my history with depression
I have a pretty long history with depression.
I really can't ever remember a time when I didn’t suffer from a certain kind of darkness.
I was ostracized pretty brutally as a kid. Coming home from school became a relief. I was just an easy target for some reason. I was teased for being fat and ugly.
Maybe I was quirky. Maybe I used weird words. Maybe I smelled like an ashtray from my parents both smoking in the house.
Why does any kid get picked on?
I was never “obese” but I have always been BIG. As a girl that is especially tough, as we all know. The pressure to look a certain way. It didn’t help that I also was not in the least bit athletic, so I couldn’t even make up for my thickness with strength or power or speed. A game of tag stopped the minute I was “it.”
Academics were really the only thing that made me feel good about myself. I was and am very artistic, I loved language and I had a nerdy knack for chemistry. Art class was a sanctuary for me. It was the one place where I seemed to have everyone's respect.
The teasing stopped for the most part when I switched schools between grades 4 and 5. But I still struggled to fit in throughout middle school and by high school I had just kind of given up. I embraced being alone because choosing to be alone meant I had beaten everyone to the punch of excluding me from social events.
I was in 9th grade when I experimented with self-harm for the first time. A lesser known method of using hot objects to brand the skin became a drug I struggled with the adiction of for the next 15 years.
I will never know exactly why I started. I was doing homework one night in my bedroom. I was burning a scented candle I had received for my birthday just weeks before. I had my house key in one hand and the results are still on my arm over 20 years later.
My habit could have been far worse than it was in both frequency and intensity. As time went on, I did become more calculated. Burning didn’t just happen. I would plan it. Imagine it. And then relish in the healing process, watching my skin regenerate. When I began working out, I think to a degree, the intensity with which I attacked my workouts almost replaced this habit. It was kind of twisted.
The motivations were a mix of emotion. Complete absence of feeling makes one desperate to feel something. Overwhelming anxiety makes one desperate for something to control. I was very poor at handling acute stress. It wouldn’t take much to send me reeling into a tantrum, sometimes scratching at myself. On the surface, to those who experienced this first hand, I must have been perceived as a brat, a drama queen. I am sure my relationships with my parents and my significant others all suffered because of it.
Burning was always a release. It was also a physical representation of my internal struggle.
I did have thoughts about death. Moreover, I wished I had never been born, which to me feels very different from wishing to die. Any fleeting thought of suicide was silenced solely by the thought of breaking my mother’s heart. I couldn't.
I think everyone's experience of depression and anxiety is different. This subjective element makes it hard to take seriously as the illness that it is. Some people experience it as a fleeting period of time, though it feels like forever when you're in it, and others never remember life without it.
For me, depression is, at its core, the idea and sensation of complete isolation. No phone call, or social encounter can fix it. Not even a hug. Like social contact is somehow water going through a sive that is my depression.
Sometimes I would go out dancing and dance. Other times I would go out dancing and sit and watch. And I would be fine until someone tried to convince me that I was doing the wrong thing, like somehow, my lack of participation made them uncomfortable. This happened at clubs and parties, by friends and strangers alike. If they told me to smile, or that I should be dancing and having a great time, I would feel even worse about myself that I couldn’t turn this thing off and participate like a “normal human being.”
I resisted taking meds for years. I was afraid that my creativity was sourced from my depression. I identified myself by the pain I felt. Who was I if I wasn’t hurting? And I was also somehow convinced that I could wrestle this demon on my own and if I couldn’t I just needed to try harder. But this approach is as futile as trying to will away cancer.
I’ve been on Zoloft for 3 years and Wellbutrin for 2 years now. I wish to high heaven that I hadn’t waited so long. I wasted so much time being in pain, suffering from the compounding feedback loop of anxiety and inaction. I could have accomplished so much more by now if I hadn't been confined to my bed paralyzed by indecision.
The more unproductive I was, the more I beat myself up, the more I convinced myself I wasn’t worthy of the success that hard work would bring.
It’s not a perfect solution, by any means. My recent diagnosis of Hashimoto’s gives me hope that getting my thyroid hormone balanced might make my “crazy pills”(that’s my own affectionate name for them) unnecessary. There is so much we don’t know about the causes and the mechanisms behind this illness. We lose far too many people to it. The way people talk about suicide is insensitive and ignorant. The things I have heard would never be said about someone who died from cancer, or any other chronic illness. The deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain brought a lot of talk about how these people had dream jobs and everything one could ever want in life… why would they off themselves?
Being whole doesn’t come from family, or friends, or your work, even if those things are all ridiculously fulfilling.
You can have gratitude and still be empty.
You can be happy and still hurt.
You can be the best at what you do, and still, let yourself down every time.
Being whole is an internal phenomenon.
To those who find all of this so foreign, who can’t even fathom feeling this way, I ask that you put your judgment aside. Depression is not sadness. One cannot simply “buck up.” Trust us, we’ve tried, long before you ever came along and suggested it.
If you need help, please call 1-800-273-8255