On Depression: It’s Not a Choice

26 Oct

Depression is not a choice.  One of the few people with whom I shared my diagnosis of major depressive disorder told me, “that’s no way to live your life.”  I have no choice in this matter.  As little as I know about my family history, depression runs on both sides, and I am yet another unwitting victim to the cycle of depression and the continued denial of mental illness.  Having depression does not mean that I am always sad and upset.  It does not mean that I am broken.  It does not mean that I am a bad person.  What it means to me is that my world runs over with great possibilities of succumbing to darkness, and that I will recurrently enter that abyss on my own. Depression is a feeling that is difficult to describe.  Perhaps the best way to describe my depression is a feeling of infinite emptiness and an almost tangible hopelessness.   It is also one of the most isolating illnesses.  You are alone in your head.  Your internal thought processes are broken, and you feel as though the cycle will never be broken.  No amount of love or concern from others will fix it.  You walk alone.

I first started feeling sad on a regular basis when I was in middle school.  At least six years of being mercilessly teased in school finally caught up with me.  Simply thinking of some of the names I was called and the things that were done to me sends a shock of pain though my body.   At the age of thirteen, I told my parents that I wanted to kill myself.  They took me to a therapist, who in turn told my mother that I was simply too smart for my own good.  The problem would get worse a few years later.

My second major episode of depression came following the end of a long romantic relationship.  I thought that I would be with him forever, as silly as that now sounds.  I can still hear some of the cruel things he said when it was over.  The last time I saw him, he held a scrapbook of our pictures in his hand: “if I give you this, you’ll never get over me,” he said.   Little did he know, that was not the problem.  The problem was internal rumination, and the inability to brush off cruel words, another symptom of depression.   I did get over him, but it took a long time.  A long time filled with crying fits, a thirty pound weight loss, and a year of being almost continuously drunk.

The third major episode began with the death of my on-again and off again boyfriend and best friend, Dave.  Since his death, my mind has been in a fog.  I have started caring less about other friendships.  I now know what death does to those who are left behind.  It changes a person, from the inside out.  Despite his deep flaws, he was the most emotionally supportive person in my life.  And now I am here without him, more broken than I ever was when he was alive.

When my depression is at its absolute worst, I feel as though I want to die, but then I suddenly think that I do not want to die, and my mind duels with itself in a devilish dance.

I want people to call me to ask to spend time with me, but then I realize that they will not want to spend time with me.  Hardly anyone can stand me due to my depression, my dark mark.  It does not make me fun to be around.  It makes my narcissistic traits bubble to the surface, as there is something inherently narcissistic about being wrapped up in one’s own depression.  How I wish I could make it all go away.

Despite these horrid feelings that ebb and flow within my cortex, I manage to make it every day.  I function – perhaps almost too well – and I go to work, I freelance for extra money, I manage to get onstage to do comedy at least five days a week, I piece together a full-length screenplay that is moving slowly but surely.  I will not give up.  I will not go gentle into that good night.

The stigma against depression remains thick in this world, and especially in the United States.  A bootstrap mentality pervades this land, and no one wants to hear about feelings – those messy, unknown things.  A conversation on mental illness seems so far away at this point and time, and for those of us struggling with the realities of what it is to be human, to face your frailty on a daily basis, the problem persists.

If you know someone who is struggling with depression, please check in on them regularly.  It will mean everything in the world to them.


2 Responses to “On Depression: It’s Not a Choice”

  1. Valerie Marulli November 3, 2014 at 11:20 PM #

    I’m always here for you and a lot of these emotions are temporary and with women many are also hormonal. Also as you get older you realize nothing is that bad and the quest to live longer to the end,until the Lord say come home is undeniable. Love Mommy

    • fixedair November 4, 2014 at 3:55 PM #

      Mom, I know you mean well, but it is sexist and subservient to the patriarchy to say that women’s moods are affected by their periods. Depression is a mental illness and millions of people have it and suffer in silence because of the stigma that is alive and well in this country. I am speaking out about it because people need to know they are not alone.

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