When Coping Isn't An Option...



A glimpse into the mind of a person suffering from depression

We all have hard times. We each have our own personal demons and struggles. Maybe we’ve lost someone we love, or a job, or a home. Maybe our spouse of decades has decided they are no longer “in love.” Maybe someone is terminally ill. An addict. Severely disabled. Have lost a child (possibly the worst pain that exists, I’ve seen it firsthand).

And many of these instances remind us to count our blessings. Our friends and family tell us how fortunate we are that none of these are our hardships. We minimize our suffering because of the comparisons. But the truth is, the pain we feel is intense, too, regardless of another’s. Our causes of pain, whatever they may be, are important, too.

There are also times we feel pain, are positively crippled by it, but don’t know why. Sure, there may be a cause (or two or three), some challenges in life at present, but none that we haven’t overcome before. Or at least none that should be quite this debilitating.

And, as always, even if you are not, you feel alone.
And everything hurts.
There is So. Much. Pain.

And in our pain, different from anyone else's, the one thing we all have in common, no matter the circumstance, is our response to that pain: we attempt to cope.

But what do you do when coping isn’t an option? Not because coping is a thing that doesn’t exist. Not because you lack the skills (you’ve experienced tragedy before, you managed). Ineffectively or successfully, you’ve always coped.  

So, what do you do when coping is no longer an option, because, suddenly… you just can’t?

You try all the methods that have been helpful in the past. Listen to upbeat music. Read a book, or listen to one. Busy yourself with household chores or projects. Watch your favorite show on one of the many entertainment platforms. Look at puppies and cars on the internet. And countless other techniques that you’ve utilized before. But each “old standby” seems to have lost its efficacy. Maybe one or two work at first, but the reprieve only lasts a few minutes.

So you resort to other means that, though not as ideal as the others, have still had some kind of effect in the past. Perhaps they didn’t quite induce healthy coping skills, but at least they broke the pain pattern for a time, even if just a little...

You go for a drive, which, under normal circumstances might be relaxing. But you know that in times like these, you just drive carelessly. And you drive fast.
You take a few more of your anti-depressants to try and climb out of it. Or a few more of your sedatives, hoping you’ll just become unconscious for a while.
You shop, which is never a good idea. Before you know it, you’ve taken a substantial chunk out of your savings, which is the only “income” you currently have.
You get drunk, but you’re really terrible at it, because you don’t often drink.
You break things, and that sometimes brings a sense of relief. But when you’ve hit the top of that pain threshold, breaking things just leads to breaking more things. Inevitably, you completely lose your mind because you’ve broken something of sentimental or monetary value. Sometimes you lose your mind over breaking something of no value at all. Like the $8 ceramic gnome you bought at TJ Maxx.

"Regular" folks (those who aren't familiar with manic and/or clinical depression) would say, "Reach out to a friend or family member." And most people know to do that. People in pain often do, actually.
But sometimes, people don't want to share their pain. Or they can't. And they feel embarrassed or ashamed, because of the stigma of mental health issues. By all the people who say- "You're responsible for your own happiness, j
ust choose to be happy, quit feeling sorry for yourself, stop playing the victim..." among hundreds of other comments that come from people who have no idea what it's like. They don't even believe depression is a thing at all.

So, you've tried everything you can imagine.
And still, nothing works.

So you try the only thing left you can think of. You simply let go.
And by that, I don’t mean letting go of the pain, or the problems, or the burden...
You let go of control.

You are so afraid to, more afraid than you’ve been of anything in a long time. You suspect that once you do, there will be no turning back. You’re afraid you’ll finally learn what the definition of “nervous breakdown” really is. But it seems you have been left with no other choice. The pain has become unbearable. Suffocating.

So you succumb to every ounce of the hurt (even if it doesn’t make sense to be feeling it). You give yourself over to the misery. You let go.

And then you’re crumpled in the corner of the kitchen, trying to catch your breath between sobs, pounding your fists against the floor. When you can finally breathe through your crying, you yell into the empty room, at nothing, begging for it to stop. Please, just make it stop.

You don’t know how long it lasts. It seems endless, that agony. You wonder how long it took your body to exhaust itself from the heaving of your chest, the soreness in your hands, the yelling. You have no sense of time.
You have no sense of anything.

You’re drained, exhausted, empty. Nothing but a void ... except for the pain.
It's still there.
It's always there.

And so you start from the beginning.
Implement the old techniques. Try new ones. Perform the process all over again. With the same results, like being stuck in a time loop. Like Groundhog's Day.
The kitchen floor, the pounding of fists, the sobbing and yelling...
Again. And again. And again.

So, when coping is no longer an option, what do you do?