Note: I wanted to provide different perspectives on depression. I spent some time reading articles; trawling through internet message boards trying to understand what it felt like diving with the disease. Those were cumulated into these five stories from fictitious people. These stories however, are by no means representative of the entire spectrum of experiences with depression.
The last time I told someone I had been diagnosed with depression, they looked at me for a moment, confused and then replied: ‘Oh. I’m… didn’t know. I’m sorry. But you’ve never seemed – like – sad.’ And in response, I forced a smile, shrug and say “Yeah. Funny how that works out, huh?” And then walk away. I don’t blame them for not understanding. I’m not entirely sure I understand.
They’re not wrong. I’m not sad. I haven’t been for a long time. Sadness is tearing up at an SPCA commercial. Sadness is when tragedy strikes, and the sharp contrast between your new reality and the happier memories of ‘before’ make you break down. It’s supposed to hurt you, to cause pain, to make you feel something. What it isn’t supposed to do is leave you standing impassively at a funeral, staring at the coffin wondering what these people thought all their crying was going to help accomplish.and trying desperately to remember why you were supposed to care.
I guess sadness is like that time I fell off my bike and tore up my knee – it hurt like hell, and I was limping along for weeks. There was a massive scar, and I was limping around all the time. People gave me looks that varied from sympathetic to pitying, but then they reached out their hands and helped me up. And the scar faded. Depression is the fracture in the joint underneath – the doctors didn’t notice at the time, it’s not like you can see it and when I’m walking around these days, dragging my feet, running a mile in the time others run 10, people think I’m lazy. That I don’t care. Mostly, they think I’m weak.
I’m in high school. People keep telling me that this is one of the best times of my life. I wish they wouldn’t. If they keep doing that, they might actually end up convincing me. And if I believe that is as good as it’s ever going to get, I might as well shoot myself in the face now.
It doesn’t bother me most of the time, you know. You know you’re supposed to be different, or whatever because your brain went wrong. But whether people admit it or not, that we’re all in the same boat. Just… drifting, blearily, from classroom to classroom, from cubicle to cubicle, with barely enough energy to keep themselves upright. And you feel right at home.
It isn’t until later, when you’re outside, and they stretch their arms out and let their lips curl into a lazy smile that it hits you. When they laugh and grab your hand and try and drag you off the sidelines to help them win some game that you come crashing back down to earth. You’re not like them. You’re never going to step out of the shadows; feel the warmth of the sun. The smallest show of happiness cuts through like a hot knife through butter, bringing you to your knees before you even realize it’s there. The worse part is afterwards though. When you’re dragged back back onto your feet, and your friends look at you —eyes full of warmth — and concerned voices fill the air, asking if you’re okay, and how they can help. There’s only one correct answer, and the horrific petty spitefulness of it crashes over you like a wave every time.
Be like me. Be as miserable as I am. It’s the only way I can feel like I’m anything close to a normal human being.
The only thing you can do is shake your head, turn away and try not to throw up in self revulsion.
When I was first diagnosed, I spent a lot of time trying to work out why. At first, thought it was because I was stuck in the past. Before I had to move away; before mom and dad died — back in the time when I was a straight A student, and not just another college dropout who couldn’t cope. But that’s not true. I can’t change what’s already happened, and I’ve long since moved on. The burning lump of anger in my throat when I think of the drunk truck driver who shoved my parents car into a ditch and left them there to bleed out? Not there anymore. Forgive and forget, right? Nor is there any of the crushing disappointment I used to feel thinking back to all the hopes and dreams and aspirations of my bright-eyed, bushy tailed freshman self. After all, everyone starts out wanting to change the world. Most people learn better. I just happen to be one of them.
My life now doesn’t bother me either. Wake up, go to work, come home, watch a couple of episodes of nothing in particular, go to sleep. Sometimes I nurse the headache. Rinse and repeat. Bills get paid on time. I have a roof over my head, and a bed and a kitchen. I made a doctor’s appointment one day because the headaches were getting worse. She told me she wanted to refer me to a specialist. That’s when they told me. It kept me up that night. There was nothing was wrong. I had nothing to be depressed about.
It wasn’t until I was coming home with some groceries one day that it hit me, both figuratively and literally. The literal part: I wasn’t watching where I was going, tripped on the pavement and ended up flying almost head first into the windshield of a car. After the initial explosion of pain, where it felt like every nerve in my brain was on fire, it went quiet and my vision faded to black. I didn’t mind. It was quiet. Peaceful. I was rushed to the hospital with the skull fracture, hurried into surgery, and later informed that had the glass had just missed piercing my brain. my I was lucky to have survived.
My reaction: ‘Ah. Pity.’
Upon hearing that, combined with learning of my condition, the doctor insisted on keeping kept me in for a few more days, for ‘observation’. And that was when it dawned on me.I didn’t need to be on suicide watch — I hadn’t intentionally walked into traffic. But truthfully: it wouldn’t have made any difference to me if the shards had been an inch further down and split my prefrontal lobe in half.
That was when I realized that depression isn’t longing for the past or despairing at the present. It’s the act of doing something that I had done so long ago that I didn’t even remember it happening. It’s giving up all hope for a better future.