I can’t get out of my sweat pants – an essay on depression

I have clinical depression.

Despite all social stigmas to the contrary or people accusing me of being “crazy”, I’m not ashamed to admit that I have depression. Just like I’m not ashamed to admit that I have asthma.

The first time I experienced depression I was in 7th grade. I think it had something to do with the onset of puberty coupled with my entire life changing. After 7 years as a stay-at-home-parent, my mom went back to work full-time and I was suddenly responsible for caring for my 6 year old brother after school until my parents got home from work. I started junior high this year and didn’t cope well with changes in friendship and harder classes.

The way I dealt with it, because I had  no idea why I felt so sad all the time, was to stop eating. It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part. The stress and anxiety of my life made me lose my appetite. I remember going through the lunch line at school and getting my tray and turning right around and throwing everything on it away. After a while, one of the lunch ladies caught on and scolded me. So I learned it was best to take my tray, sit down, mess with the food but not eat anything, and then discard it. After 7th grade I asked my mom not to buy school lunch anymore. I don’t want to make it sound like I had an eating disorder because I didn’t. Not eating was a coping mechanism I unconsciously used when the stress and anxiety was overwhelming, and it wasn’t overwhelming all the time.

Sometimes when the depression got really bad in junior high, I would come straight home from school and change into my pajamas. My dad caught on and he said something to me at dinner time about being in my pajamas several days in a row way before bedtime. I learned it was better not to change into my pajamas until bed time. People who are depressed like to hide their problematic behaviors because they are so ashamed of the way they feel. I was very ashamed and yet I didn’t have the words or life experience to voice what I was going through.

For most of junior high and high school I didn’t know that what I had was called depression. And that’s not to say I was depressed all the time. I was able to function and get good grades. I just had a few overwhelming bouts off and on and when it got bad I would stop eating and wear my pajamas every chance I could get. I also couch-potatoed with reruns of The Real World (this was back in the ’90s when the show was good).

That hardest part about dealing with depression as an adolescent, for me, was that no one seemed to notice. Research has shown that depression is genetic,  and I watched both of my parents struggle with depression. I think both of them were too depressed to notice that I was also depressed. There were many nights I had to make dinner for the family, make sure my brother did his homework and practice the piano, and put myself to bed. I don’t blame my parents…I think they did the best they could with what skills and knowledge they had at the time. And I know what it’s like to barely have the energy to get through the day that any additional problem seems insurmountable.

I struggled with bouts of depression until I was 20 years old. That is when my fiance (now husband) and caring roommates interceded and got me help. I learned that a lot of my depression stemmed from a hormonal imbalance because it often got worse when my hormones were at their lowest levels during my menses. Since that time I’ve either been on birth control or pregnant and my depression abated for a very long time.

For 15 years I was depression free. Even when I lost my mom to cancer I can’t say I was depressed because I didn’t experience the same symptoms. Yes, I was unbelievably sad and grieving. But grief is not depression and I sought ways to cope with my grief so that I didn’t become depressed. I attended a grief support group, went to a few counseling sessions, and let myself feel every sad emotion I had when I had it. It’s actually very emotionally healthy to let yourself feel sadness instead of repressing it.

What I didn’t know was my depression was lying in wait ready to take over my brain chemistry at any time I was not vigilant. Last September my husband, a long with 30% of his company, was laid off. He was out of work for four months, which in retrospect doesn’t seem like very long, but at the time it was the longest four months of my life. I was in a constant state of panic wondering if we were going to lose our house and end up living in a van down by the river. Not that we could have even afforded a van. We depleted our savings and racked up some credit card debt, but with the unfailing support of family members and friends we pulled through. And we were treated to some of the most humbling displays of generosity and love our family has ever seen. We survived it and now he has a great job and we’re in a much better place.


It was after my husband went back to work that the depression hit. I was in full-on survival mode for four months and I didn’t allow myself to process what I was going through, which I think is fairly typical. I couldn’t understand why getting out of bed and taking care of my children was harder than ever when I no longer had the threat of a van and a river hanging over my head. It wasn’t until a good friend interceded, who could tell what I was going through, that I finally admitted that after 15 years of keeping my depression at bay, it was back. Thanks to her I started taking a supplement that improves the serotonin levels in your brain and now I finally feel like I’m back to my regular self.

What is absolutely infuriating about depression is other people’s perception of it. I hate it when people tell me when I’m depressed to just think happy, positive thoughts. Having depression is not the same as having a bad day and a picture of a fluffy kitten will NOT lift my spirits. Depression is more than being sad. Or when people tell me I need to forget about myself and serve others and that will cure my depression. I hate to break it to people, but most people with depression are able to function in life and they are serving others and the joy from serving others doesn’t fix chemical imbalances in your brain.

