I’ve proclaimed a decent number of things within the margins of this column and, yet, here I go again.
Dear readers, dear friends, I do believe that I’ve been very depressed.
It’s still difficult for me to say definitively: I’m depressed.
Eek. I mean, on the spectrum of depression, maybe mine isn’t so bad. Maybe the label is totally inaccurate and I should stop self-diagnosing myself.
I was offered drugs for anxiety and depression months ago, but I turned them down. The psychiatrist and I only talked for about 15 minutes. He didn’t seem too concerned, but was going to give me a prescription anyway. Maybe I should have taken it. Shoot, maybe I still will. However, as someone with addiction and other mental health concerns in my family, I was worried about taking something too real. I already worry I take too much ibuprofen as it is. (Wait. Is that my anxiety talking? Shit.)
Regardless of what is going on with me according to the DSM, I’ve definitely had many disconcerting moments of hopelessness, sadness, loneliness and fatigue since, at least, starting graduate school. I was just a few weeks in when I started to recognize it. Seeking understanding, I told an ex who had also had his troubles with depression.
He said it didn’t sound like depression and how could I be depressed anyway? Life was good. He was right. It was, but I wasn’t.
I felt even more defeated and misunderstood. If I wasn’t really depressed, I didn’t want to label myself that and take anything away from people with real problems. This predicament I was in – was I depressed enough to call it depression? – struck a chord with me. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding talking about my problems with family not because they wouldn’t understand, but because they had enough problems and, in comparison, mine weren’t a big deal. My feelings weren’t a big deal. I wasn’t a big deal.
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In fact, I’ll be quiet over here so that you don’t even notice me …
That was until I stopped being quiet and forced my way back into society with witty comments in the classroom. I wasn’t sure if the other kids liked me, but the teachers usually did and that was enough. Until it wasn’t.
I believe my coping mechanism is this: stay as busy as possible and work, work, work because, when you’re too busy to eat, to sleep, to think, you can ignore the real things going on in your head – the scary things.
And how long have I been doing this? Well, pretty much my entire life. Have I been depressed the whole time and I was just too busy putting out metaphorical fires to notice? Or is this just my temperament? Am I really uninterested/tired/overworked/overwhelmed or am I just being lazy? It’s a muddy place and, until you’re there, I’m not sure you can imagine what it looks like. But the metaphor is a good one – I just feel like I have been stuck in the mud, or more appropriately, quick sand, for a very long time.
To combat the negative thoughts, the insecurity, I remind myself how fortunate I am to have survived my childhood, earned my degree, worked in a career I love, made it to California, made it into UC Berkeley and to have had wonderful friends and mentors along the way. I say it again and again. I believe it, I know it and, sometimes, I even feel it.
But in the times that I don’t feel it, I can disappear.
Into work. Into a relationship. Into a class. Into the entire series of Gilmore Girls. And now that I think I’m coming out of the darkness, I worry about what – and who – I may have lost while I was there. If it was you, I’m sorry.