Feigning for Endorphins

Elisa A. Escalante/ LMSW/ 9-24-2020

“I achieve something, and the satisfaction is fleeting. Then, on to the next. Because it is not about achieving what I set out for. It’s about fighting this demon inside that wants to kill me.” -EaE

     People have either experienced major depression or know of someone that has it. A quite common illness according to statistics, but also commonly misunderstood and minimized. When people talk about the fact that major depression can sometimes be crippling, I can assure everyone that it is no lie. Depression can often range anywhere from general sadness throughout the day, most days of the week to crying outbursts at what feels like ‘random moments’ for what seems to be no reason at all. All the way to the severity of feeling mental & physiological symptoms such as: headaches, fatigue, hypersomnia, muscular retardation, reduced concentration, decreased motivation, pessimism, numbness, and/ or apathy. Endorphins is one of the most popular ‘drugs’ that may be sought after when experiencing serious depression, however, it is often hard to fight for and only offers a fleeting amount of euphoria. Due to the severity and chronic nature of depression, some may give up on their quest for these beloved endorphins. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, some may go through extreme lengths just to keep these endorphins coming all day, everyday for as long as they possibly can… to the point of extreme burnout.

     I find that there is an extremely common correlation between chronic mental illness and addictive personalities. In the case of major depression and/ or dysthymia, some may find themselves in a vicious cycle of chasing after endorphins, only to feel disappointment in the fact that they continue to feel extremely depressed shortly after the endorphins are gone. That moment that we had hoped for, that goal or series of life events that was supposed to be the ‘end all be all’ and make life magical is here, and yet… still more depression. This is not only a destructive and dangerous cycle at times, but also a very deceitful one. It is very glamorized, especially in modern day society. America loves people that work 3 jobs, raise families, and can keep up with their fitness to the point of having rock hard abs. Unfortunately, our perceived ‘success stories’ often include people that live with mental illness, chase those addictive burnout lifestyles all the while smiling for the camera. What is it about this visual and perception that is so appealing? It can give us all hope, that we can ‘be it all’ one day and live those ‘happily ever after’s’ that the movies and our peers on social media love to portray.

     What does the chase look like? It can often be traced in what appears to be compulsive behaviors, substance abuse and busy schedules. If the busy schedule is set up, not only does the depression sufferer have successes to look forward to, but also an enormous amount of activities that enforce their avoidance of what is going on in their minds. “If I work overtime, I will be too busy to cry”, “If I have a hobby that I do every evening after my job, I won’t go home to cry myself to sleep at night as I will be too exhausted”, “If I take this drug, it can keep me ‘happy’ and functional so I can push toward x,y,z”, “If I work toward this achievement, people will like me, which feels good”, “If I continue to post things, I will continue to get likes”, “If I burn this many calories, I will feel better, look better, and feel better yet again.” Keep in mind that many depression sufferers have already struggled through serious debilitating ruts that were so terrifying and painful, that they are doing these things at all costs to avoid yet, another rut.

     If someone works themselves up to a major endorphin high, they are likely to ignore anyone/ everyone telling them to ‘slow down’. Why in the world would we want depressing sobriety over the highs of ‘success’ and affirmations? Why would we want to slow down when we are on a roll, we are living this dream and if we fall off the wagon of the endorphin rainbow we will surely be met with the excruciating feelings of severe depression… the enemy.  The right answer? Because this cycle means that we are inevitably going to BURNOUT.

     This is where I am compelled to say that life, is a double edged sworded BITCH. Too much endorphin chasing equals burnout, too little endorphin chasing equals major depression. Then when we find balance, we are often… bored! When we chase highs for too long, a balanced life is extremely boring. Thus, when we decide to knockout our self-destructive tendencies, we are then faced with the task of countering said boredom. Boredom is also depressing sometimes. Okay, so maybe this is a triple sword!  Even better. ☹ But seriously, a balanced human is a healthier human. As a clinician, I will always stress the journey toward balance over the journey toward self-destruction all for short lived, superficial highs. I have been on the chase toward many endorphin highs, and now discipline myself more toward balance. This takes daily reminders. When the chase is on, we must slow down because at the other end of burnout will surely follow exhaustion paired with depression. The depression burnout ruts can last anywhere from months to years. Again, balance is more important than chasing highs.

     Most people suffering from depression can already assure that they have followed the endless series of advice that is stressed/ thrown at them by doctors, friends, family, articles and more. “Listen Becky, that walk on the beach followed by a green juice and sunlight is not going to counter the chemicals that are literally frying my brain and creating a lethargic paralysis throughout my body and a blackness in my mind and soul…”  Some people do, in fact, have to work so hard to counter their depression that it might as well be a full-time job. Yes this, along with many other mental illnesses is the reason mental health treatment is always warranted and needed. Too bad we will never get paid to take care of our very own mental wellbeing, or at least have free mental health care across the board to undo the damages of society and/ or our minds. Instead we may have to pay overpriced rates to help us mend these mental wounds instead.

     In many cases we are led to believe we must end all mental health conversations and topics on a positive note, but depression is not positive. It is a real scary illness that can induce loneliness and isolation. This piece is about mitigating a gap and shedding light on a very misunderstood problem that is crippling the nation more and more. Why should we be compelled to understand this? Because this is sometimes us, our friends, our family members, our neighbors, our coworkers, our beloved stars and more. When we minimize the symptoms of a very real problem due to the fact that it is often an ‘invisible wound’, we contribute to the destructive cycle of isolation and in turn, mental deterioration.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

One thought on “Feigning for Endorphins

  1. Love this Topic getting more and more attention. I suffer from depression, I have for most of my life. It is a real struggle to keep putting one foot in front of the other while acting like life is good, so no one really knows how I’m feeling. Your advice on balance has helped me realize I don’t have to do all this today or be there for everyone today. I’m slowly and I say slowly learning to balance my life better. I use to hate it when I was told to put my big girl panties on and get over it. Thank you for keeping this illness out there and in the forefront of people so they can start to balance their lives and to educate others to the never ending battle many go through on a daily basis.

    Liked by 1 person

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