So let me tell you what depression is like for me. It is debilitating. It makes mundane, ordinary tasks like taking a shower or making the bed seem impossible. It is soul-sucking. It breaks you down into a person who no longer feels anything but apathy. It also makes you feel completely worthless and unlovable. When I’m in the throes of depression my brain lies to me and tells me that I am worth nothing. No one cares about me. The world would be a better place if I died. And when you have all this negative self-talk running through your head all day long, no amount of fluffy kitten pictures is going to take that away. No amount of weeding your neighbor’s garden is going to take all that negative self-talk away. If anything, you just tell yourself how worthless you are because you could have weeded that garden better and/or faster. Another thing that happens to me when I’m depressed is I isolate myself from others. The internet and Facebook has made it super easy for me to be social without ever having to leave the house, and well, never leaving the house when you are physically capable of it is not healthy. Every human being needs real-life human contact and SUNLIGHT!

So what do you do when you suspect a friend is depressed? I would say the best thing you can do is reach out. One of the first lies our brains tell us is that no one, absolutely no one, cares about us. You reaching out and expressing concern proves our depressed brains wrong. Once you’ve expressed your concern, don’t offer them dumb platitudes (“the sun will come out tomorrow”), don’t try to minimize what they’re going through (“some people have it way worse than you”), just listen, listen, LISTEN! If they express their negative self-talk to you (I’m worthless and no one loves me) validate that what they are is experiencing is real but what they’re telling themselves is not true (“If you were worthless and no one loves you, why would I be here reaching out worried about you?).

I think I’m pretty lucky that my friend reached out when she did. I was in a swirling vortex of despair and didn’t even realize it. Most of the time I can recognize when my depression is coming on and combat it with exercise, going outside for a walk, talking to a friend, reaching out to my husband and letting him know what’s going on, or watching a really funny movie and laughing my guts out. Once I’m in a full-on depression those things don’t work anymore, so it’s best to head depression off at the pass. Like when I start to feel like my asthma is acting up, I start using my rescue inhaler more and resting.

To those who are currently clinically depressed I would ask that you reach out. To a friend, neighbor, family member, spouse…anyone you trust. Sometimes medication helps, sometimes it doesn’t. I just want you to know that you’re not alone. You’re not worthless. And there are people who love you deeply.


13 thoughts on “I can’t get out of my sweat pants – an essay on depression

  1. This is a fantastic piece. Well done for writing it.
    I suffered throughout my teenage years and in to my early twenties yet even now when I can feel it creeping in I keep putting off going to get help. You’ve motivated me to stop ignoring it. Thank you.

  2. Hi, a supplement is mentioned in the article, do you know which one was used? I’ve suffered with depression since about the 7th grade too and now I’m in my early 50’s and with peri/menopause I am at an all time low. I haven’t moved from the couch in forever! Please let us know what the supplement is if you know. Thank you!

    1. Hi Bas. The supplements I’m taking are 5-HTP, which can be found at health stores, but I buy in bulk at Costco, and Thrive, which I get online. However, before taking any new supplement or medication I highly recommend speaking with your health care provider first. All of my doctors know the medications and supplements I’m taking.

  3. What if you really have no one to reach,… I mean, I avoid showering etc. just as described,….. and when I make a Dr. appointment I usually don’t keep it because I can’t motivate myself to go. All they say is “so what do you want us to do”. So I’m on RX but still have sleep issues, fear, anxiety, trust issues, and the worst part is in my twenties or even thirties there was some comfort in being sad because at some point you could go to work and be around people and accomplish something (or at least think you are accomplishing something). I don’t have that either. Talking doesn’t help, journals don’t help, the husband does NOT get it at all, still…..I really do have no where to go and see no end to it and have been in that rut minimally since 2008 but ultimately since 1998. I’m going to turn 50 this year; that means 40 years more of this to go? I don’t want to take the RX because it causes other problems but I have PMDD also so I feel pretty doomed. Everyone else I know exercises, has hobbies, has JOBS, has things they like to do around their house. I’ve got nothing but complaints and old stories that everyone has heard a thousand times before. Each time I get excited about something if someone actually responds (like a job interview or getting a compliment), I recoil in fear instead of running with it as if I’m my own worst enemy. And for going on 50 I feel 195 (and look it). No one takes the weight gain or the effort it takes to do simple things seriously; they think if they can do it I should be able to do it. Well I can’t. I’ve become everything I’ve never wanted to be. Going to the dentists or getting a hair cut and color or anything for me is never a priority, not even washing. I can leave the house for my cats to go to the vet (my husband’s cats actually), or pick him up and drop him off at the bus stop so he can commute 10+ hours a week, but I only do things when absolutely necessary. If the cats (all rescues) were not here I would do less, but be that much alone. I’m the food lady they don’t purr for me anymore (past the age of 3 they stopped). How can I believe I’m loved if my pet doesn’t even purr for me anymore or want to sleep next to me.

