over not accomplishing all that I wanted to on that day.
I have to realize that I am who I am and love myself the way I am.
Eventually it does get better. Sometimes in a day or two or maybe in a few weeks. I will feel better.
Here is a list of things I try to do to get myself up and out of bed. I pick one thing and go from there. I’ve seen other lists out there but this is my own list of what works for me. Maybe you can find just one thing to do in that list today if you are in a depression episode.
I hope this benefits someone some time. Maybe when needed, the right person will find this post and with it some hope. I want to reach out to you right now through time and space and let you know I understand and that you are not alone. If I could hold your hand I would.
If you feel you’re at your worst and can’t even do one of things listed above, it’s ok. Try taking a nap and focusing on getting through this day only. If you need someone to talk to do not hesitate to reach out to a help line. Simply Google “crisis helpline” or “depression helpline” to get phone numbers for free support in your area.
May you be happy and well.