Health Care, Mind, Wellness, Life

I wish people talked more about this depression symptom

Living with depression is hard but even harder when you can't remember things.

Trigger Warning: Mentions of Depression

I’m sick. Sick of having to explain what depression is like to people who ask. Frankly, having to explain it at all is tiring. I have days where I wish someone could just understand without me having to put it into words. But that’s not fair for the people who love me and for someone who truly wants to help. How can anyone understand your pain if you don’t vocalize it? I understand the importance of having an open conversation on depression. An honest conversation with myself and a doctor is what got me into therapy.

A safe space to openly communicate my thoughts and feelings was helpful in so many ways. But during therapy sessions, I found it hard to say what I felt. It’s like my brain slowed down and everything was rushing past me. Every time I’d try to form a sentence it’s like the words weren’t there or somehow, I had forgotten them.

I soon learned the term for why remembering words got so hard at times; brain fog. Brain fog isn’t a medical condition but rather a term used for a cluster of symptoms that affect thinking, memory and recollection. Moreover, brain fog can arise with other conditions as well, including Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lupus, etc. It’s hard to know what exactly causes this “foggy brain” in depression–whether it’s the loss of motivation or chemical imbalance.

I can’t pinpoint when exactly the fog started. Little things started happening like forgetting instructions that had just been said and trying really hard to remember just for anxiety to kick in, sending me into panic mode. That doesn’t happen always. On good days, it’s a bit easier to get by. By this I mean I don’t have to dig my brain for words. Those good days I’m grateful for and hold onto. But the worst part is not about not being able to put thoughts into words isn’t the problem itself, it’s the loss of agency, the loss of yourself.

Losing parts of yourself is never easy. Losing parts of yourself means having to put in more effort to get through something that once didn’t take much time. It’s really hard to explain, because, it happens quite often but for small stuff. Like remembering what someone just told you to do or recalling a list of items that you just read.

When I forget things I could remember in seconds before, I’m reminded that my brain has changed. And this seems to be backed by researchers, who report the hippocampus (in charge of memory) of depressed individuals seems to be smaller than those not depressed. I don’t know how small my hippocampus has gotten or if it’s the same size but it feels as if there is less space to information in my head. I feel like a filled cup, I have to spill some out to take it the new.

Moreover, I hate to admit but my writing has suffered because of this. Earlier, I felt I had some sort of talent but now, on some days, coming up with sentences seems impossible. And impostor syndrome doesn’t help either. If my talent lies in writing and language and if I have bad days where it feels impossible to do either, is it a talent? Or am I just lucky on the good days?

I feel like every day starts off with this wheel of fortune scenario with only three options; good, bad and neither. I don’t get to spin the wheel, I don’t get a say if it’s a good day or a bad day. The wheel spins and I accept its choice. Most days saying how I feel or even writing about it is me confronting the fog, sometimes I get lost, somedays I get past it. I’ve realized the only way to regain agency of words is to try, no matter how tired and demotivated I feel. I get to try.

That’s enough.