Two weeks ago, I correctly self-diagnosed for the first time ever. This did not impress the Student Health Services doctor who confirmed my suspicions I had a sinus infection, but I was pretty pleased with myself.
Anyway, I was a little irritated as I hiked to pick up my Amoxicillin at CVS, but mostly relieved. “I have a sinus infection” is an acceptable excuse for canceling plans or not making any at all; “I’m depressed” is not. A sinus infection is also a tangible, easily traceable reason for feeling shitty; depression is not.
I’ve written about this before because I’m incapable of processing anything I feel unless I spit it out into a Word doc afterward. When I wrote a couple months ago that I’d come to terms with my depression, I was already thinking about a follow-up column. I would talk about how the Lexapro I was prescribed didn’t just take effect but worked psychiatric magic. I’d gush about how I swapped my requisite four cups of coffee a day for green tea and how I self-medicated with yoga and deep breathing exercises, not with pasta. Or wine.
For a couple weeks after the column was published, I held onto the idea that, since I was fine at the time, I could decide to be fine for good — even when I stopped taking the Lexapro because it alleviated my anxiety but didn’t take my depression with it. Even when my bad days started to outnumber the good ones, the fact that I was still having good days at all made me feel like I was just being melodramatic the rest of the time.
Then, I stopped having good days altogether. I didn’t want to be at school anymore, but I didn’t want to go home, either. I was so exhausted I felt weighed down by a massive psychological boulder. But not attending class and newspaper meetings made me feel worse. I wanted to see my friends, but I couldn’t summon the energy to be around other people for more than half an hour or so.
Then, two weekends ago, something occurred to me as I approached my 20th hour of watching “Gilmore Girls.” By “watching,” of course, I mean “re-watching for the sixth time.” And by “re-watching,” I mean “listening to the show play on my laptop so I could feel like I was doing something besides laying in bed in the dark mid-Saturday, because I didn’t have the energy to do anything else.”
And by “occurred,” I mean “finally got through to me even though other people have been telling me this for months”: I couldn’t choose to not be depressed any more than I could choose to not have a particularly resilient unibrow.
More importantly (and the main point I’d like to make), I realized how lucky I am to have friends who send me depression memes and put up with my mood swings and started subbing our wine nights for coffee dates when I started taking Prozac. The last few weeks would have been bad regardless, but worse without them.
I’ve struggled with depression since high school. But I didn’t say anything to my friends about it until last semester, and I didn’t speak honestly about it until the past couple months.
Depression is one of the most internalized things you can experience. It’s nearly impossible to express how it feels (I haven’t been able to come up with anything more eloquent than “shitty”), even to people who have similar issues, because no two people experience it exactly the same way.
I’m not advocating for anyone to talk to the people around them about being depressed, because I realize everyone’s situation is different. And I want to emphasize that, while I don’t regret saying something, I do wish I could go back and do so more carefully.
But I don’t regret talking to my friends about it. I wouldn’t have sought help if they hadn’t talked me into going to therapy and taking an antidepressant and making me feel like I wasn’t crazy for doing those things.
What’s helped me more, though, than opening up to my friends and using lavender-scented stress relief body wash and even Prozac, is coming to terms with something I’ve known for a long time but didn’t want to accept: