Two weeks ago, I woke up in a good mood and stayed that way all day — something that hadn’t happened since maybe last October.
I waited for it to subside, and it didn’t. By 10 p.m., I’d borderline worked myself into a panic over not feeling panicked in any way.
The next day, I was still in a suspiciously good mood. I knocked on my roommate’s door.
“Hey!” I said. “I’m in a good mood!”
“Oh my god!” she said. Her boyfriend just stared, confused.
I told all my other friends I encountered that day the same thing. Then I called my parents twice (each) to inform them I was still, somehow, in a good mood. They were, like my roommate, equally thrilled and surprised.
By Wednesday, I was wary. A week prior, I’d been struggling to function, and I’d changed nothing about my daily habits except starting a Prozac prescription. That was only three days before I’d woken up with any desire to get out of bed, and there was no way that three days’ worth of taking an antidepressant — not even a full dose yet! — had fixed me.
My therapist assured me that they’d seen medicine take effect right away before, when it was “the right one” — as if Prozac had super-liked me on Tinder and we’d hit it off.
I was unconvinced.
After months of near-untouchable depression, feeling okay is almost as unsettling as feeling not okay, because it feels like a precarious kind of happiness that can be ripped from you — by you — at any moment.
So, when my mood started slipping a week later, I felt a little vindicated. Then I just felt awful again.
Everything about depression sucks. I can’t think of a way to put it more eloquently, and I don’t want to. Since I was 11 years old, I’ve watched movies and TV shows and read Young Adult books that romanticize it. I was, therefore, grossly unprepared when a psychiatrist told me I was not merely PMSing.
Where was the gorgeous but understanding guy to swoop in and absolve me of my mental illness? Why was I so bad at hiding how I felt from my friends? Why couldn’t I snap out of it when it was inconvenient to be sad? ABC Family and John Green lied.
There’s nothing pretty or romantic about depression. It’s scary. For me, it is exhausting every possible healthy coping mechanism I have (therapy, medication, re-watching “Gilmore Girls,” etc.), then the unhealthy ones (which I won’t list), and still feeling miserable. It’s being guilty for keeping things from my friends and family, but feeling worse when I tell them because then they want to help but can’t. And, at times, it’s made me feel like I’m losing my mind — all of which is, for lack of a better word, depressing.
After a brief few days of feeling like myself again, my good mood evaporated and I returned to thinking I would never feel any better. I was ready to accept “depressed” as part of my personality, like “sarcastic” or “brown-haired” or “East Cleveland Jew.” I couldn’t imagine ever feeling any differently, and I was positive that everyone who told me things would get better was full of shit.
Don’t take this as blind optimism. I maintain that I’m a realist (that way I’m always either right or pleasantly surprised), but I have, very slowly, started to feel better. I have, very slowly, started to feel like the version of myself I completely lost touch with over the last few months — the one who loves watching movies and being with my friends and who cares about school and things in general.
We don’t talk about mental health a lot. We talk about the stage between feeling super depressed and then mostly okay again even less. So I would like to acknowledge that it sucks, but not as much as depression does, and apparently, it takes time.
A few weeks ago, I was so depressed I couldn’t fathom ever feeling any differently. Now, though, it’s hard for me to remember being in such a bad place. While I know there will probably be another time in my life — next week, a few years from now, whenever — that I’ll be in that place again, at least now I know that it’s not inescapable.
So the next time I cancel weekend plans to lie in bed, eat peanut butter with a spoon and watch “Heartburn,” hopefully it will be because I’m lazy, not because I’m depressed.
But if it is because I’m depressed, my therapist will hear about it the following Wednesday, and we will deal with it.