How Depression Changed Me

“interesting that i don’t write about depression when i’m not depressed, since that’s the best time to do it.”
-My twitter

I don’t recall much about the night I was diagnosed with depression — just the fuzzy outlines of a threat to commit suicide. I thought I’d be dead by morning. My time felt near while on the phone with my father’s then-girlfriend, a psychologist who spoke to me in a soft, cathartic tone, that volume which both soothes and condescends. I was in Georgia, she was in Philadelphia, and she talked to me until 1 a.m.: long-distance diagnosis and prescription (“Go see a therapist”).

Before that night — or the curvature of that night, those fuzzy outlines once again — I cared. I cared about my family; I cared about my friends; I cared (too much) about my ex-lovers; I cared about the future. To care is to step outside of oneself, to face the cold blade of another human on guard because some other human hurt her years ago.

That’s life, isn’t it? The dance we do with swords and shields, striking each other because we’re so afraid, oh so afraid, to get hurt? If this isn’t life, then it is certainly “love” in its most humanistic form, based and terrified. And I was a willing participant. I loved. I lived. I cared.

Presumably, depression, like any other illness, forces one to take stock of his life, to turn inward as a form of reassessment. The flaws and bad habits left to rot inside me — the affairs, the chain-smoking — must be addressed now, now, someone told me over the phone that I was depressed. Which, at the time, didn’t mean that much to me.

I knew of depression as any layman understands it: the blues, sad days, gray days, tears and slow music. A frozen moment in time, yes? Like mourning a death, sooner or later, I’d snap out of it. I just couldn’t understand why I felt so tortured, why my brain seemed to turn on me. Everything I wanted to forget — all the mistakes and sins and embarrassments — released like wolves panting and sprinting in the lightless night toward carrion. The mammal ensnared in the trap was me. The wolves ripped me apart day and night.

The next day, after my impromptu phone consultation, I met my first therapist. Dr. Elizabeth. A sweet, southern lady with a thick accent which accentuated her freakishly tall body.

(In the craft of memoir or personal essay, one is allowed to skip forward in time or condense conversations or “blend” multiple conversations into one or two paragraphs to save space and the reader’s time. Let it be known, then, that Dr. Elizabeth diagnosed me with dysthymia*, and concluded that I suffered from depression for most, if not all, of my life. She recommended medication; I declined; I was an idiot who paid a heavy price years later.)

Since, I’ve been meaning to research (i.e. Google) post-major-depression trauma. One can’t really be the same after being devoured by imaginary wolves. I’m no longer the same, for I don’t care as much as I did before. When your body and mind decide, almost on a whim, to become your worst enemies, really who gives a shit about Presidential elections or weddings or birthdays or terrorist bombings? There’s little time for the outside world. I became, and remain, vigilant with respect to my moods, my immediate condition.

I don’t pay attention as much as I did before. I hear, but I’m never really listening — not completely — and forget about my surroundings. Trees and buildings all look the same when viewed from the peripheral, if viewed at all, so a street in downtown Chicago is no different to me than an alleyway in Philadelphia; I couldn’t care less about their actual differences.

This makes the so-called “writing life” difficult, and it is why my work has become so solipsistic over the years. I am my favorite subject, I am the mystery which confuses and seduces me, I am that which I know nothing about, and so I must write about it — me — to get to the answers of unknown questions.

I am so fearful now, six years and three major depressions later, of myself, of some deep flaw within me that I might’ve missed or neglected. And the advice from friends and family and lovers is, typically, to live and let live. Enjoy life. The answers will come. Their kind words come from the belief that I’m on a spiritual quest when, in fact, I’m sort of like Bruce Banner: I’m trying to find a goddamn cure before my depression destroys my life yet again.

Because ironically, depression is not a solipsistic disease; it is not a self-inflicted gunshot but, rather, a bomb detonated in the middle of a family function or, in my case, a very quiet explosion as I read my second set of vows, as I wondered if it was happening again, as I knew everyone in the room was about to be wiped out by my disease — they just didn’t know it at the time.

Morbid, but sometimes, I wish I was a cutter or a drug abuser. Something, anything, that’ll turn the depressive violence inward. But no. Friendships and marriages are lost; family ties are strained; job performance decreases; drivers on the highway blow their horns as I race by them at 100 mph, indifferent about everything, every one. Like a true a-hole.

Post-major-depression trauma resulting in chronic a-holery. I’m certain I’ve discovered a new wrinkle to the treatment of depression. Because after the storm subsides, after the wolves slink away sated and ready for sleep, after the antidepressants circulate in my blood, blunting the blows, it’s a challenge to look outward again, to remember that it isn’t all about you, to again understand the connection between all people. But I try. I try. TC mark

image – Nikolaos Gyzis

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  • Sabrina J.

    Amazing.

  • bl

    This is amazing.  I could never explain what my depression was like to others..but this, all of this right here, is exactly it.  Thank you!

