We all have down days. Days where our usual optimism and hope are far away and beyond reach. Days when all you want to do is sleep until the next day in case it is better, even when nothing bad is actually happening. I’ve struggled with these down days for most of my life. My past doctors have referred to them as depression and possible bipolar disorder (depending on which doctor).
I’ve woken up for months on end, miserable at the prospect of opening my eyes. I haven’t taken medicines in over twelve years; they made me feel sick and the side effects were awful. They made me feel less morose but also less happy. No lows but no highs either. Granted the world of antidepressants has improved vastly in the last decade, but part of me doesn’t want to ask for the help. Why? Because it means admitting I’ve failed to manage those endless streams of down days.
I loathe failing. I feel like it means I’ve disappointed everyone around me. It makes me feel like a horrible waste of space and resources. It makes the down days turn dark and angry. So what do I do instead?
I fake it. I fake it until the down days grow less sad and insecure. I put on a happy face and muster as much excitement over things I doubt will ever happen and play a role. I play the giddy geek and latch onto a fandom that brings some connection to hope, no matter how ridiculous; if it makes me feel good for a little bit instead of empty and numb, I dive in without knowing how to swim.
I write. I put all my darkest fears and insecurities and thoughts into creating a world full of people I can control. I make heroes using the traits I wish I possessed and villains using the ones I fear I do have. I kill off people who make me feel small in horrific ways and cry over the ones who hold a part of me when I kill them so I won’t feel as helpless or lost.
I do not self- harm. I have long ago and that’s when I went to the doctors for help. I needed the pain to be real. I don’t now; that pain only harmed the ones I loved. Most of them still have no idea how close I came to choosing to end it. How many goodbye note I wrote or how much I wanted to sleep forever.
I have drank myself unconscious hundreds of times in the hope of not waking. I’ve mad choices I knew I’d regret because I hated myself. And I stopped. I quit drinking because it became a crutch I was abusing and I wanted to be a person worthy of the love of my wife. I’ve done my best to manage my down days without too much fuss, whether they come for a few days or two months. I get up, get dressed, force myself to eat, and go to work. I do my best to live my life. I try to find hope when I feel nothing inside. When I love my wife and family and friends but I’m still apathetic towards everything. Sometimes the food has no flavor and the music has no passion and your soul feels dead. Those are the down days.
But sometimes the down days go away. And then the color comes back into the world and you’re not faking it anymore; you genuinely feel again. You feel joy and laugh or sorrow and cry. Sometimes both. You feel connected to people and hope blossoms and brings renewed energy and zest. That is why I keep fighting my down days. Because on those days, the world is new and I’m thankful to still be a part of it. And on those days I realize how much my leaving would hurt those I cherish most. Those days make me realize how selfish it is for me to consider bringing that suffering onto my loved ones when I can always ask for help.
I’ve been in the midst of a downswing for weeks, but I keep fighting it. I’d rather keep fighting than surrender; I don’t have to win, only draw. I’ve gotten less done lately than I’d planned, but at least I’ve done something. My down days have made me sick and exhausted and irritable and numb. But they haven’t made me quit. I know I can ask for help and it will be there. I know that I can get through each day because I’ve already gotten through thousands just as bad. Some far far worse. I encourage anyone else having a down day to do whatever they can to keep fighting as well. It gets better. If only for a little while here and there, it does get better.