Depression, My Time Thief

By Christine Allen | Oct. 05, 2017

 

I first noticed how depression steals time from me just after college. I was a “boomerang kid,” or a college graduate who moves back in with their parents after graduation. I didn’t get the job I had shaped my entire college experience around, so I was frantically trying to figure out what direction my career and life should go in now that my “master plan” had fallen apart.

I felt so lost, so broken. I never left the house, I rarely got off the couch, I hardly showered or ate or changed out of my pajamas. The days and nights all mashed together in a jumbled, foggy haze. In fact, the only way I noticed time had passed at all was one day, I realized this tree in our front yard had turned from a lush, green to a radiant, brilliant red seemingly overnight. It was fall. Fall… fall?

“Wait, it’s fall?” I asked myself, as I looked out my window at the tree with the fiery leaves. “How is that possible?”

I stood there and desperately tried to remember what I did all summer. I couldn’t remember anything. And to this day, five years later, I couldn’t tell you what I did that summer other than wake up, fumble down the stairs, sit on the couch, open my laptop and mindlessly apply to jobs while watching my brother play video games. Sleep. Repeat. I didn’t go out. I didn’t see, or even speak to, friends. I didn’t live.

Depression had somehow taken an entire season from me. Months of my life—gone.

-

The severe major depressive disorder I live with functions in cycles. There can be days, months, even years of my life when I feel fine—as though I’ve fully recovered and will never feel the plummeting, wrenching emptiness of depression again. And then… I’ll wake up one morning, and it’s harder to get out of bed. A friend will ask me to do something fun, and my brain suddenly has dozens of reasons why I shouldn’t. Sleep becomes a luxury. Even answering a phone call becomes a challenge.

I’m in a depressive episode right now, actually. I have been since late-2015. So, according to a calendar, I’ve been depressed for about two years. But to me, it feels as though it’s only been a month or two, at most. And that’s because my depression is a time thief.

When I’m depressed, my days and nights feel like eternities, but months and years whip by like flashes. I feel like I’m at a complete stop, while everything and everyone around me is moving at hypersonic speed. Friends I went to high school with are getting married, having children and traveling the world, but I can’t remember how I reached this age. Or got to this city. Or became...this person.

It often feels like huge chunks of my life are missing—as if I had amnesia or was in a coma for years. But it’s just the depression, making me slowly plod along in an exhausted, trance-like state in which time holds no value: I’ll figure that out tomorrow, I’ll call a therapist tomorrow, I’ll hang out with my friends tomorrow, I’ll go to the grocery story tomorrow.

But all those “tomorrows” add up and suddenly, it’s been two years of “tomorrows.” Suddenly, the tree is red.

-

I don’t know if there’s anything to learn from depression’s time warping. If there is, I certainly haven’t figured it out yet and to be perfectly honest with you, I am furious over the time I’ve lost—the experiences I could have had, the sun I could have soaked up, the friendships I could have made. I missed it. All of it, gone. Sometimes, I worry that my depression is keeping me on the sidelines of my own life, keeping everything gray when I long for technicolor.

Just the other day, I saw a sign for a festival a nearby church is having and I thought, “I’d like to go to that” and I had to laugh at myself, because I saw that exact sign and thought that exact thing last year. I couldn’t bring myself to actually go last year; I think I spent the entire weekend crying. Or was that July Fourth weekend? I can’t be sure.

I am sure, though, that I am determined to make it to that festival this year. Because even though I can’t help the fact that I have depression, I can, through sheer force of will, make things just a little better for myself. And maybe that’s what we can learn from how mercilessly depression rips time away from us: how to truly focus on and value today.

Little by little, bit by bit, those of us who live with depression can stop life from slipping through our fingers. Whether that’s by dragging ourselves to some church festival or hanging out with friends today, not “tomorrow,” we can live a little bit more and a little bit better right here, right now. We can notice the leaves as they turn, rather than wake up to a sea of red.

 

Christine Allen is communications manager at NAMI.

Comments
Jon
I also know only too well your story Christine - and others. As far as preventing the devastating relapses, which have also destroyed large parts of my life, have you heard of MBCT?
Mindfulness based cognitive therapy - It was developed specifically to try and give a real alternative to drugs etc, to prevent relapses.
(I am not a reseller of any of the books etc which there are on this therapy) Just a sufferer who found out about it online and have bought what in my opinion is THE book / 8 week course - written by 2 of the actual founders of MBCT - Mark Williams and Danny Penman.
If, like me you struggle to read a paragraph then I would recommend the Audiobook - "Mindfulness a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world "
It includes 8 guided meditations,and a lot of practical advice which really does make sense for anyone - but is particularly relevant to people who are stressed,and struggling with the many demons of depression.

I hope that you take a bit of time to look online and you will find loads of resources and information - alot of them free,and also the scientific evidence which proves how effective just doing some simple meditations for a few hours every week can be.
To you and everyone else I would just like to urge you to never give up at fighting what has been called "The worst disease known to mankind ", by Dr Thomas Schlaepfer - a highly experienced and regarded German Psychiatrist.
My own motto is "Never Surrender!" and I hope that this ramble will maybe help anyone who wants to try Mindfulness as a tool to hopefully help them never surrender to this disease.

Jon - From the UK :)
10/18/2017 8:43:43 AM

Elizabeth Warren
For you Christine...thank you for sharing.


Perfectly Flawed

She walks through life feeling uniquely the same
Forgotten dreams with only herself to blame

Constantly doubting her purpose and plan
Seems wilfully condemned but no strength to stand

Beautifully broken is a way to explain her
For from a distance she appears put together

But what she sees is the pieces falling a part
Screaming on the inside for her aching heart

Delicately strengthened for hurt yet to endure
Unfortunately her mental anguish has no cure

Mind, body, spirit woven through pain
Unmistakably human she will remain
10/17/2017 8:23:41 PM

Elizabeth Warren
Thank you for sharing. I am currently working on my story but it is a hard one to tell because the disasters in my life have been self made and not natural. It's as if I run toward the chaos knowing it will hurt me but not loving myself enough to care. I am a social worker in a psych hospital not by choice but by calling. Sometimes the only relief I feel is in helping another like me. My smiles are genuine at work because I know that they understand even when they do not know.
10/17/2017 7:04:55 PM

KATHY
Thank you for not feeling alone or worthless. I'm so tired of pretending. Prayers for all of us!
10/14/2017 5:43:14 PM

Debbie
Thank you so much. I needed this more than you'll ever know. Not that I wish this on anyone, or their families that go through it too, but it's nice to know I'm not alone.
10/14/2017 1:45:30 PM

Tracy Audley
Finally I read something that can describe my.thoughts and feeling. This is a sneaky disease.
10/13/2017 5:41:07 PM

Angie
Me too, It's been so bad lately that all I manage to do is get up for work and that's such a struggle. I get this on so many levels.
10/11/2017 2:57:45 PM

Stephanie Cupps
My depression is similar to this, thank you for sharing your story. Mine seems to crop up when the weather gets gloomy and shows up in full force in the winter months. The upside is I force myself to go to work and interact with people, so far it helps.
10/9/2017 6:04:58 PM

Lizanne Corbit
Powerful read. I think so many people who live with depression can relate to this and in some ways even breathe a sigh of relief, as this is a reminder that even in the most isolating of times you are not alone. "Time thief" periods can feel especially isolating because it's like no one else is functioning on your clock it's important for people to remember that you are not alone, and that you can re-grasp a sense of the present, but be gentle with yourself in doing so. Little things like noticing what it feels like outside, how does something taste when you eat/drink it, what color are your socks, etc. It's not a finger-snap treatment, it may take time, and that's okay.
10/9/2017 3:48:33 PM

Jill
Thank you for sharing. Sometimes things just seem too hard...
10/9/2017 1:49:50 PM

River
OMG this describes my life SO perfectly!!! I glance at the clock and it's only been 2 minutes, but I blink and suddenly I'm 25 and I have no idea what happened to the last 4 years of my life! Even when I make myself get up and get dressed and brush my hair every day, I have no idea what I've actually done in the last week. It is SUCH a relief to know it isn't just me!!! Thank you for that. <3
10/8/2017 9:04:48 PM

Karla
Beautifully written. Only those who suffer truly know how this feels. Thanks for sharing.
10/7/2017 12:56:18 AM

kat333
Thankyou for sharing
10/6/2017 9:09:41 AM

kat333
Thankyou I have been through some of this too and guilt knowing my kids had to live with me through this. Still battling it. Always battling with it. Glad I read your story and the Facebook comments. I felt so alone at times but i really am not. Peace to all.
10/6/2017 9:08:51 AM

Janet ODell
This is my daughter. This is also me!
10/5/2017 9:46:11 PM

Kathy
This article describes me.
So much time has passed me by. I spent today in bed.
Thank you for the advice to try to be present.
10/5/2017 5:28:18 PM

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