Perpetual Melancholy: A Life With Persistent Depressive Disorder

Surreal scene of Sad and depression human concept, alone, lonely, emotion, fantasy painting illustration

All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves.

Amelia Barr

Hello, all! Today I was pondering what kind of post I would write for you this week and it struck me that I haven’t done an update in a while and I do have some things to update you on, I suppose. This is another one of those posts where I have no real plan; just some thoughts I’d like to share with you.

I am AmBoBean (or just Beans, is fine)

I feel like I want to preface this update to say this: I, AmBoBean (Beans, to some), have a naturally sunny disposition. I am friendly and I try to be as kind as possible as often as possible. I like to find the lesson in the bad things (there’s always a lesson to be learned) and I try to see the best in people (which backfires sometimes).

I love to laugh and love to make people laugh, almost as much. When my Papaw died, I mourned that about him. He was amused by me and I was so heartbroken that I would never make him laugh again. I’ve even taken a pratfall or two in my day…anything to get the laugh. Anyway, I’m a generally upbeat person.

Also, I have Persistent Depressive Disorder. One of these things, it’s not like the other. For those of you who have suffered from any type of depression, you’ll understand when I say that it confuses the neurotypicals; my sunny disposition and the fact that I’m depressed. I hide the depression well, mostly.

Sometimes, though…it finds ways to creep back in. I can’t hold it back. I can’t stop it, but I can manage it the best that I know how.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

You can read my full Persistent Depressive Disorder post, but a more simplified version: PDD is a chronic, “less severe” form of depression. While an episode of Major Depression might last months, PDD lasts for years. In fact, that’s a hallmark of it. It has to have been present for several years to be diagnosed.

I have Persistent Depressive Disorder with episodes of Major Depression, or double depression. Sounds fun, right?

In laymen’s terms (and by “laymen’s terms,” I mean the words of yours truly), MDD is episodes of moderate to severe depression that lasts for several weeks to several months (again, I reiterate, this MY experience with depression, not the medical definition). When it is severe, it is soul crushing; debilitating in a way that the world at large will never try to understand and that makes it worse.

However, if you manage to survive those dark times, you do start to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Some of us turn to the medical community and some of us have to claw our way out ourselves, but happier times are to be had again. The fog lifts, from time to time.

Persistent Depressive Disorder is different. First of all, it changed as my responsibilities changed. Like a chameleon, my disorder seems to evolve with my life; to be able to fit itself in no matter what other obligations I might have. No longer able to be crushed by the weight of my own existence, it has replaced that agony with 2 emotions; blinding rage and an almost maddening apathy.

Sometimes the apathy can be tricky. When you’re used to the high emotions of ADHD, extreme highs and lows, sometimes normal can feel like apathy. Sometimes I haven’t lost interest in my hobbies, but instead I can’t focus on any of them. It looks the same, feels different. So I find myself asking a lot, “Is this…apathy?”

Wait. Is apathy even considered an emotion? I digress.

Secondly, when it gets bad, I am apparently insufferable. No doubt, the last time things went to shit, I lost an entire group of decade-long friends. They said I was toxic and negative; I always made everything about me. They were right, I did. I tried to tell them something was wrong, I just didn’t have a name for it then.

Thirdly, it lasts for fucking ever. Literally. All the literature I’ve found on it says that it may abate for a week or two, but longer than that is unlikely. It just is who I am now. Like my ADHD, it’s not something that can go into remission, but rather something that has to be anticipated and controlled.

Anyway, I always say instead of depression being a glitch in my system, it somehow became my operating system; always running in the background ready to kill everyone’s (my) good time. Occasionally, the system crashes (major depression), but it’s always there. I usually get by. I control it. I know it’s a lie.

The Symptoms

This piece isn’t going how I imagined it in my head all day. If I’m being honest, I can no longer remember how I imagined it all day. I didn’t write any of it down…you know, cause I’ve got a mind like a steel trap and all. *insert eyeroll*

Obviously, there are hallmark symptoms; low mood, low energy, loss of interest, loss of productivity, etc. and, of course, the “persistent” part of the whole deal. But there are other interesting symptoms and they way they have interacted have had a sometimes painful impact on my life.

Apathy

First, I want to revisit apathy. Earlier I explained that sometimes its hard to tell if I’m feeling apathy or “normal.” But the apathy that I felt when things were at their worst was crushing. I could feel nothing except the occasional burst of rage or existential agony. Nothing else. No happiness. No joy. I didn’t get excited. I struggled to even feel love.

