When I’m really depressed, I write long-winded notes on loose sheets of paper about what life was like when I was alive. What people don’t get about depression is that that’s the only way to describe it. Though I’m here theoretically, at least in body, I’m not really here. I don’t know where I am. Depression takes you to dark places and doesn’t let you escape scratch free.
What people don’t get about depression is it is not about being sad. It is the process of losing yourself entirely, of looking into the mirror and seeing a stranger in your clothes. Why is she so tired? Who is she anyway? Picture the saddest day of your life then multiply it by a million then have no reason to really explain it. What people don’t get about depression is it creeps up on you. It rears its ugly head in many ways and many forms and at any time. People with depression know depression is a snake. A boa constrictor. It strangles you and takes your life away just enough so you keep breathing.
When I was alive I used to write things that weren’t about depression. I used to laugh a lot. When I was alive my hair was shiny and my skin was clear and I was 21 and nothing could stop me because I was young and fearless. But then suddenly I wasn’t. Suddenly, or so it seemed, I was somewhere else entirely, a parallel universe, floating above myself, and I would reach my hands out so far but I would feel nothing.
And when the meds didn’t work and therapy didn’t work and I didn’t work, I filled time with my own medicine and sometimes didn’t write at all. Sometimes I had no words. Sometimes I had nothing. Sometimes I slept for days. Sometimes I didn’t sleep for days. Sometimes I didn’t know what day it was.
What people don’t get about depression is it is not pretend. Depression doesn’t forgive me for the things I’ve done, the people I’ve let down, the friends I’ve lost or the mistakes I’ve made because of it. The consequences are very real. Depression doesn’t care that I have goals and dreams. Depression doesn’t listen when I try to lock it behind doors and ignore it. It picks the locks so easily, like a criminal. As if the bolts are invisible. Depression doesn’t even blink when I scream.
What people don’t get about depression is it doesn’t go away, at least not without a fight. I remember the first night it hit me, like really hit me, like oh, this isn’t disappearing is it? It was New Years Eve several years ago now, the day before everything starts over. The last big hoorah. And I chose to go home alone after an unsatisfying restaurant shift when all my friends were off into the night making out and making mistakes. And I knew right then things had to change. And I thought they would. But they didn’t.
On the questionnaire they ask you if you ever think about killing yourself. What people don’t get about depression is even if you’re not suicidal you often think about dying because sometimes you already feel dead. Except if you were dead, you wouldn’t feel like this, and sometimes yes, that does seem more appealing.
On the questionnaire they ask you if you ever have difficulty making decisions. So you sit there and debate and go to say one thing but then change it to another before realizing, oh, yeah I guess this is an obvious one. What people don’t get about depression is sometimes the easiest things are the hardest. Sometimes no, I really can’t get dressed or make food or go to work today. I just can’t.
They call it a screening test and they ask you 18 questions and rate you on a scale. The higher the number, the worse you are. I was clinical the first time I wrote it. And the second. And many more times after that. But what people don’t get about depression is eventually things start to change. Eventually you find the right combo. Eventually you find something that works. Because if you don’t you might as well be dead, for a life with depression is no life at all.
What people don’t get about depression is this can take a really long time. Depression is a horrible, evil condition that goes into remission, like a cancer, which is maybe how I’d describe it anyway. It robs you of your soul and wellbeing. It takes you away piece by piece. What people don’t get about depression is we hate it more than you do and we know it hurts you and we hate this too. All we want is to put those pieces back together, and, after a while, we begin to.
When I’m less depressed, I write about being alive and I write this on anything and everything. What people don’t get about depression is how beautiful these moments are, even when temporary. We are soldiers in a constant battle of losing ourselves and discovering ourselves. We are progress lost and found.
What people don’t get about depression is sometimes you emerge from those dark places, scratches in tow and you feel so alive, but you no longer remember how to actually be alive. Even so, finally, the New Year begins.