Comfortably Glum

When you’re living with depression, sometimes the scariest moments are the ones where everything seems to be going smoothly.

Recently, there was a brief but wonderful period of time where everything appeared to be going my way. I was kicking goals in every aspect of my life; I’d started exercising again, I was eating healthier, I was meditating regularly and at work I felt a sense of productiveness and fulfillment. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t dread the thought of getting out of bed in the morning. Finally, I’d reached the level of stability and sustained happiness that I’d been striving for.

‘This is it.’ I thought. ‘This is life!’

But alas, it was not meant to be. For you see, depression can be a real bitch.

As quickly as feelings of joy and satisfaction had poured into my life, a storm of self-depreciating thoughts was brewing that threatened to wash it all away.

‘You’re a fraud.’

‘You’re a failure.’

‘You don’t deserve this.’

Without warning or remorse, the happiness I had found was ripped away from me. I was on top of the world, and now these negative thoughts had brought me tumbling down to the bottom of the heap. I was lower than low. I was nothing.

Things were back to normal.

Now, I know I’m not the only one to have experienced this. It’s happened to the best of us – your life is seemingly on the up-and-up and for one sweet, delicious moment you get a taste of what it’s like to not be sad all of the time. But, that depressive brain of yours doesn’t skip a beat and soon it’s back up to its old tricks of convincing you that eating an entire tub of chocolate ice cream while listening to Bright Eyes on repeat is a good way to spend a Friday evening.

When we fly too close to the sun, our urge to come crashing back down to Earth and into the familiar realm of angst and self-loathing only grows stronger. Like a fully-charged electromagnet, the further we pull away the more desperately our depression seeks to snap us back into the position of being huddled in a corner underneath exactly twelve woolen blankets. We have 200,000 years of human evolution on our side, and yet we decide that soppy music and artificial flavoring is the best way to deal with our emotions. Why the hell would anyone be inclined to behave this way? What purpose does it serve?

Well… I have a theory.

There is one thing that humans crave more than pleasure, and that is comfortability. Our brains are built to resist change. If you’re reading this blog, then I’d be willing to bet that you’ve spent your entire life struggling to deal with some strain of mental illness. Depression is a dreadful and destructive force, but in a sick and twisted way, it also feels like home. For me personally, the more depressed I am, the closer I feel to my true self. I understand what it means to be happy, but sadness is still my bread and butter, baby.

When something threatens to take my precious sorrow away, my mind immediately hits the panic button – “RED ALERT! RED ALERT! WE HAVE POSITIVE THOUGHTS APPROACHING ON ALL FRONTS! HOLD YOUR POSITIONS!” What ensues is a fierce battle within my own subconscious – a battle of emotions. And because sadness has the home advantage, my depression will always emerge victorious.

Put simply, I’m not good at feeling good. My mood will always strive to reach an equilibrium and return to its default depressive state. This behavior stems from the deeply-rooted belief that I do not deserve to be happy, a sentiment that most of us share – but that is a topic for another time.

Today, there is only one thing I want to you to take away from this post. The next time you see the dark clouds of depression looming on the horizon, ask yourself this:

‘Is this feeling due to external factors, or is this just a reaction to being pushed outside of my comfort zone and into a place of happiness and well-being?’

If you feel like shit and you’re not sure why, you should accept the possibility that this is a mental block your mind has created to prevent you from experiencing positive emotions. You should treat happiness like a skill that needs to be practiced and honed. When you’re learning a new skill, in the beginning there’s a painful period where you will try, and you will fail. Then you’ll try and fail some more. And just when you think you’re getting the hang of it – guess what – you’ll fail again. But what’s important is that you keep trying, because with each attempt you’ll bring your default mood closer to the threshold of happiness. Even in your darkest moments, you need to keep fighting.

The battle of emotions is more than a matter of life and death. It’s the fight for a life worth living. It’s a fight for everything.

And I know you can win.

11 Replies to “Comfortably Glum”

  1. Perfect. I’ve written about this as well, but feel you did a succinct summary of all the erronneous depressive behavior. I especially love your reference to Icarus.

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  2. Excellent post. Well written and thought out. And inspiring! I have just recently been contemplating that “comfort barrier,” so this post came at a good time.

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  3. “I miss the comfort in being sad.” -Kurt Cobain. Well written post. I started an effective anti-depressant last month, and I’m concerned about the exact thing you discuss here when I eventually come off of it. Right now the drug serves as kind of an easy out. I’m finally following up on some goals long bured in the back of my mind and feel a lot better, but the minute that crutch is gone, that need to be in a comfortable place of failure may roar back. Even now, it’s weird to not feel like crap. It doesn’t feel quite right. I thought about that very thing when I woke up this morning, thus your post is timely for me. Maybe not exactly the same thing you’re discussing, but similar enough.

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      1. Well, it’s commonly known said they stop working after a while. In my own case I have some concerns. The activity level is a little off the charts lately and my bipolar co-worker thinks there’s a little bipolar going on over here. It’s hard to tell though. Unless you’re running up credit cards and such how does one determine whether it’s mild mania or relief from depression. Anyway, not expecting an answer on that just thinking out loud here.

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    1. Everyone’s experience with medication is different, but the most important thing is that it keeps you here so you can keep moving forward. There’s no easy way off the meds, but as long as you listen to your doctor and keep doing what makes you mentally and physically healthy you’ll get through it.
      Good luck, and thanks for sharing.

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  4. A very big ‘Bravo!’ to a Post that is inspirationally on point. The last line is a resounding encouragement for me. The only option is a big Win. Thanks for sharing very heart warming content.

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  5. being recently diagnosed I am all too familiar with this. Now when I start to feel good I get super paranoid that maybe I’m being manic/hypomanic, but in reality sometimes I just feel good, sometimes things do go my way, I feel that when I get paranoid about it I stop living in the now and end up self-sabotaging myself in some way.

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  6. This is so good! I love “RED ALERT! RED ALERT! WE HAVE POSITIVE THOUGHTS APPROACHING ON ALL FRONTS! HOLD YOUR POSITIONS!”

    This is how I feel when things are going way too smoothly so my brain has to find something to be anxious about. It’s ridiculous. Who decided that this was an appropriate reaction to calmness? No one asked me and it’s my brain.

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