  • adrian

    This actually made me cry as I see things like this in myself

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s hard to verbalize it sometimes, but you’ve done a fantastic job. It’s difficult to care when you’re falling apart inside and no one understands. Bless you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1072327612 Ketsia Leste

    You’ll always be remembered for this, Mensah Demary. :'(

  • thisisme

    exactly.

  • George

    This was freaking amazing!  I can relate on so many levels with this post.

  • idilay

    powerful stuff here. This line did it for me  “depression is not a solipsistic disease; it is not a self-inflicted gunshot but, rather, a bomb detonated in the middle of a family function”

  • http://millefeuille1.wordpress.com/ C M

    Thank you for writing about this. It’s still a taboo subject to admit you are depressed. Depression is extremely difficult to live with and consumes your mind and body. I hope you are feeling more hopeful.

  • Jane

    Brilliant. This touched me to the core.

  • Yair

    You’ve described my thoughts exactly down to the use of wolves (I remember walking down the promenade in santa monica california during a particularly brutal breakdown) and thinking about just letting those inner wolves attack me, just let them have their way, while listening to Molossus off the Batman Begins soundtrack..but they’re never satisfied, they never stop.  You can only bear it and try to step forward again and again.  But you’ve given me, oddly enough, something like hope, but more like a spot of respite.  For that, thanks, really.

  • MamaJ

    Exquisitely accurate! 

    If you succeed in your quest to ”
    find a goddamn cure before my depression destroys my life yet again “, please share it with the rest of the class. I know that I, for one, would welcome such a cure.

  • Anonymous

    beautiful. I totally get it. post-major-depression trauma.

  • Saadz2k5

    I can relate to this completely – excellent piece of writing

  • Jessica

    thanks for writing this. i can relate completely. this is great writing!

  • Indibttrfly

    Thank you. And thank you to everyone who commented as well to say they can relate. I can relate to. Which means I am not alone in this. That’s always good to realise.

  • Anonymous

    I always describe depression as a muted.  Sounds become muted, scenary, people. 
    You dont give a shit about hurting friends or family, ou become selfish.  
    You feel a weight gently pushing down on the crown of your head, that causes your eyes to soflty droop and the lines around your mouth . 
    It doesnt feel like being in a dark hole because being curled up in a dark hole feels like the most ideal position, instead you float. You don’t cry because you dont feel sad at anything in particular but instead you spend nights awake with frenzied thoughts, conversations and images replaying and overlapping each other in your head like that scene in clockwork orange. 
    It fucking sucks, and what’s worse is  knowing that it will creep and come back one day and only you’re the only one who’ll have to  subdue it again.

    • Anonymous

      Im only a 16 year old girl and im glad that im entering a future world where depression is not seen a such a taboo

  • http://twitter.com/jo_io Joanna

    Amazing. It’s hard to voice exactly what it feels like, but you’ve captured it here. In my personal experience, mine comes in the form of that bad dream you never forget, that vivid memory that lingers on the edge of your subconscious, waiting for the worst moment to consume your mind all over again. I wish you all the best. 

  • Sweetlymundane

    I’m on medicine now, but I can completely relate. Depression, for me, was a lack of caring. It still is. I get angry and sometimes all I do is sleep because nothing else matters. I don’t want to sit up and think. My own writing took a huge turn for the dark and my interests became more… well, I’m not sure how to describe them. Even on medicine, I still sleep a great deal and sometimes not even when I’m tired. The prose you used is quite impressive. Everyone has a different experience with depression. Thanks for making yours public. No one should be ashamed for having a mental illness. Would you be ashamed for having a fever? It just makes me think, that’s all.

  • http://twitter.com/_navD Navjot Dhillon

    I had a life too. I still have a life, but not what i dream of life as. I was hit by depression in this quarter life crisis, gf broke up, no job after graduation, family issues and what not. Took medicines and read spirituality books, to be honest they quite helped. Being a Dentist, i was determined to quit anti-depression medicine as soon as i could, luckily i did. I started feeling better. But to all this, i realized i didn’t change back to what i use to. I stopped caring, loving and more importantly I’m not motivated enough for my own life.  

    • Olivia

      I am so afraid of this

  • Goosey

    I was diagnosed with depression too and that’s why I relate to this so much. Thank you for sharing what’s on your mind.

  • Mel C

    Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. And so true…

  • Moon

    Very well written. I can really relate it to how I feel. It’s nice to be reminded that I am not alone in this battle.

  • GYC

    Speaking as someone with similar personal experience, every word of this rings true with me. The hardest part for me was reaching out and trusting someone other than your therapist. And then another. And eventually another. You may feel that you’re “burdening them” with your problems, but these people will pick you up when you’re feeling your worst.

    Stay strong and keep fighting <3

  • Rothko2009

    Really well written, articles like this really help explain to those who have not suffered with depression what it is like to live with it on a daily basis

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