Am I depressed or is this just normal?

A Diagnosis

A few months ago, it was brought to my attention that I am clinically depressed. Meaning my therapist had that as a diagnosis. It kind of blew my mind that I was swimming in water and didn’t realize it.

But it was also a realization I was working towards on my own when I developed this idea of baseline energy. I don’t know if this is a thing and haven’t looked into yet, but I came up with the term when I became aware of the following phenomenon.

When I have days, weeks, or months of eating right, exercising daily, being productive and creative, being social, going out, etc. it feels like I am walking a tightrope. To upkeep and maintain that ideal lifestyle feels like I’m running a bit too hot than what’s comfortable. It’s like I am just one tiny breath of a disaster away from these precarious dominos of “good” things toppling over. And it’s a big sigh of relief when it does.

One small disaster away from shutting myself in my room, staying in bed and watching comfort TV shows and movies for days or more, doing the bare minimum to survive. And staying in my room cocooned in my little comfort den feels like my normal baseline state. It feels so comfortable for me.

Apparently this lower baseline energy, if it’s sustained over a period of time, is what therapists call depression.

Remnants of the past

I know where this is from. I wasn’t allowed to do many things growing up and our house was rife with fighting and tension so staying in my room and reading was what I did 75% of the time when I was in highschool.

I’m aware this depressive energy living in me is from back then and was frozen in time. When the dominos topple, I return to it as a source of comfort, so my life crests and falls in peaks and troughs to the tune of high and low energy states.

One month it’s green juice/ clean food/ yoga/ exercise/ meditation/ productivity/ creativity Annette, then the next month it’s procrastination/ isolation/ extreme lethargy/ Netflix/ pizza Annette and then back again.

How it shows up

When I am in this low energy state, which honestly is most of the time, leaving the house to run an errand or take a walk can feel like a huge ordeal. As I get ready, wash up, put on my outfit, it’s exhausting having to mentally prepare for the “Real World” out there beyond the safety of my home. I feel like an actor preparing to step out onto the set.

I even feel a slight current of panic and anxiety begin to buzz, which is ironically energetic, but an elevated energy that feels frenetic. It can stay at that level or oftentimes it morphs into something greater if other people are around. Then, the only thing I want is to get back home. Back to my room, back to safety. Back to my lower baseline energy.

When I am in a low energy state, being around others is either anxiety inducing if I’m trying too hard or exhausting if I’m not trying at all.

While everybody else is so hype on socializing, laughing and chatting a mile a minute, all I could think of is how I’m just not there and why am I a depressing fuck. But I paste on a smile that ends up looking like a grimace anyway.

Hanging out and socializing is very draining for me because I am so hypervigilant to danger when I’m around others and given my current baseline is already low to begin with, I get exhausted very quickly. A day out with friends sounds fun for most people but for me, it’s the opposite. I can walk and explore a city all day by myself, but with another, even a friend, I tap out after a few hours.

When I do my daily desired rituals like exercise and meditation and am productive with my work, that’s about my max energy right there. Oh boy do I need a nap after that.

I thought it was my personality type or that I am just fundamentally flawed, a factory defect.

The Benefits of Depression

Actually, energy conservation is a survival mechanism from childhood. Depression acts as a cocoon your body uses to keep you safe from intense and scary experiences. It’s quite brilliant.

Staying physically alive with the least amount of energy possible is good for stressful situations, just eat and sleep and maintain this homeostatic bliss. Better to stay like a bear in hibernation than attract negative attention that could bring pain or harm.

Present day

Right now I’m on the road, staying in hostels in Mexico City and with Dia de los Muertos festivities drawing near there is a ton of energy out in the streets.

A group of girls from my Yoga Teacher Training are also here and there are events and such to go to, but honestly I’m not feeling it. And that’s okay.

That’s not to say that I’m fully immersing myself in the Depression Experience. I’m still doing the things I know keep me happy and stable: I’m conscious of what I eat, fasting, exercising, exploring, practicing gratitude, and my days are full.

But I am also acknowledging that this might be a period in my life when I can be in my solitude and low-energy state instead of expending a ton of energy trying to be something I’m not feeling. I’ve never held my depressive feelings in a supported way before, giving it space and allowing it to be.

In the past, I might have seen my actions as staying in my comfort zone and tried to push myself out of it, but these days, I see it as honoring the way I feel in the moment and not making it wrong. Maybe this is the autumn and winter season before my spring and summer blossom forth.

Nor am I making others wrong for reflecting my low energy back to me. I used to feel like I needed to be more entertaining and high energy, so I would create this artificial high energy to maintain and grow relationships with people.

Being true to how I’m feeling has me really insecure that people find me boring and dull. It’s cool, though, I get it. When somebody’s low energy, it’s not really fun. You see it everywhere in America, this obsession with high energy — Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, Coffee culture, High vibes only, etc.

Maybe it’s that I’m 31 or maybe this work is really working, but I’m not trying to sell anything other than myself these days. If that means I’m boring so be it. Better you get tired of me and leave, than I get tired … because I can’t choose to leave me. I’m here for life and beyond.

Regressions and Progressions

Anyway, I made the little graph below because this is how I see this whole thing in my mind.

My current baseline is at approximately y=3, while a more desirable baseline for me would be y=7.

I’m not there yet and the difference between 3 and 7 is the work I need to do in learning how to conserve and store my energy throughout the day as I build a new baseline for myself. This is what I am doing now in this Autumn/Winter season.

I have a feeling that this is an intuitive process. By trial and error, I’ll figure out what I need throughout the day to support a healthy, more vibrant baseline energy, naturally and organically. When I tap into it, it will bubble out from a genuine source inside of me. No need to run on caffeine, supplements, or pills.

But for now, there is a little depressed emo highschooler inside of me who needs some love and attention. She’s not ready to give up her Hot Topic t-shirts yet and that’s okay. I’m here for her while she mouths Fuck You and gives me the finger, collapsing back into bed, buried in books for days. By personifying my depression, her dismal energy becomes endearing, another part of me to love unconditionally.

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