What Depression Feels Like :: Physically and Mentally (part 3 of 7)

This article is written by Zero Forbidden Goals and National Poetry Slam poet, AndYes.  To hear his work, and support his art and his message of love, go to AndYesPoetry.com.

Author’s note: I wrote these in 2014, during Depression episodes. They were written with the purpose of people being able to see directly what is in my head and what is going on.

During that year, I lost my job and my apartment because I became too Depressed to show up to work on time. And I attempted suicide shortly after.

The 7th entry is a month later, to-the-day.

These writings are intended for people who haven’t had Depression, and want to learn. And for those who have Depression but don’t understand it.

* * * * *

If you know the symptoms, you can deal with your problems. If you know the root causes of what’s hurting you, you can shift them as they come up. I’m not lying to myself – I can’t “fix” this.

But I am going to try, because – if I can get this to work – I can help other people like me.

Also, I’m writing this because I hate that awful Depression med commercial that ran, a few years back, with the over-dramatic descriptions and the drawn-out sad voice-over.

What I describe here is legitimate to my own experience – with no exaggeration. This does not apply to all people living with Depression, but my experience may reflect with others.

This is my attempt to document the feeling in its entirety. Physical and mental. I’ll probably miss some things. I will likely misattribute some things. But this is what I’m feeling, right now, in my Depression.

If you don’t know your symptoms, find them.

Physical Symptoms –

All cliche poems about heartache aside, the emotional pain I feel right now is tangible, on the left side of my chest, as tension. I can’t tell if it’s my heart. It feels like my heart. Or maybe my lung. When I try to relax, I can feel the muscles deep down still straining. The right side of my chest feels normal.

My shoulders have the same issue, as does my forehead (around my eyebrows).

I can feel spinning sensation in the back of my mind.

I’m very, very vaguely dizzy. I almost couldn’t recognize the spin until I took a moment to meditate.

My natural breathing is shallow, short, with a moment of pause in-between each one – they’re occasionally offset by a heaving sigh.

My hands have a very light shake to them – this is likely due to the coffee I drank earlier, and not Depression, but it still needs to be noted here.

The brain does not have touch or pain senses, but it feels squeezed – like a nerf ball between your hands. It’s the same feeling I get whenever I am stressed out.

I was not hungry. But, when I ate (because I know I should eat something), it triggered what felt like starvation. I see food, I eat it. It’s compulsion. Even after I ate a bowl of chili beans, two seaweed packets from Trader Joe’s, two pieces of garlic bread, a piece of lasagna, two glasses of water and a handful of edamame, my stomach feels hollow. I feel like I’m starving, despite my stomach feeling full.

My jaw tends to hang limp, when I stop paying attention to it.

My posture is slumped shoulders. One hand props up my forehead when I’m not writing.

My neck hurts because of the poor sitting position.

My eyes just look sad (this could belong in the Mental Sensations section, because I’m perceiving it to be this way, or it could be an actual physical trait – I’m not sure).

I stare, and for moments have no thoughts – as if I’m shutting out everything just so I can maintain.

Mental Sensations (this is a tricky section, since it’s a bit more subjective)

We’ll start with the obvious points, then work into the specifics:

Yes, I can smile. Yes, I can laugh. The joy from both of those is legitimate. It is real. I am not faking those responses.

But the joy does fade very soon after.

I’m asked “What’s wrong?” and I said “Nothing” out of reflex.

I have been constantly, since I woke up, on the verge of crying. Almost crying, but not.

The emotional release that comes with crying hasn’t happened, yet. As I’ve experienced before, it likely won’t happen until the depression has “lifted” (which is a really poor word to describe what I mean, but I can’t find a better one).

My patience, which is normally extremely lengthy, is shot. As is my sense of self-worth and self-confidence.

I feel useless. I feel like people think I’m useless.

Pride, oddly enough, is doing just fine. I have an even greater urge to talk to nobody about my problems. I believe I can solve my own issues, and nobody else will understand what I’m going through. This entire post has been a struggle, so far, because of that.

I’m almost certain that the wording for this is awful, and nobody is going to read what I’m writing, and I’m just wasting my time.

But pride, is doing just fine. That’s what’s dragging me through this. It’s actually an aid to surviving, I’ve found, because so much of my life is filled with self-doubt and self-hate.

I’m easily distracted by the television. It’s a compulsion. I’m worried I’m missing something, even though it’s a television show I hate.

Anyone who walks within a few feet of me makes me want to stop writing and stare at them until they leave. Even if they can’t see my laptop screen.

I have all of the symptoms I predicted in my last post: paranoid of my relationships, afraid that I did something to ruin my friendship with my best friend (without being able to really define what), and having these irrationalities running through my head about needing to leave my job (the one I love) before I get fired (which is ridiculous – my record has been fine) and thinking my friends are all talking behind my back about me (This is the hardest sensation to fight, since, as I’ve experience before, it might be absolutely true)

As I write down that last worry, memories of losing old friends pop up. Friends who – understandably – couldn’t deal with these moments. It’s a lot to deal with. I used to break down and write pages upon pages of notes – essentially blaming them for all my problems, and saying I understand why they hate me.

I don’t blame them for leaving. No one should have to put up with that.

The first version of that last sentence was “No one should have to put up with me.”

I’m worrying about how tomorrow at work is going to play out. I don’t know if I’m even going to want to get out of bed. I can’t afford to miss it, or I’ll lose my job. Also, seeming upbeat is going to be a major issue.

Down-tempo songs (IE: Radiohead’s “OK Computer” album) are the only songs that I can stand to listen to. Everything else, aside from extremely aggressive hardcore punk, feels annoying. Hardcore Punk has the effect of drowning out my thoughts – in the same way that Metal used to do, when I was a teenager.

Other peoples’ laughter causes a stress response. I can’t tell if it’s angry or annoyed.

Right now, there’s a thought that I can’t stop repeating – very similarly to a child tugging at its mother’s skirt to get her attention:

“I am alone. No one wants to be around me.”

It’s not the exact same wording every time, but it’s a close enough approximation of that statement, or that feeling.

The main cause for the thought comes from my physical appearance. I look (according to my own thoughts), “gross,” “ugly,” “grotesque,” and “horrifying,” to everyone in my life.


As of right now, I’m almost at the lowest point of my Depression (I’ve been through this enough times to know what my lowest point just about feels like). With luck, I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling slightly better, and it’ll slowly fade away over the next couple weeks. Without luck, it’ll keep ramping up all week, hit a crescendo, then start dissipating slowly over the next month.

For the sake of my birthday, I’m hoping it’ll be the first option.

Why would I write this?

Because, if you know the symptoms, you can deal with your problems. Because, if you know the root causes, you can prevent them from coming up.

Am I sure it’s possible 100% of the time, with Depression? No.

But, after meds not working the way I want them to, and counseling being ineffective for me personally, this is my best solution. (UPDATE: finding a sense of community, in my poetry and hiphop scene, has lowered my Beck’s Depression Inventory score lower than it has ever been since I started taking the test six years ago)

And I write this because, by writing this, I can help other people like me.