I didn’t know I was depressed until last October. There, in the near empty privacy of my dorm, I tried to overdose on my menstrual painkillers and vomited — I was unsuccessful even in suicide. Loser in life and in death, go figure.
Before, my sadness was mostly homesickness and before that it felt connected to toxic high school friendships but after attempting suicide it was different. I stopped going to class, I got in a fight with my roommates, and I surrendered to the hole of sadness that felt at that point acceptable ground to stand on.
Why am I telling you this? That’s more of a question for myself than you.
Another question for myself; why am I depressed?
I tend to find that we — the mentally sick — ask ourselves this question because we want a reason, we want to validate our emotions because there’s no other good answer — saying “it’s chemical” doesn’t work for most people (not even doctors sometimes) because it isn’t as tangible as a dead dog or a close friend leaving our lives.
But that’s what it is, for me anyway — an imbalance; something missing here and too much of something there. My parents got divorced and after that my father made himself disappear fifteen minutes away, seeing my sister and I a few of times a month if at all, but otherwise my life has been too easy for me to feel sorry for myself.
I went to a private school. I have a loving mother. I have a nice house in a good neighborhood. People like to say depression is a state of mind — imagine hearing this, months after you tried to die. It’s like being hit with a shovel to have the sense knocked into you but instead you just pass out.
My mother has anxiety. I do too. Anxiety basically makes me sit up in bed at night, feeling nauseous, thinking about everything and nothing all at once.
It makes my heart race and my back sweat and as all of this goes on in my body and my head a small voice is trying to calm me down because to go and ask my mom for help is to claim weakness, to feel vulnerable. I hate feeling like that.
Anyway, my therapist (my first one) told me that I have severe anxiety that causes depressive symptoms, not actual depression. Then I tried to kill myself and didn’t tell anyone because it didn’t work. So the band played on.
Here’s what almost dying feels like; it feels like a brief moment of regret but also wondering.
It feels like everything you ate coming up from your stomach into and around the porcelain throne you share with your two roommates and your RA next door, it feels like the beginning of the end but also the start of something you don’t know yet.
It feels like wiping the floor where you missed the target and climbing into bed, suddenly really cold.
And it feels like not telling anyone until about a year later when you have to.
The same therapist who told me I wasn’t depressed saw me after I tried to die. I didn’t tell her. She told me to do something every week that makes me happy. So that weekend I got a tattoo of a constellation and the next week I got a guinea pig I named after a Stranger Things character.
Naturally, these things made me feel a temporary happiness that disappeared when I felt the need to feel sad again. Though I do love El.
Therapist One also told me to think about what I want. She said, “Think of a big goal that feels possibly unattainable for now and keep it in your mind for when you feel the need to give up.”
So I told her that I would end up on the New York Times Bestseller List before I turned 30. She said “okay” with a condescending chuckle the way you say “okay” to a kid who talks about staying up to see Santa.
But if nothing else keeps me going it’s the idea of that small dream and ultimately the desire to prove her wrong because I like being right.
The worst part of my depression is that every so I feel the strong desire to feel better and to do better and to climb out of this place. Those days I get up early-ish and I eat breakfast and I shower and I do the normal things and I feel good for doing them.
Then, before I know it, I’m back to existing and not living. I’m like a vegetable and I feel fine being one because that’s all there is. In those moments I feel stuck in this cycle of living and existing and smiling and crying. God I’ve cried so much this past year.
It’s weird how like, I look at people who seem happy and I genuinely can’t remember the last time I felt like that. I can’t remember not forcing myself to smile outside of laughing, I can’t remember enjoying talking to people or feeling a relaxed calm.
And so many people have asked me that question and I think about before my dog died, when my dad was still living with us, when all I had to do was go to school and come home and play in the basement with my sister and I think, “Was I happy then or was I just content? Was I too naïve to know I should be sad?”
My mom told me last week while we were walking around the harbor downtown that my dad got mad at my dog for eating a hot dog he dropped and he hit her so hard she hurt her tail and couldn’t go to the bathroom.
The vet said something like “Was it worth it?” And it’s weird to think that whole time I was just downstairs, playing with the dollhouses with my sister.
People tell me the reasons I have to be happy a lot which I know is their way of trying to convince me why I shouldn’t want to die (sometimes it’s like that feeling was so temporary it’s like a distant memory) but I always take it as reasons I have no business being depressed.
So I try to think about the good things when I feel sad because it’s the thing to do when you’re sad. Sometimes it works.
I’m only 19. I said something to someone about having my whole life ahead of me recently. And they said “It’s the coolest shit ever.”
And for the first time I guess I agreed.