What Depression Means to Me

I know that I’ve written about this subject before, but never as candidly as I’m about to. This is a big step for me, but I feel that in light of recent events, both personally and in the media, this is somehow even more necessary.

For me, it all started with a sleepover. I couldn’t fall asleep – I stared at the ceiling, contemplating every possible thing that could go wrong: I would never fall asleep, I’d be miserable the next day… it felt as though these possibilities were huge, rather than fairly inconsequential things. Soon after, I began sleeping in my parent’s room regularly, lying on the floor with my designated afghan, watching the flickering lights of the TV with no sound.

Sometime after, I’m not exactly sure when, I began to see someone about my issues. (That’s what I’ve always called depression – “my issues” or “my problems.”)  I was prescribed medication, and though the types and dosages have changed, I have dutifully taken at least one antidepressant or anti-anxiety pill every day for more than a decade. I have worked with psychiatrists and therapists, been taken on and off various combinations of drugs after experiencing side effects both psychological and physical, moved a number of times both of my own free will and not, gained and lost countless friendships, struggled through school, started and ended various types of romantic and sexual relationships, and dealt with many other ups and downs. In other words, I’ve gone through what many others have.

Somewhere along the way, I began to realize that this was not uncommon. I began to meet more and more friends and even strangers who spoke of mental illness effecting their lives. Some were more candid than I, which allowed me to see that this wasn’t what made me unique at all. Everyone’s struggles are different, but the fact that we have them doesn’t make anyone of us an outcast – it makes us part of a club. I even began to date someone with depression.

In the last month though, I’ve begun to quantify this more. That’s always been a problem of mine – the need to control and dissect every little thing, in order to figure out exactly why things happen. I panic when I feel this control – over money, over a career, over my health, over my feelings – begin to slip away. And I’ve begun to see things in terms of moments.

Some moments are infinite, looming, and all encompassing – it feels as though I’ll never be able to get through them. Others are easier – I still feel a tightness in my chest and panic in my mind, but I can continue to move through it. And some are even joyful, when I somehow relax enough to allow myself to just be, and to take in the good that is around me. But each moment is just that – a moment, a recognizable period of time that I have to just get through to get to the next one.

I have contemplated suicide, though I don’t believe it’s ever been a serious consideration. I take comfort in that – I know that regardless of everything depression has done to me, it has never allowed that thought to manifest so deep. But I truly believe that, despite all of the control we DO have in our own lives, there are things we will always have to fight against. This is why I’m angered when people call suicide selfish, and when they say that someone should have just fought back. Do you know what it’s like to fight against these thoughts in our minds? Sally Brampton said it best:

“Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive. When somebody dies after a long illness, people are apt to say, with a note of approval, “He fought so hard.” And they are inclined to think, about a suicide, that no fight was involved, that somebody simply gave up. This is quite wrong.” 

To me, my depression is, as Dexter called it, my dark passenger. It will always be there, even though it hides away sometimes. It manifests itself in various ways – as anxiety, as panic, as physical pain, as loneliness, as blind rage. Sometimes it’s like the devil on my shoulder that I fight with, whispering terrible, negative thoughts. Sometimes it’s like a numbing barrier, preventing me from feeling love for those I care about. But it is always there.

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