Depression sucks. All parts of it are messy, unromantic and generally awful. Nobody likes persistent and chronic low mood. Or the complete, overwhelming lack of energy. Or the appetite changes, sleep disturbances, a sex life that becomes a distant memory. The list goes on. When you look at all the different symptoms those of us with depression have to deal with day in and day out, it’s not hard to see why it is such a debilitating condition.
There are some symptoms which I find to be particularly cruel, though. Some parts of the black dog with a particularly nasty bite. In my experience, these are the symptoms that challenge a fundamental part of who you are. For example, the low mood part of depression is really tough. But realistically, having been dealt a pretty tricky hand growing up, feelings of sadness and low mood that come during depression are not exactly new to me. Obviously, being depressed is not the same as being sad, but it’s not a million miles away from feelings I’d experienced while being mentally well. When I experience this symptom of depression, I still fundamentally feel like me, albeit me having a really shit time.
On the other hand, anhedonia (the loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities) coupled with a complete absence of motivation and energy, stripped something essential out of my personality. When I’m well, I’m a bundle of energy. It’s one of the first ways my friends and co-workers would describe me. I don’t like to stop, I don’t like to be unoccupied. More work, more socializing, more sport, more intimacy. On holiday with friends, I’m the one instigating pillow fights at 4 a.m. because something as trivial as the need for sleep isn’t enough to make me stop the fun. I’ll work a 70-hour week and still find time to get stuck into an 8-hour board game marathon. Simply, I thrive off it, it’s just so much of who I am.
To then be entirely bulldozed by a complete disinterest in everything I once found joy in is devastating. I find I can try for a while, try and keep everything going and fake the positive feelings that come with it. I so desperately want to genuinely feel those feelings. But the harder I try, the more I see the fragments of my personality slipping through my fingers.
When it gets to the point of me experiencing full-blown anhedonia, I know things are bad. It’s a massive red flag for me; a sign that my mental health is really deteriorating. A sign that the depression has taken such a strong hold that it’s taken away something that makes up the very core of who I am. It’s this loss during a depressive episode that often precedes a crisis. Suddenly it’s not a case of me trying to battle a mental illness. I don’t recognize who I am, and with this loss of self comes a massive lack of power to keep fighting. I’m no longer fighting for me, because the me that myself and my loved ones knew and loved and respected is no longer there. I look at myself and see a shell, an empty husk where me and my personality used to sit.
And sometimes, it’s impossible to keep putting in the effort to fight for an empty shell.
Can you relate? Let Amber know in the comments below, and share your own tricks for dealing with anhedonia.