The Rare Occasion When Affect is a Noun

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He knows no one shines forever; they change with the weather.

– AFI “On the Arrow”

I can’t remember a time when the coming of the winter season didn’t bring with it the heavy weight of depression. Since I was in my early teens I have struggled with this time of year and the lows it evokes for reasons I have never been able to comprehend. This condition has an actual clinical term: Seasonal Affective Disorder, the condition with the unbelievably appropriate acronym, SAD. Those who are familiar with struggles of depression know, however, this feeling goes well beyond a simple feeling of sadness. It’s a weight that roots you to the ground, strips you of your willpower, and fills your mind with darkness. It strips away your ability to be human and to function around other people. This, at least, has been my experience. Over the years I have simply come to deal with it because, so far, it has proven to be extremely resistant to any drug I’ve been prescribed.

There was a great amount of hope this year, though. There was a glimmer on the horizon that I may have started to escape this weight I’ve carried for at least 15 years. I was working out, I was eating decently and regularly; I was taking care of myself which is key when one struggles with depression. I’ve learned to not sit in it or it will only tie more stones around my ankle and cause me to sink further into the abyss of my own thoughts. However, after a session with my therapist I discovered, these measures seemed to only be masking the symptoms rather than getting rid of them. It struck me like a brick while we were discussing my moods that I have been depressed the entire time I was doing well. My affect was flat and I had no energy. Over the years, I’ve learned to fake being in a good mood but, “fake it until you make it,” only works for so long. Especially for an introvert who bleeds energy when he’s around people like me. It only picks away at what little barrier I have left to guard my lows from the outside world.

I can feel myself going down again…

– Sage Francis “Eviction Notice”

Those who don’t live with depression have a very difficult time understanding what it’s like to have to live with the shifting winds of moods. Depression doesn’t, at least for me, exist as one feeling but more of varying degrees of lows with different temperaments. I’m used to the bottom end of the spectrum where it’s impossible for me to get out of bed and I can’t think of anything to do or any good reason to peel off the blankets and do something. It’s crucial to learn how to take care of yourself in these instances as impossible as it may seem. These are the days I don’t make it into work and I spend most of my day watching movies – if I can get out of bed to my DVD collection – or marathon-watching something on Netflix. These days I usually don’t really bother to eat and I ignore anyone and everyone. The irony of this is that, in this state of mind, having someone around to treat you as they normally would is actually really helpful. Of course, there is always the fear of letting someone too close and the fear they may later use the information they gather against you. I’ve been there. It makes trusting people with anything difficult.

Lately, I’ve been barely falling just under the surface of the water. I can feel the ache in my chest and stomach that I’m used to when I’m feeling everything full force but it’s more like background noise. It’s not bad enough that it completely affects how I function so I’m able to do everything I normally do but there’s this subtle bell in the background ringing to the tones of melancholy. It sits just below the surface and just scratches underneath my skin to let me know its there. My energy is still pretty low and it comes with sudden bursts of irritation and anger, at one point turned inward, forcing me to control or sequester myself. I have to find something to take my mind off of it. Writing is the biggest help and, while not many people understand, it helps me manage and that’s all I really care about. Some people might see it as selfish and that’s okay but, if there’s anything I’ve learned from two years of therapy and 15 years of dealing with myself, I have to take care of myself first and people who expect me to take care of them are poison to my soul. It’s one of the reasons I keep so few friends.

So, I’m continuing to fight with myself as I try to find ways to keep from losing it completely. It’s difficult sometimes to see faces of people you used to know who have now become people you knew. It’s hard to see people make connections and meet people and wonder why it’s so hard for me to do that. I’d like to think of myself as a decent person with good values and a good heart, though cracked and bandaged it may be. Yet I find more people exiting my life then entering and this just adds more weight to my shoulders. Depression makes you constantly ask yourself if there’s something wrong with you, if you’re defective. I have to believe God made me this way and he doesn’t make mistakes. I am who I am for a reason and I have to deal with things the best I can and lean on him to get me through it. I have connected with God more lately than I have in a long time which has been fantastic.

There are days I wish I didn’t feel so alone, even though there are days I thrive on my own. I wish I didn’t have to see the bottom of the barrel so often but I am thankful I can still breathe despite the weight on my chest. These lows will come and go just like people come and go.

“PLEASE. BELIEVE ME. I’M REAL. IT HURTS.” – The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

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