In depression, between descending into the dark or coming up into the light, there is flat.
Flat affect. Flat enthusiasm (an oxymoron). Flat attitude. Flat outlook. Flat energy.
For me, it usually happens when the meds aren’t quite right.
A month ago, I had been on the edge of a depressive episode, so the psych doc and I increased one med and I’ve been using my blue light. He said that I’d feel better in 7 to 10 days.
It’s been a month. I don’t feel better. I don’t feel worse, either. I feel flat.
Flat is a lot like depression – indeed, it’s part of it, but I tend to feel it more distinctly – as its own symptom – on the way out of depression. Even though the effects are similar, depression has a downward pull, where flat is flat, not down.
Like I could take it or leave it. All of it. Nothing really matters. I don’t have strong feelings of sadness or anxiety, nor do I feel excitement or joy. I don’t really want to do anything. I eat because I’m supposed to; I’m not usually hungry. I’m able to do the things I need to do, be around the people I need to be with, can even overcome the apathy to run errands or attend the ladies’ Bible study. I don’t really want to, but I will.
In depression, the desire to stay home in my pajamas, is so strong! In flat, I can go out and do. In all truthfulness, I go out and do during depression, too. But it’s way harder; I really have to fight myself. In flat, there’s just the barest speck of desire to go and do, so it’s just a hint easier. I can hardly tell the difference myself.
Last week, I accompanied my husband on a business trip, and got to hang out with my kids while he worked. I wanted to go, but wasn’t overly excited like I’d think I would be normally. I trusted that I would have fun once I got there. And I had a wonderful visit with my kids – was able to live in and enjoy the moments. Our entire family laughed a lot, especially on a relaxed Friday night. But those feelings didn’t stay with me, nor can I reach back to retrieve them. They simply were. And now they’re not.
This flatness happens on my journey up and down with depression. It’s often a first indicator that something is wrong, that depression is threatening to return and wreak its havoc. That’s flatness with a downward pull. And it comes back when I’m recovering, emerging from the darkness and into God’s light of hope and expectancy.
Usually a tweak in meds will do the trick, and I can bounce the rest of the way up. So I’ll tell my psych doc on Friday that I’m not where I thought I’d be in my recovery, and see if a small adjustment will fix it.
And I’ll remind myself, yet again, that God is with me through my depression. He has not abandoned me, even when I descend into the dark thoughts of depression. He’s with me in the flat. And He rejoices with me when I emerge on the other side. He’s my constant companion – I am never alone.