Last year on Glee there was an episode titled "Born This Way." During that episode, Miss Pillsbury (Emma) goes to see a therapist. The doctor wants her to begin sessions and take something for her OCD, and Emma resists. She says, "I don't know. I'm not sure I want to lay on a couch and tell some stranger all of my secrets. I don't want to start popping pills just so I can turn into someone that other people want me to be. This is how I am. This is who I'm supposed to be." And the therapist replies, "Your illness is not who you're supposed to be. It's keeping you from being who you're supposed to be."
I remember watching that exchange with tears in my eyes. It aired last spring. A few episodes before that I started crying as Rachel sang "How many times will it take to get it right?" I thought I was relating it to my writing. Listening to it now, I know it was more than that.
I've been depressed at least since high school. It got really bad my freshman year of college. That was when I knew I was depressed, that there was a problem. I didn't eat much, I stayed in my room, I didn't talk to people. That's what people think of when they think of depression, and when I went home for my second semester, I felt better. But that's not all it is.
It's two years later, realizing you don't feel quite right and going to a screening at your school's health center and being walked directly into the counseling office for an appointment (and only keeping a few before stopping).
It's staring into space when friends are having a conversation because you just can't follow it. It's being unable to get off the couch to do so much as call for pizza delivery, let alone go pick it up. It's letting the house get severely cluttered because it's just too much effort to put something away. It's chronically over-sleeping because, well, bed is better.
It's breaking down one night sobbing while your husband asks what's wrong and only being able to respond with "I don't know. Everything."
And it's fighting back enough to say "I need help. I need medicine."
This depression, it's not from one bad thing happening, or a few things. It's a constant feeling of being in a deep, dark pit. I could see people walking around above me, going along with their lives, and I just couldn't see how they did it. Things that might cause a person to be upset for a day would stay with me for weeks.
It's hard to understand from the outside. Hell, I don't even really understand it from the inside. I just know that for the last three weeks, I've realized what it's like to feel like a person. To not wake up every day with a sense of anxiety and dread. To be able to walk around my house and pick things up, throw things away. To not feel like I have to fight every single moment against this invisible barrier in my mind that's been keeping me from living.
I wasn't going to post this here. I have a private blog account with only a few close friends that have access to it and I was going to talk about this there. But I don't want to hide it anymore. That was what I did every day for over ten years: I hid behind a mask. I pretended to be okay. Even when it was super-obvious I wasn't, I only held that mask tighter.
But having depression is not shameful, so I'm not doing that anymore. I'm too tired. I am a person with depression. And yes, I hope to get off the medication at some point, but for now, I'm on it because it's helping me. And maybe I'll never be able to be off it for very long, but I'm not going to focus on that right now. Right now I'm going to focus on the fact that for the first time in my memory I know what it's like to feel like I'm actually living.
And... I think that's enough honesty for one day. I'll probably blog about how this is affecting me creatively (which was kind-of what I thought this would be, but apparently not!), but not today.
Thanks for listening.
These sites have helped me lately:
- Sara Zarr's amazing piece for Image Prozac vs. Jesus
- Alison Gresik's 10 Signs of Walking Depression