    1. Hi Christine, thank you for reaching out. It may feel like you have no one, but you have me now. And don’t worry about your cat because cats are just jerks. I will email you at the address you left when you commented.

      I just want you to know that I hear you and I understand. Taking a shower when I’m in a major depressive episode is so hard for me. I totally get it! I don’t know what it is about taking a shower, but when I’m depressed it just seems like so much work. I know that people don’t usually change until it becomes too painful not to. It doesn’t sound like you’re all the way there yet, although I know the hell you’re living through inside your head. I just want you to know that I think you’re worth the work that it takes. You’re worth taking care of yourself, you really are. I don’t even know you and I feel a great affection for you because I know how hard it was to write the comment you left. As a human being you have inherent worth, and nothing can change that. If your brain tells you otherwise, it’s lying to you.

      You are worth it and you are loved. I promise.

      1. I hope so. What’s interesting is how often people forget to mention it vs how often some people culturally always mention it. In my house no one ever said “I love you” or read a child a story at bedtime, etc. but in other houses it’s common. Even saying “I love you” to my brother who is 1 year older than me is “odd” and I can tell in his voice it is also “odd” because we were not raised that way, but we at least said it once. My greek and hispanic family friends however, we say it without hesitation and with a kiss on the cheek. That’s worth leaving the house for but it is still so very hard. I think I lost my identity when I lost my job, and not being creative I never came up with a new one. So I just go day to day, waiting, sometimes sleeping even if I don’t need to, all the usual stuff we do even with the RX. It controls rage. I’ve tried to taper off of it and I can’t, I turn into The Hulk. Oh, by the way, I saw your Robin Williams article (and Kurt Cobain’s daughter has a produced a film that took 8 years to make called “Montage of Heck”.). You’re right, it’s not selfish. When the idea crosses your mind that the people around you would be better off without you, and you don’t see a reasonable way out, your brain takes you down into the abyss and drowns you – you care, you love the people you love, but somewhere the twisted logic says the pain is so great you’re doing them a favor and won’t be a burden. Anyone who hasn’t had that feeling simply skims the surface and says “oh how selfish for you to do that to your loved ones” (especially of Cobain). Anyone who has attempted it knows the battle between the body and mind’s self preservation mechanisms vs the anguish and pain pushing a person past those natural protection mechanisms. At 50, with no terminal illness, no drug habit, etc. I feel more like an operating expense as my husband works and I don’t – but it also feels too stupid to even bother. I’ve already tired twice in my 20’s. Past age 35 it just seemed idiotic to bother. I mean, you know you’re depressed when you have the thoughts and can’t even be bothered to do anything with them in the same “what’s the point’ fashion as doing chores around the house or washing up. It leaves you with a “shrug”, while you look at the clock. I feel like this is what it must feel like for elderly people who have family but live alone, and the family are all so busy that the elderly person just sits locked up in their house waiting to be needed or waiting for a call. Maybe the elderly person has health issues that prevents them from being active, but the feeling is the same. And do deal with the day to day annoyances like barking dogs, solicitors, etc. you can recognized a widowed elderly person’s house (male or female) by all the windows being closed, all the shades being drawn most of the time, no cars in front, no more lawn to bother with, etc. and no activity. The women outnumber the men in that in my neighborhood, but I know each house. I made friends with one of them, …. her daughter got jealous and forbid her from speaking with me because she would speak to me about that daughter out of concern. It’s more prevalent than anyone is willing to admit, so its easier for people do dismiss it and say “oh you just need some exercise, oh you just need to change your diet, oh you just need to get out of your pity pool and get over it,…..” Those people have no idea. And if you explain, they go blank and glossy eyed. Sigh. So now at my age what started as a favor when someone was on vacation has become my ‘job’ — a grown woman busing tables on Friday and Saturday nights. The type of job I never did as a youth, and got a degree to avoid,…. the effort to get there is crazy, once I get there after about 45 minutes I feed off of the energy of the people gets me energized but then too much so to where I start draining people or jumping into conversations that I should not (since I’m supposed to clear dishes etc.) Its humbling, sometimes humiliating, but I keep thinking of the couple who own the restaurant and are their 12 to 14 hours a day. They are not ashamed, they are exhausted though. And then I think, well I’m not in x part of the world or y part of the world so that makes it better. Just because it could be worse doesn’t make it better. So, Here I Am, like my journals whining and complaining except now I’m leaching off of you, and I do believe you…. but why does it take you and I to tell each other we are loved and worth it when so many other people who SHOULD say those things don’t? When we moved from one city to another in the same county the neighbor came out and said (after 9 years of our living there) “Oh! You’re the best neighbors we ever had, we’re sorry that you are moving.” MAYBE if he had told us we were the best neighbors he ever had sometimes over the 9 years we would have stayed. Why do people do that? I either have unrealistic expectations of people and the world at large, or I will simply always get hurt when risking the urge to be helpful to someone else. I just can’t figure it all out. And when I was younger, there was NOTHING TO figure out. You went to school, went to cross country or track practice, did your homework, etc. and even though some teachers should not have been allowed to keep their jobs, it was generally all good. They don’t tell you in the speeches when you leave schools (HS or college) that that world you’re going out into doesn’t really care that much and can consume you, and the friendships you thought you forged were bull, they were out of proximity and convenience. Ditto from job to job And if you aren’t doing exactly what others are (either actively being single, or getting married and having children, etc.) you will be separated into sections where any friends you did make will become distant memories as they move down their own path in life and leave you at the traffic light in the middle of the cross walk. Even the ones that claim they do love you, you know the ones who have you over for Thanksgiving and Christmas and pretty much ignore you the rest of the year unless you remind them you exist and would like to be a participant in their life? Thank you for the note, and while I generally never read blogs, you’re article caught my eye, and I thank you for it and the note sent.

