This Is What It’s Like

June 8, 2018 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Amanda L. Pugh





Mental health.




Buzzwords to some, real life to others…either way you hear a lot about them currently. There is still a stigma attached to anyone that admits to having a mental health issue, whether it be depression, anxiety, or a combination of things. There is also still a mental picture many of us carry about the person that identifies with these terms; we think of someone who dresses all in black, lays in bed all day, never smiles, wears their hair flopped over in their eyes and listens to morbid music all day long, posts on social media about suicide, but everyone thinks they are joking because how could someone feel that bad and not seek help? They think that people that call themselves depressed are sad and they should “snap out of it” and anyone who attempts suicide or self-harms is seeking attention.


Well let me smack you upside the head and set you straight.


That is NOT what depression (or any mental health issue for that matter) is.


This is what it’s like.


There are days when you cannot get out of bed because the thoughts that run screaming through your head like a sugared-up class of kindergarteners have you so dragged down that moving is not an option. The only way you manage to drag yourself out of bed is when you must go to the bathroom. Eating doesn’t happen because you have no energy to open a granola bar, let alone fix a meal. All you can do it sleep it off, because at least that way you don’t have to think about it too much and your tired mind can get some escape from those racing thoughts.


It is forgetting how much joy you found in hobbies because there is a blackness hovering over you that blots that all out. It is the never ending inner dialogue with your inner self that makes you cry and keeps telling you that you suck as a human being, you aren’t good enough, who the hell do you think you are thinking you have something to contribute to the world…it goes on and on.


It’s trying to find the strength to deal with the advice of well-meaning friends and family who tell you to go see a professional and get some pharmaceutical help (when you have neither money or insurance) or even worse, tell you to snap out of it because everyone has bad days. Or the ones who try to tell you that they sympathize because they were sad once when they failed a test or their significant other broke up with them. (Depression is NOT just being sad).


It’s putting on the same shirt and sweatpants three days in a row because you have no energy to go pick a new outfit out of the laundry that you did two weeks ago in a rare burst of vigor. It’s forcing yourself to at least go to the kitchen and feed the cat because as much in a mental hole you find yourself in, there’s still a tiny part of you that doesn’t want your pet to starve to death.


It’s the inability to smile at even the smallest things because doing so hurts your face because it has been so long since those muscles moved. It’s wanting to scream obscenities at cheerful people you see on TV or on the street if you’ve managed to drag yourself outside.


It’s finally making a herculean effort to sit up in your bed and at least throw the covers back, sit on the side of the bed, and put your feet on the floor. You take a deep breath and (one step at a time here) walk to your dressing table and take the self-care step of sit down to brush your hair. The hair brushing feels sort of good, so you keep taking those deep breaths and go to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.


Baby steps.


It’s forcing yourself to go to the grocery store even though you’d rather have an appendectomy with no anesthesia while watching the love of your life marry your worst enemy, but knowing you need food so it’s got to get done. It’s fighting that blackness that threatens to overwhelm you and not letting it have control-not today anyway. It’s having that talk with yourself where you say you ARE better than this, you CAN get through this…some days it works and some days it doesn’t but blessed are the days where you can at least have that conversation with yourself.


It’s sometimes taking that well-meaning friend’s advice and getting some pharmaceutical help, even if it’s over the counter stuff (all hail St. John’s Wort). It’s doing something as small as taking that cup of coffee out on the front porch and sitting in the sunshine even though your skin is so pale you might be mistaken for a creature of the undead.


Again, baby steps.


Some days, depression is taking those baby steps.


And baby steps lead to survival.


This is what it’s like.





Amanda L. Pugh

Amanda Pugh is an adjunct professor of communications at Jackson State Community College in Jackson TN. She has been writing for as long as she can remember, both short stories and poetry, and it’s one her favorite things to do besides drink coffee and teach. Her work has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Tennessee’s Best Emerging Poets, Our Jackson Home, Down in the Dirt, and Spilled Ink (the literary journal of Jackson State Community College).

Contact: [email protected]

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