Going from the extreme lows of major depression to the optimistic, idealistic highs of ADHD and every emotion in between, feeling nothing can be torturous. Aside from the pain and the anger, there was nothing. My walls were too high. Nothing was getting in or out.

Ruminations/Obsessive Thinking

The second thing is ruminations; a common symptom of PDD. As I’ve written, I have a type of OCD that causes me to ruminate. ADHD is also known to cause ruminations. Double depression and the rumination trifecta? This girl is on fire, y’all! All jokes aside, ruminations have terrorized me for days upon weeks at a time.

This is not your grandma’s worry, either. Or, maybe it is. I’m pretty sure my grandma also had ruminations OCD, so it literally was my grandma’s type of worry. Anyway…I keep getting off track. This is what happens when you have no plan!

Ruminations…it can get intense. Consumed by the things that had hurt me; unable to shake the normal everyday worries that people go through. I would spend hours every day, unable to make myself stop thinking about them. Every day, it would be a new worry; a new hurt. I had a lot going on in my life then and my mind would cycle through each life scenario.

I became obsessed with these same 4 or 5 situations and they were all I could think about. I could distract myself with friends and family or my hobbies. But as soon as I was alone with my brain again, here they would come. And that’s the shit of it all…you always end up alone with your own brain, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

Negative Thinking/Social Isolation

Eventually, that was all I could talk about. I would try to spend time with the people I loved, but I had become so isolated, that all I ever had to share was the latest update in these hurtful situations I was carting around. They had become so all-consuming that I literally had nothing else to talk about.

The next two symptoms: outward negativity and social isolation.

Those 3 things…the intense ruminations, the propensity to focus on the negative, and the self-imposed social exile were a perfect storm but it was the hopelessness that really brought it up the rear, so to speak.

Hopelessness

The last symptom is one I hope you’ve never felt; hopelessness. No hope for myself or my future. I had no dreams and no purpose; I didn’t know what I believed in or who I was. I was a shell at that point.

With no emotions and no hope, I was an easy target for the intrusive thoughts that would eventually drive me to seek help. I had completely lost myself and I had no other choice but to reach out. The alternative was too bleak.

The Update

So I buried the lead here and I think I did it on purpose. Not consciously, but on purpose nonetheless. See, I’ve gone back and forth all day about how much of my current condition to share. If you notice, I almost always write about my mental health in the past tense, as I’ve done already in this article.

The reason for that is because I don’t like talking about things while I’m going through them. As you know, mental health episodes can feel scary and helpless and when I’m in it, I haven’t learned the lesson yet. I don’t know what to share with you until I find the lesson.

The biggest reason, though (and the saddest), is stigma. Simply put, I’m afraid people will use it against me. I can talk about what happened in the past because it’s already over. I’m often afraid to ask for help in midst of a crisis because I’m afraid it will be lobbed at me like a weapon when I am at my most vulnerable state.

This time last year, things got really bad for me. I ended up on medical leave for 6 months. Luckily I was already in the midst of some pretty intense mental healthcare, but things were bad. Thing is, things were only bad on the inside. I knew the shit was hitting the fan, but no one else knew. I was even gentle when I told my doctors about all that had transpired.

I digress. There are bad people in this world. Bad people will kick you while you’re down and I know that better than anyone. So, when the chips are down, I put my mask on tight. There are things I can’t hide; physical anxiety symptoms, my perpetual exhaustion, etc. What I can I keep locked up tight, though.

Anyway, I’m doing it again…I’m stalling? Why is opening up on the Internet to strangers about my most intimate issues so hard?!

Ok, so the good news is I am not in a mental health crisis. I am fine and I am coping the best that I can right now. That said, I am battling some depression. It’s worse than I’d prefer; worse than my baseline, I guess you could say. It gets worse every day.

I’ve been engaging in some coping mechanisms that are trusted but, in my opinion, a bit regressive. Maladaptive daydreaming and hyperfocusing in unhealthy places. I’ve been spending as much time in bed as I can. All my breaks at work; I’m even going to bed super early in the evenings, out of depression boredom. Is that a thing? Depression boredom?

I’ve also lost interest in pretty much everything. I honestly spend most of my time scrolling social media; my attention span for the things that I love is virtually non-existent. That includes The Winter Of My Discontent as a blog and as a coaching service. I’m forcing it, but I’m doing the bare minimum in every aspect.