  4. Hi Christine,
    I just want you to know that I understand your feelings and that you are not the only one. I feel very much the same as you. One thing I wanted to mention is that you are going through the change – perimenopause is rearing it’s ugly head (can last up to 10-12years and start in your late 30’s early 40’s) and this is probably why you are feeling more vulnerable, more hurt, more EVERYTHING!!! Please don’t give up on yourself – you are here for a reason and please pray to God to help you through this time. Also to note, women who have suffered with depression/PMS/post partum blues, etc… when younger will most likely suffer through perimenopause and it’s because of the hormone imbalance. Please find a good OB/GYN preferably a women doctor who is going through it or has been through it so she can help you through. Believe me this is a rough time, and it’s not that you’re crazy, supersensitive, too feeling, anxious, etc…. it’s because of an actual physiological issue within your body. Fight it with all that you have… fight it hard. Regarding the shower situation I feel the same and it takes everything out of me. Here’s a thought – try to take one before bed, put on your clean pajamas and comb/brush your hair don’t blow dry it. Just tell yourself that you have to wash your hair, wash your body and if you feel like shave. Just two or three steps and that may not feel so overwhelming. And remember people only took baths once a week in the fifties and sixties so don’t beat yourself up. Buy some dry shampoo and baby wipes to clean yourself during the week until you start feeling better. Also try to take a walk even it’s just to the corner or to the mailbox and get some sunlight on your face/arms/legs now that the weather is better. The warming feeling of the sun really does help. And one last thing, try not to worry about what it looks like everyone is doing/having because some people are more people person types, I’m not and now I don’t pretend to be. I’m good and kind and I don’t spread gossip because I don’t want to, most of the people/women I meet nowadays are all about that and I’m not buying into it, I can’t it’s not me. God will provide whatever you need but you must trust in Him and say to Him, it’s in your hands because I can’t do it by myself, He’ll answer you, it may not be exactly what you thought it should be but He’ll answer you I believe that. Hope some of this helps you. Have to say it helped me to write down 🙂

      1. You’re welcome Risa! I hope that you don’t suffer through the change, maybe with some awareness you can be on it. I was not told that this was what I was going through at 38 when I started to feel exhausted, achy, and a host of other issues because my periods were normal and continued to be normal until 50! My mother had no issues with peri/menopause so she wasn’t much help but it’s been really difficult. My brother committed suicide in 2007 and due to this, perimenopause and my own depression I’ve lost 3 jobs due to my emotional state so I’m praying and hoping with supplements and taking care of myself I can get through this. I don’t want synthetic hormones because really when does it stop? I have to get through the change eventually and I don’t want to be in my sixties fighting this. So here’s hoping that my 14 years are soon up 🙂 Thank you for your blog I really appreciate all your stories and what you’re doing to fight the fight 🙂

      2. Thank you, Bas. I’ve really appreciated your comments on this post. I turn 37 this summer, so I will definitely be more aware of hormonal changes affecting my moods.

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