Have you ever wished that there was a sliding scale to tell you when your “well, it’s been kind of rough season” officially turns into “yeah, okay, I need help”? That there was a magical number you hit on the carnival game that sets lights and bells off to signify that yup, it’s really depression?
I’ve been hard at work developing those measurements for you, dear reader, as an easy-to-remember, fill-in-the-blank worksheet to measure your own mental health!
# of months since transitioning from living in Southeast Asia, contributing to purposeful work, and investing in authentic community, to your parents’ home in rural Indiana: 7
# of Highland cows in your front yard who visibly remind you of how Indiana Indiana is: 4
# of bridesmaids Facebook group chats you’ve been added into and hastily, politely removed from (due to messes of your own making): 2 (TWO!!)
# of months since replying to your friend from college who is one of your favorite people to talk to but also to whom you can’t admit your own failures: 3
# of job rejections you keep in an email folder you named “You Can Do It!” that now looks like a sad joke: 20+
# of days since replying to a friend you always hoped if you kept the door open on could someday be something but never actually communicated that to and at this point, can’t ever reply to because the length of time is inexplicably weird: 40+
# of dark thoughts that cross your mind at hyper speed/shame spiral during a panic attack that you write down on night on your leg to satiate the impulse of cutting: 29
# of missed calls and texts about odd jobs that you were supposed to take to save up money, the justification you made when you broke your commitment to teach English in Romania, but now you can’t order your mind long enough to respond to: 7
# of tears you cried when you were referred to a job opening up a donut shop…..the exact same job you did before you left for the Philippines…..a cruel joke so perfect it makes you doubt your own comedic creativity: 1
# of people who stared at you at Starbucks when you finally told your friend you can’t go to her wedding in the Philippines because you can’t afford it and cried until you put your head down and fell asleep at the communal table: ~10
# of days until you keep “call the doctor to get back on medication” on your to-do list: 1 month-ish
# of days until you actually get an appointment after you summon up the courage to call: 8
# of times you rewatched “Diagnosis” and “Anti-Depressants Are So Not A Big Deal” from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the first time with tears in your eyes from feeling so understood, to laughing out loud with some of the first unbridled joy you’ve felt in a long time: not enough
# of days since going off Instagram because the FOMO and despair of seeing all the places you’d rather be, all the versions of yourself you’d rather try out, all displayed in technicolor perfection that you could never: 7 (with the silver lining that you broke your screen addiction!)
# of hours you have to decide on law school, having to choose between saying “no” because you can’t guarantee that you’ll feel like yourself again or saying “yes” and gambling that you won’t feel like dying anymore: 18ish
If you needed a push to encourage you that maybe it’s not just a rough patch, maybe it’s not that you need more sleep or more clarity or more exercise or more advice, maybe it’s okay that you’ve slipped back into old patterns as long as you can acknowledge it, then here it is. There is no number, no scale, no marker to validate your experience. There’s no deus ex machina moment coming to save you.
I wish I would’ve known this months ago and saved myself all this heartache. But that’s the nefarious nature of depression, as it feeds on itself to survive. It’s okay not to be okay, not to be anywhere near where you want and hoped you’d be.
Someday these numbers won’t mean anything to me. All I care about now are the anti-depressants dosages and biweekly therapy appointments and the message alerts from life-sustaining friends and the afternoon pickup times of my little siblings and of course, 9:00pm Sunday nights with Game of Thrones. Getting to choose the numbers I’m paying attention to has meant all the difference in the world.