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Fighting depression and its ugly sidekick, addiction, is lonely and boring most of the time.
Yes, there is medication. Yes, there is help. Yes, our loved ones “get what we’re going through,” but do they really?
I know my people care about me, but if I’m being honest, most of the time I think as long as I act happy, they are happy to see me “happy” because they don’t have to worry about me or my “moods.”
There are no awards for staying sober. And by “staying sober” what I’m talking about is fighting all the big and small demons that buckle up for the ride and hold hands with depression. Demons that thwart happiness such as overeating, drinking too much, or drug abuse. Demons like overspending, giving too much, or never taking a break from work.
There are no annual awards for the “winners” who are seemingly keeping themselves in check and beating the system. There are supportive groups that help, of course, but fighting our “demons” is a solo venture. Being inside ourselves all day every day isn’t easy. There’s a lot of time killing and gap filling.
And oh, have I mentioned it’s lonely and boring?
There is also backlash, as was recently on display this past summer for Olympic gymnast Simone Biles who took herself out of competition to take care of her own mental health. People were quick to take sides. For some reason, her decision became a polarizing debate. The judges of the world couldn’t let it be what it was—a human being opting to take care of her own damn mental health instead of maintaining her image. Simone practiced a loving, humble act of kindness toward herself on a world stage and then endured angry public scrutiny for it.
With any act of self-care or preservation, we must go it alone. It’s as simple and as difficult as that. Day in and day out, we are with ourselves. I know firsthand that talking myself out of my own demons (my detrimental coping mechanisms) is exhausting work. Staying ahead of “the struggle” is about as exciting as watching paint dry.
There’s a switch that most people who “battle the demons” talk about. Usually, it’s in the off position. It sits there, benign and dormant, waiting to be flipped on. When it’s on, we go from having a sense of control straight to “who the fuck cares?” in a flash. We do not care, in the moment, about our health, our sobriety, our “new” lives, or any progress we have made. We desperately want the feeling that comes to the party with the demon, and that’s all she wrote.
Keeping the switch off is difficult. Sobriety isn’t fun for our friends who are used to having a good time with us. It’s not fulfilling for our codependents who get something out of trying to fix us.
So why do we do it? Or better yet, how do we continue to do it? How do we bottle up the good feelings that come along (eventually) with stringing together lots of sober days, keeping that switch turned off, and feeling grounded instead of manic, chaotic, or lit? All of us who participate in bouts of self-sabotage know the joys of being chaotic and lit. It’s an escape from the boring mundane of our sobriety.
For me, it’s about breathing through it and enduring the loneliness and the boredom while simultaneously practicing gratefulness inside the sober moment for the sober moment. It’s not easy to be grateful for boredom. It’s not easy to refrain from flipping that switch.
So, here’s a plea: please show compassion and be patient with us as we make our way through it. The old adage, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about” rings clear. We really don’t know anything about the inner struggles of others. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are not always public. Often, maintaining “sobriety” (however that may be) is a private climb.
This is true when we meet someone “moody” or “angry” in the grocery store. Someone in a hurry or hassled. Someone being too loud (or too quiet). Someone openly expressing road rage, or screaming at their children. Someone lying on the couch all day. Someone who doesn’t respond to our texts or never wants to do anything. Someone who uses sarcasm to make a point. Someone with tears in her eyes when she’s talking to you, telling you everything is fine.
My depression and my chosen coping mechanism, food abuse, are a perfect marriage under a gray sky. It’s something I talk about, but it’s not something I show the world.
Bear with me because:
When I’m battling, I become introverted and I say no a lot. I cancel plans. It’s not you, it’s me. I retreat and hide and pretend I’m too busy. Being happy, carefree, fun, and “fine” can be hard work for me, and sometimes I’m just not up for it.
I take pictures and post them to make sure you know I’m enjoying something in my life, so therefore I’m “normal” just like you. I take selfies when I’m feeling cute. I post photos of cabins and sunsets. I seek validation from social media, a source that can’t look back into my eyes and see right through me.
I procrastinate. When I’m not not filling empty spaces with my addiction, I’m trying to figure out what to do with myself.
I try to tap my creativity. I think the crafts will fill me in a way that my addiction does, but they don’t. They help, but they don’t satisfy me the way food and shopping and hoarding does, and I know it.
I clean closets. I purge. Then I collect more stuff to fill what I just emptied. Quite the conundrum.
I scroll. I scroll and scroll and scroll.
I drink too much coffee and eat too much bread.
I forget how to love, and be loved.
But, I write about it. I write my little, tender heart out about all the stuff that’s on my mind, in an effort to connect. The writing brings me back; it brings me home. It’s the connection that keeps me going, moving, and seeking a higher plane, the one intangible happy place I will always feel in my soul. I know for sure that writing helps me connect with myself and in doing so keeps me sober and grateful in the moment, for the moment.
But, have I mentioned that it’s lonely and boring most of the time?