When I was writing my post earlier this week about the trouble with being on autopilot mentally, I wrote that my autopilot state of mind can be full of depressing and negative thoughts. Even when I wrote that, I wasn’t sure what I meant. After further reflection, I realized I wanted to share more about how I experience depression by default, what it means and why I say it. Like many other areas of my wellness, I created that phrase to name part of my feelings and emotions over the course of my mental health journey.
So, what exactly do I mean when I say I experience depression as a default? Basically, I’ve been living with symptoms of depression for so long that it feels like a normal place for my brain to be. Whether that’s faint feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, having a generally gloomy outlook or just not feeling excited about anything, I feel like I can slip into this mode without knowing it’s happening.
When you experience something for such a long time, it’s hard to remember what things were like before. When I was younger, my bouts with depression were so frequent that it felt like that was just my life. I didn’t know much about ups and downs, about finding balance on my mental health journey. Whenever I was experiencing symptoms of depression I felt like I’d failed in being happy – like I’d failed in being a person.
Another problem with this type of thinking was that I believed my journey to wellness was linear. If I wasn’t getting ‘better’ then I wasn’t beating depression. I mistakenly turned my depression into a game I wanted to win, and in hindsight that wasn’t the best perspective to have. By doing that, I ‘lost’ so much that I created the mindset that I would live with depression every moment of every day, forever. And that’s how my depression became my default.
Like some other people who experience mental health challenges, I’m in a good place when my brain is occupied. Whether that’s at work or in my favorite hobbies/activities, I get focused on the task at hand and don’t have time for my brain to wander. But if I space out, or if I don’t have a specific task to do, that’s when my brain goes on default or autopilot.
That feeling doesn’t hit as hard as it used to, but I’m on constant alert for when it comes. It’s almost like I can feel depression creeping in whenever it feels like my mind is empty. Even though I know it’s happening, it’s hard not to instinctively feel that way after years of handling those thoughts and feelings differently. If this default changes, I’ll be sure to let you know! But I also consider it a win that I’m recognizing this in the first place, and awareness is one of the most important steps on the way to wellness.
How about you folks? Have you ever felt like there’s a default feeling/emotion that you fall into without thinking about it? Let me know in the comments!