I’m keeping an eye on it and if it gets worse, I’ll call my doctor without hesitation. This is part of recovery, which is not a linear path. There will be times when my brain cannot cope with my circumstances and it won’t be able to keep up. All I can really do is prepare for those times (the best that you can prepare for such a thing) and act accordingly.

I’ve already talked to Dr. W about most of it and I have my first appointment in months with Dr. R this week. We’re going to discuss Imposter Syndrome. I’ve upped my appointments from one month to 2 weeks through February at least. I’m trying to stay on top of it.

Until then, I’m trying to allow myself grace. I’m letting myself fall into the loving embrace of my comforter, several times a day. Allowing myself to escape reality into the sweet embrace of a duvet and memory foam pillow.

Sometimes this happens and it will happen for the rest of my life. It’s just life with this brain. It’s frustrating and I wish I could combat it in a more effective way, but such is the science of the brain. We just do the best we can.

So yeah. That’s the update. I am in the midst of a really shitty depression. And I’m doing the best I can.

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Love and light. Keep fighting the good fight! 

About The Author

Amber Corinne

Writing about living with ADHD and mental illness and my journey down a thriving path forward. Breaking stigmas and creating community, one post at a time.

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2 Comments

  1. Oof… I can relate so hard to this. I just dragged myself out of bed, trying to psyche myself up for a day at work when I’m not feeling the least bit energised or motivated to be there, and decided to have a look at my emails over my morning cup of tea. I wasn’t expecting to find a post which summed up my current state of being so well!

    I have ADHD and I’ve struggled with depression since I was 13. It’s especially hard when it gets to the stage when I don’t feel like I have anything positive to share with friends, family or colleagues and I can hear myself frequently complaining and being negative.

    It’s like I stand outside myself, criticising myself for everything I say, when I’m in this state of mind. There’s one version of me that everyone can see, stood there complaining about something; then there’s the ghost version who stands to one side saying “listen to you! You’re so negative. Nobody likes you. You’re going to die alone” …and all sorts of other charming things that only I get to hear. So I try to squash down the negativity, but forcing positivity is hard (I’m already masking my ADHD all day long at work, so it’s exhausting having to cover up my depression too).

    When I’m constantly having to cover up how I really feel, it makes me feel alone. My doctor has given me some anti-anxiety meds (which stop me sleeping properly, but at least help with the panic at work) but there’s a huge waiting list for any talk therapy. I’ve got back in touch with the therapist I was seeing on Zoom during lockdown, but she has very limited availability and I have very limited funds for seeing her. I’m lucky to have a couple of very supportive friends, but ther’s only so much you can share before you realise you’re oversharing and getting into “I should be telling these things to a professional” territory.

    So I’ve just been struggling along, dealing with hormone issues, anxiety, depression and unmedicated ADHD (I was only diagnosed last year and the one med I’ve tried made me so unwell that I haven’t dared try another). Sometimes I’m OK for a few days or a week and feel like things are improving, and other times I have no emotions except anger and sadness.

    Like you, I prefer writing about my mental health issues in the past tense for my blog – it’s so hard to share them while I’m going through them. But it really helps that I can do so here, so thank you for sharing your thoughts and reminding me that I’m not alone with how I feel – our experiences sound pretty similar! It’s only been since I got my ADHD diagnosis last year that I’ve stopped feeling like such an “alien” and started to find other women whose experiences I can relate to.
    Kate recently posted…Student Deadlines, Anxiety and PerfectionismMy Profile

  2. The whole first half of your post? Me to a T! I’ve always been told I’m a really bubbly, happy, hyper person with a sunny disposition–and I am! On the outside. Inside I’m a windswept moor with an overcast sky almost all the time.

    I’ve suspected I have PDD for a long time, but because I’m me, I’ve never gone to the doctor to get an official diagnosis. I haven’t gone to the doctor for a lot of things I need to. It’s a real problem.

    I’m so sorry you’re going through a rough patch right now. I can certainly relate. 2018 was a bad bad bad year for me. My depression was worse than it’d been in a long time. Apathy was my baseline and I’m not sure what’s below apathy but I was certainly feeling it hard. I haven’t had a crash that bad since and I hope I never do again.

    Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me through Twitter DMs if you need someone to talk to. I don’t always know what to say, but I’m a great listener and full of sympathy and empathy. ♥
    Cassandra Armstrong recently posted…Pipe DreamsMy Profile

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