Your soul

I Was Your Friend Who Had Depression, and I Had No Idea, Either.

By January 24, 2016 0
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In truth, I think it started all the way back in middle school.

I can’t remember now, exactly, if it was 8th or 7th grade, but one of those. I had a crush on a guy who sometimes liked me but sometimes liked this blonder, boobier, nicer, sweeter, smarter girl who happened to have the same birthday as myself. The girl and I shared lots of mutual friends but weren’t actually friends ourselves, so it made our middle school love triangle both more and less awkward for the two of us.

For years, I would cry on my birthday, even long after the jerky middle school crush was out of the picture. Everyone’s away messages on Instant Messenger would tote birthday greetings for her, and none for me. Once Facebook came into play, she’d have literally hundreds of birthday posts on her wall, and I’d have a few. It was just one of those things that always followed me as a kid; I was shy and had low self-esteem as it was, and it just didn’t help.

Yes, I know, you’re sitting there thinking, “That is so stupid. It’s middle school. It doesn’t even matter.”

And to that, I have two things to say, that both took me a very long time to learn: 1) it does matter, even if it’s just middle school, because that shit stays with you and shapes who you become; and 2) It’s not about what is happening, it’s about how your body reacts to it. And I realized that my body reacted with immense, intense sadness, and despite my knowing it was a silly reason to cry, I couldn’t stop it from happening.

Junior year of high school, things hit a wall. I cried myself to sleep every night. It didn’t really matter what it was about, I just cried. Tears were endless and I was always, perpetually, so, so sad. I had friends and went out, but inside I was a mess. Anything that did happen sent me so far off the edge that it took me weeks to bounce back. I remember driving a friend home from school once and just breaking out in tears in the middle of our conversation, and she watched me, horrified, as I continued to drive and sob out a story to her at the same time. I’ve never felt as crazy as I did in that moment, and I relive it now as a kind of out-of-body experience, as an onlooker just thinking “What. The. Fuck.

I have never been a reckless person. I don’t like breaking rules and I don’t like getting in trouble. I could never bring myself to overstep any real boundaries that people associate with depression – I didn’t drown myself in booze, I didn’t slit my wrists, I didn’t sneak out and wreak havoc around town. I was too fragile and too scared for any of that. But I never felt like I had any coping mechanisms to deal with it all, so it just sat there, a giant ball of, mostly, teenaged angst, but also some very real overly-emotional imbalances.

In January of senior year, I faked sick for a week straight just to get out of going to school. I hated it. I hated the people, the work, my teachers, the hallways, everything. I didn’t want to see anyone or do anything. I complained of migraine after migraine and insisted I had to stay home.

Finally, that Friday, my fifth straight day home that week, I was moping around the kitchen, playing up my imagined medical conditions, and my mother, angrily, spun around and yelled at me, “Maybe I just need to take you to a fucking psychologist, because otherwise, what the hell is wrong with you?!”

It was the single-most loving sentence I had ever heard.

I instantly broke into tears. I crumbled to the floor in a heap of sobs and helplessly stared up at her, and all I could do was nod. “Yes,” I choked out. “I think you do.”

A few weeks later was my first day on antidepressants. I remember it like it was yesterday. I took my pills and went to my friends’ house, and realized they made the world pretty fuzzy, and left my friends’ house almost immediately (yes, like a total weirdo). I remember everything “feeling yellow” – I wrote that in a journal somewhere at the time. I literally pulled over, parked in an empty lot, and stopped to sit and write, like it was the only thing in the world that made any sense to do. It felt bright but dull at the same time, warm but in a sickly way. My brain was buzzing, but relaxed. I drove home in a cloud and was happy to be back in my own bed when I finally reached it.

For the first time in years, I went to sleep that night without crying first, and slept harder than I ever had.

A month later or so came my birthday. Another moment frozen in time: I popped on Facebook to check in on the world and saw a spattering of “Happy Birthday!” messages on my wall, and tons, as usual, on the wall of my lifelong blonde rival, and I felt…

Nothing.

It was the most amazing and most horrifying feeling of my entire life. I could feel the chemical block on the part of my brain that normally said “Cry! Now!” Tears refused to form. My lip went through the motions of quivering and then just stopped altogether, because there was no signal to cry, my brain had shut it off; my brain finally said, “No.”

I’d like to say the next 3 years were better, but they were only just barely so. I was less emotional but I felt like a fuck-up because I had to be on meds to function. At one point, my body began getting used to the dosage, and my doctor doubled my intake, and I was literally stoned for 2 weeks straight while my body adjusted. I remember loosing my shit once in English class and telling everyone I couldn’t stop laughing because I was on pills to make me happy, and I’m pretty sure my reputation never recovered from that. Would you talk to me if I was that much of a blithering idiot? No, I thought not.

The truth was, I didn’t know what the fuck was wrong with me. “Depression” was only a term because I was on antidepressants. I went to counseling and my parents and I sat down and chatted with the nice professional lady, but what it all really came down to was that I just had an alarming predisposition towards immense sadness. I was just really fucking sad, all the time. And I don’t know what that means, or what it meant. All I know was that I couldn’t deal with it very well.

I continued my meds through college and once tried to wean myself off them altogether. It didn’t work very well because I was more miserable at school than I’d ever been in my entire life. I was alone, scared, sad, angry, anti-social, shy, lazy, and never slept. I called my parents to come pick me up every weekend. I only hung out with people from my hometown, because even though I hated them, they were a hate I was familiar with.

Then: poof. End of sophomore year, I met my now fiancé. Maybe 6 months later, the meds were gone. He never gave me grief about them, but he was honest from the beginning and told me he didn’t believe in them. He also told me he didn’t think depression was a “thing.” Took me a while to get over that one, but he was pretty fucked up at the time, too, so I let it go. One day, I just didn’t take the meds, and then they were gone. I like to think I was simply ready to let them go and that it wasn’t “him” that made me “ready” to let them go, but I think it was probably a healthy combination of both timing and decent company.

Every now and then, I have a really, really bad day. I don’t eat, I don’t get off the couch, I don’t answer my phone, I don’t do a damned thing. The only thing I do is write, a lot. That’s about it. But it all comes back to that yellow, sickly feeling I felt when I first started the meds; the same hue comes over the world, and my stomach aches in an empty, pit-like way that is completely foreign to me, even now; I can never place my finger on why it’s there, or what put it there, or how to ever make it go away.

I’m the friend that had depression, and didn’t know it to tell you about it. I didn’t know why I cried every night and felt stupid for even doing it. I didn’t know why my face was a perpetual frown. I never had a massive turning point that changed my mood from gleeful to solemn; I was always just an intense, drawn, introverted kid, and I grew into an exaggerated version of myself. I don’t know that the meds were the answer; I think the only answer is time, and unfortunately, time is not cheap, so the meds probably helped me buy a little more time while I needed it. I fully believe they did something to help my brain turn off the pieces it couldn’t control. I think there are people who need pushes like that every day.

But do I ever blame you for not knowing? No. Could I ever blame a family, a friend, a school, a coach, for not knowing? No. We don’t know, either. We don’t know our minds, our bodies; they’re unknown worlds. We are answerless. So are you. The only thing you can do is gain insight, offer a hand, and respond to our echoes, if you happen to hear them, because half the time, we don’t even know we’re screaming.

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