Depression is a big, complicated mess that is different for everyone. I don’t know how it affects others, so all I can do is tell you how it affected me.
I think that I was–to some degree–depressed as far back as my sophomore year of high school, but it was never “bad” enough for me to do anything about it. I used to think about suicide, not in a “I’m going to do it this weekend” sort of way, but with a slightly unhealthy academic interest. I remember wondering what the headmaster of my school would tell people. I remember wondering whether anyone would say that they saw it coming. But this morbidity passed and it didn’t resurface until four years later, during college.
It started slowly. I stayed in my apartment more, and I wrote less. I’ve always loved to watch television (my collection of TV on DVD borders on obsessive), but my TV watching habits became exactly that–a habit. I didn’t find joy in it anymore. I spent most of my time in my bed, curled under the covers. I ate less frequently, talked less frequently, snapped at my roommates more and more. I didn’t sleep more–I actually think I slept less. And I started crying, constantly, at the littlest things. It was like PMS, except 24 hours a day for a week straight.
And then it would stop, and I’d be fine. I’d write a scene of my play and I’d go on an adventure and I’d think that the crying wasn’t a big deal, because if I was depressed, wouldn’t I feel sad ALL the time? Wouldn’t I think about suicide ALL the time? So I didn’t do anything. I didn’t go to a doctor or talk to my roommates or call my mom, because I was ashamed. Because everyone gets sad, don’t they? And life is hard, isn’t it? And whenever I tried to explain how I felt, it seemed like I was making a mountain out of a molehill–that I was whining about nothing.
But the bad days were getting really, really bad. There were moments when I couldn’t remember what “happy” felt like; moments where I thought that this was it, this was life, and there was no way to get better because this was just who I was. But one day, I just had enough. I had been silent–pissy-silent, which is how I get when I’m angry and I don’t want to talk about it–for days with my roommate and best friend. Suddenly I felt a weight on my heart, telling me to tell her how I was feeling. So I went to her and I started crying (of course) and for a brief instant I saw this look on her face, this look that seemed to say “this again?” And I told her I thought I was depressed and that I wanted to talk to someone about anti-depressants.
And she hugged me, and held my hand, and we went down to our school’s counseling center (located conveniently in our dorm’s building) and made an appointment.
And that was the beginning. I started going to see a wonderful, wonderful counselor, who gave me what I needed all along: confirmation that what I was feeling wasn’t normal. She gave it a name (depression) and that was enough for me to start looking for a way to feel better. After wrestling with my parent’s insurance, (which many mental health professionals don’t take) I found a general practitioner who put me on some meds. I know many people don’t agree with taking medication for depression, and that is entirely your right, but I honestly feel that I needed those little blue and grey pills to help pull me out of the black hole I was in.
And it did. I have good days and bad days, but my good days significantly outweigh the bad and my bad days aren’t nearly as awful as they once were. I’m no longer on my medication, which is a personal triumph for me, but I still have to be aware of my moods and I’m constantly on the look-out for warning signs that another depressive episode is beginning.
Saying that my episode was hard is a huge understatement. It was the largest period of suffering in my otherwise blessed life. In a weird way, however, I wouldn’t trade it in for the world. My episode taught me a lot about trust and dependence–on my family, on my friends and on God.
I remember in my first session with my therapist she seemed pleased when I was able to tell her how supportive and loving my family and friends are. She was pleased that I had faith and a higher power to devote my life to, because that meant I had the support of a church. One of the most important thing my episode taught me is that even when I was the most unpleasant person to be around, I was never alone and I was never unloved.