what depression feels like

My Depression Is Back

By Abbe Greenberg of The Anxiety Sisters

My depression is back. As always, it crept up on me in the night, and I awoke to darkness, even with the Florida sunlight piercing the windows of my bedroom. Everything aches — my legs and lower back especially — like I’ve been crouching in a tight space for hours. Sitting up is too much effort so I lie here and feel my jaw tense and lock. My cat stares at me, tentatively reaches his paw to my face, but I don’t make eye contact. I am too weary to cuddle with him, and something feels lodged in my throat so I can’t call to him in my sing-song: “who’s my sweetest boy?” He’s been through this before so he doesn’t push. Just flops down next to me and watches the tears trickle from my eyes.

I’m never sure what brings the depression on. I have theories but they don’t always hold up. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I have a brain illness, and this is one of the symptoms. There may not be a reason beyond misfiring neurons. I picture my brain in one of those MRI scans that light up in different fluorescent colors. Only my brain is dark. There is no color at all.

Here’s my day: I wake up at 7 and lie in bed until 9. Then I move to the living room and sit in my favorite chair. I will stay there for too many hours and my whole body will hurt. So I will move to the sofa and lie there until 3, when I will finally allow myself to go back to bed, pretending it will be just for a quick nap.

I have never written during my depression. I have never been able to do anything at all — including working, brushing my teeth, showering, talking to my kids — except move from bed to chair to sofa. But this time is different. I run a community of women with brain illnesses. This is when they need me to write.

So, my Anxiety Sisters, I am writing in the dark because my eyes hurt from crying. My brain illness is no longer in remission. Two weeks ago, I felt fine. My meds and strategies were doing their jobs, and I was living a joyful and fulfilling life. Today, I can feel only heaviness. Like I am trapped under a weighty, dark blanket made of scratchy wool.

“This will pass,” Mags says. “This is how you always feel when you are depressed, but it will go away soon. Probably by the weekend.”

She is right. It will pass. But four days is four lifetimes when you can’t get out of bed. My stomach is tender and I keep burping up acid. The next time I go to the bathroom, I’ll take a Tums.

My breathing is shallow, and I can’t eat. I am empty through and through.

It’s almost naptime. Sleep is my guardian during these episodes. I am so very tired. Exhausted. Like I’ve been up all night.

I am talking to myself aloud and saying “this too shall pass” and “ride the wave.” I am wearing loose pajamas and I have a fan blowing cool air on my face. I have a lavender eye pillow that I will wear as soon as I am done with this blog. And I have thousands and thousands of anxiety sisters who have felt this way too. They have gotten through it, and so will I.

So will I.


Abbe Greenberg is co-founder of The Anxiety Sisters, an organization dedicated to helping others manage their anxiety and eliminating the stigma associated with mental disorders. She has gotten two degrees in the communication field as well as a certificate in Adult Education and a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. In addition to her more than 25-year career as a professor, Abbe has served as a divorce mediator, a Myers-Briggs trainer, a motivational speaker and a communication consultant as well as a teacher development coordinator for several educational institutions. When she is not teaching, writing, researching, or panicking, she spends time with her anxious husband, her three anxious kids and her two anxious cats.

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