It’s probably not a novel concept to write about being depressed while depressed, but here I am.
It’s been seventeen months since I’ve graduated, and, embarrassingly enough, I have very little to show for it.
As an unemployed twenty-something, I spend way too much time on Facebook, lurking on others’ pages, trying to distill universal truths about what it means to be young and confused. What I’ve discovered is that not everyone is so confused, or at least they are way better at hiding it than I am.
My observations from the past few weeks are as follows:
1. Everyone is having way more fun than me.
2. Everyone is moving on with their lives post-college, as they rightly should.
See, unlike a lot of my friends, I don’t post statuses about how much fun I’m having.
More likely, I’m writing about how terrible my day was. I was called out by an acquaintance for posting “depressing” Facebook statuses. He claimed that these statuses were a narcissistic cry for attention. I disagree with this assessment because:
1. How are my “depressive” statuses any more narcissistic than his happy ones?
2. No one is invested in statuses enough to consider them a sincere cry for help.
However, his comments made me realize that my life is not that shitty, I am still depressed, and that, deep down, I enjoy telling people that.
I am not proud of this.
These are the things which I do not currently possess: an apartment, a job, health insurance, more than threedigits in my bank account, a father.
Last January, after suffering from a nervous breakdown caused by That Terrible Event, I went to see a therapist at University Health Services. I’m pretty sure half the student population went to see a therapist at least once during their tenure, but I had managed to avoid it until the spring semester of my senior year, when I was just a few months away from graduation.
I spent most of my sessions venting at my therapist, who didn’t understand me and never would. Pain is an experience completely defined by the person experiencing it, and my pain wasn’t even physical. Yet I came back every week to vent. Eventually, venting turned to introspection and introspection revealed some pretty ugly things.
I became a monster to my friends and family. Calls with my father became strained as he pressured me to search for well-paid jobs. My friends were emotionally exhausted by my angry outbursts. I got away with this behavior because they always forgave me. Whenever I didn’t get a job or internship I wanted, or a less-than-desirable grade on an essay or test, the whole world came crashing down. I would wear a normal face until I could go back to my room and cry my heart out. I was torn up over small decisions, paralyzed regularly by my anxiety and pressured to be normal in order to be successful by my professors and peers.
At that point, I was crazy, afraid to admit it, and overwhelmed by fixing my anxiety on my own.
Then I tried drugs.
First, it was lorazepam, to deal with my crippling anxiety. I brought up depression in my therapy sessions, but my therapist focused on my anxiety first. I wish I could say that for all that I paid her, I should have received my anti-depressant meds, but I didn’t pay her. Those sessions were free. But I’m still pissed that I didn’t get anti-depressants, as if they were the key to unlocking the Gates of Normalcy.
I took the pill for the first time, expecting magic. Instead, I waded through a thick fog of numbness for several hours. I cried a lot; I texted my friends and told them I felt like a big, stupid baby. I couldn’t take care of myself. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I didn’t do my laundry. I didn’t change my clothes. I didn’t shower. I fell behind on everything. Lorazepam wasn’t working. It wasn’t making things better, it was making them worse.
I reported my findings to my therapist, who then prescribed clonazepam, a less intense anti-anxiety medication. I hoped that it would help. It didn’t. It gave me a “hangover” effect the following morning. It made me drowsy. Though it didn’t render me entirely dysfunctional, I still wasn’t any better than I was without it. Occasionally clonazepam kept me from being a total bitch, but for the most part, I didn’t feel that different. I expected freedom. I expected to be happy. This was not what I expected.
I demanded anti-depressants from my therapist again, but she doesn’t oblige. Wait, this isn’t how it works? Though my sessions were free, the medication was not. I am totally frustrated by it all. Therapy has failed me. Drugs have failed me.
I stopped taking everything and don’t look back.
At some point during last summer, I came to the realization that I am very ill-suited to be an assistant at a talent agency, but I relentlessly pursued this goal as if this realization never happened.
I did not want to be lost. I was scared of being wrong about what I am meant to do. I was desperately alone in a new city with few real friends.
I biked a lot because I didn’t have a car for two months. I atehealthily. I took walks. I woke up early and went to sleep early. I did all the things that my therapist back at school suggested to combat my depression. Nothing worked. I am pretty convinced my therapist either sucked or I am incurable.
I called my dad a lot. He was not convinced this “LA thing” was a good idea. Because I didn’t want to prove him right, I avoided talking about how depressed I was. I told him that everything was s swell, and hey, I lost like five pounds last week!
After working in the mailroom for a month, I was promoted to assistant. I finally had friends. I had my driver’s license. I had a car. I had an apartment. I had health insurance. It was supposed to be an epic moment. I was supposed to feel like all the pain I went through was worth it.
But there weren’t any fireworks. I didn’t feel myself becoming un-depressed.
Wait, getting what I want doesn’t solve my depression? Holy, shit. I panicked.This was not the life I wanted to be living.
In December, I abandoned it all. I spent my last month in Los Angeles jobless and writing a lot in a cafe in Los Feliz. Phone calls with Dad were even more strained. He was not happy with the time that I had wasted. He’s also ill and upset that I had not decided to come home earlier, because isn’t that what a good daughter would do? What if he died? he asks. What if I came home and he wasn’t there? he asks. I tell him he’s being ridiculous. As soon as I hung up, I felt overwhelmed.
I let him down. I let everyone down.I let myself down.
I wrote down, on a sheet of paper, in very large letters with a Sharpie, because the nurses didn’t have any pens, “We are taking you off your ventilator.” I showed this to Dad. He noded. I’m not sure that he understood.
The doctors required two signatures on the Do Not Resuscitate order. My sister refused to sign it. She did not want to be held responsible for ordering my father’s death.
Without being asked, I signed my name along the first line. My brother signs second. I felt guilty about what I did but I was told I had “no other choice.” A world in which I have “no other choice” is not a world I want to live in. Five minutes after they took him off the ventilator, he flatlined. In that time, he looked around at all the people in the room but said nothing. I wondered what he thought about.
The world ended. And then it began again.
Is my depression justified? This is a selfish and stupid question. It is never justified.
I chased my smoke-dreams. I couldn’t hold them in my hands. Every time I got close, they disappeared.
I am home now.
When I am in the shower, time does not exist. I can sit there, in my tub, for as long as I want, think about a lot of things. It is the most private and quiet place in the house.
My house is on a low-key street pretty close to the suburbs. I don’t know what I would do if I could not come back here. I had a nightmare the other night that I returned home from college and it was gone. While I was in LA, I never wanted to come back. It was too humiliating. After all, I’d fed everyone a dream and now I had to live it.
Isn’t that what people do? Do what they say they’ll do? I didn’t want to be a liar or a loser. I ended up both.
My neighbor has a sweet, white cat that sits on their windowsill. She talks to us every morning. My neighbor does not have a name for his cat. He just calls her “Cat.” Cat likes to talk to us in the morning. If I wake up one morning and Cat is not talking to me, I will be pretty upset. I don’t like change. I also really like this cat.
I’m not saying this for you to feel sorry for me. I will probably be okay. I mean, I have to. I have to be okay. It’s easy to be lazy and depressed all the time.
It is very, very hard to be happy.
obsolete : good fortune : prosperity
a : a state of well-being and contentment : joy
b : a pleasurable or satisfying experience