Trigger Warning: Suicide
As a child, I never imagined that depression was a condition I could ever suffer from. Not because I wasn’t miserable enough, no, but because of the romanticized notions I had of depression. Depression, to my childish mind meant mascara stained cheeks and melancholic gazes. It was being the protagonist of a Young Adult novel and having someone desperately trying to ‘fix you’.
I could never identify with the illness mostly because I could never take my misery seriously enough to even consider it as depression, even when I was suicidal. My low self esteem had low self esteem issues.
I’m not going to tell you that I had a hard childhood or that I was bullied in school. Because depression does not discriminate that way. I know people who have had the most emotionally stable upbringing struggle to get out of bed every day because there just didn’t seem to be any point to anything anymore. I’d like to believe that I handled it well. That I functioned at a level that didn’t cause any alarm. While secretly miserable, I was the most well behaved kid you could possibly meet. I was loud when I had to be. Goofy when the situation demanded. I mimicked the emotions of my friends and was able to get along just fine. The existential crisis I used to get along the way seemed like acceptable collateral damage, cause after all, no one would expect the happy go lucky person to ever think of an elaborate suicide plan. Those plans used to get me through the week and sometimes even the month. I used to go around pretending that this vague, half formed existence of mine was normal.
When college came around, I had my biggest meltdown less than a week in. Nothing can make you get used to the agonizing pain of having your lungs reject air. A breakdown is a terrifying experience and I’m not used to calling out for help. By the time I calmed down, I realized that I had created a scene and that my carefully guarded grief was out in the open. But unlike I had made myself believe, it wasn’t that bad. I happened to meet someone who understood exactly what I was going through. I started to, albeit hesitatingly, believe that the things that I felt, weren’t exactly what ‘normal’ ‘happy’ and ‘shiny’ people felt. It was an indulgence I never dared to partake in.
In an effort to rid myself of the misery and anxiety that seemed to be lodged in my chest, I started seeing the Counsellor regularly. The first time I met her, it was terrifying. Not because she was particularly scary but rather because I didn’t want her to deprive me of the indulgence of giving a harsher name to my sadness. I used to end up crying at every one of her sessions. I dragged myself to her at every chance I got because I desperately, frantically wanted to stop feeling way I did. I kept telling myself that seeking help was the first step to recovery and went to her with this almost childlike hope.
When I finally gave up hope on the Counsellor solving all my problems, whatever little progress I had made on my own thus far (through sheer hope) disappeared. I had grown tired of expecting to escape this labyrinth so I decided to do whatever I felt like. I slept through the day, often missing classes. I stopped caring about what I wore. I tried to stop caring about my academic or even extracurricular obligations. But my anxiety, being the little hell raiser it is, kept getting in the way. So I was stuck in this purgatory of intensely caring about my grades oh the one hand, and not giving enough shits to open my books and work on the other. I was suffering from panic attacks nearly every night. The things I used to love doing slowly became a burden. Every commitment I made whilst feeling okay, weighed on me like a load of bricks when the depression came shrieking through the door. My thoughts became more acidic and I started to become acutely more aware of how low my self esteem really was. The ball of anxiety in my chest seemed to be intent on not letting air reach my lungs. I was falling apart in the horrifyingly lonely way only a depressed person could come crumbling down.
By the time I went to the psychiatrist, I had lost all hope on therapy as a cure for me. Talking it out wasn’t going to solve anything so I thought I might as well drug myself. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety almost 10 minutes into my first session, a fact I’m still secretly smug about. I was given little yellow pills and a number to call in case of any problem. I started taking the pills religiously with a renewed vigour and was convinced that the medication had to work. I was literally ingesting Seratonin, there was no way I couldn’t see any difference! On the good days I was ridiculously pleased with how well I thought the pills were working. On the bad days I considered flushing them down the toilet. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, I realized with an almost morbid clarity that it will never truly get better. The pills will only help me make a shaky makeshift dam against the onslaught of emotions. I just need to get my stuff done before the dam breaks.
As a child, I had the most romanticized ideas about depression. Like it was this exclusive club that I could never be a part of. But now that I know what it feels like- breakdowns over lost keys and picking at half healed wounds, I can’t ever imagine myself feeling anything else. And that, I think, is the worst part about being depressed.