I was diagnosed with depression in January.
I didn’t really want to write about it back then because I didn’t want to make it a Thing. However, it’s consumed enough of my time and thoughts these past months that not writing about it was making it more of a Thing than writing about it would. So here we are.
I’ve suspected for a while that I was chronically depressed. For a few years I felt less and less like myself. As a teenager and in my 20’s I would occasionally lose what I called my joie de vivre, but it always came back within, at most, a day or two.
Then one day I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I felt happy.
It hadn’t been a day or two or a week or a month. I thought back over the last year, then the last two years; and I couldn’t remember a single moment of real happiness.
I knew enough about depression to recognize other symptoms, but I was coping. I still worked, still went out with friends, still traveled. It wasn’t debilitating. It just never went away.
The thing is, I wasn’t sure if there was something wrong with me or if this was just a part of growing up. Maybe I’m just finally thinking like an adult? Maybe this is just what people feel like? Maybe I just need to suck it up, put my shoulder to the wheel, keep going, and everything will be fine.
And so another year passed.
Then last November-ish we had to take an online health survey for my work’s insurance. At the end of clicking though several pages of questions, the computer told me something along the lines of, “We can’t actually make a diagnosis because we’re a computer and not a doctor, but we’re pretty sure you’re depressed and you really need to see a doctor about it.”
I made an appointment with my primary care doctor, told her what the computer told me, and she quickly ran through a list of questions. Even going into the appointment with research behind me (because of course I’m going to do research), I was surprised to discover my own (unspoken) responses to the routine questions.
Her: Do you no longer take pleasure in doing things that you used to enjoy doing?
Me: I guess.
My Thoughts: …but I’m in the middle of speech and the musical and that’s always a crazy time for me and anyone would get sick of it after so many years of teaching.
Her: Do you find it hard to get out of bed in the morning?
Me: Yes, but I have to get up at 5 AM for work, so that may be understandable.
My Thoughts: …Yes, and it used to be easy to find things to look forward to each day, but now you get out of bed just because it’s what you’re supposed to do and you’re a person who shows up.
Her: Do you feel worthless or have low self-esteem?
My Thoughts: But I deserve it, I’m a horrible person.
My Next Thoughts: Whoa! What the hell?! Did you just hear yourself think that?!
“Yes,” my doctor said when she finished. “It sounds like you’re depressed. Let’s talk medications.”
And so we started the process. I knew (thanks to research!) that finding the right medication for issues like depression rarely happens quickly, but the process is starting to wear on me at this point. Each month I try a new medication or a new dosage, and each month I go in for another appointment, go through the survey, and get yet another new prescription.
Some of the side effects have been interesting to experience – for example, my dreams are much more vivid and memorable than before (though rarely for the better, unfortunately).
In the past week or so another interesting development occurred – I became aware that I should be happy. Intellectually, I suddenly could line up in my brain all of the things that were going well. I run over the list to myself and note apathetically that each of these occurrences and situations are good. I am fully aware that I should be happy, but I don’t feel it at all. It’s as if there is a glass partition in between me and happiness. I can see it and examine it, but I just can’t feel it. It’s really quite odd to experience.
But then I get frustrated with myself. Frustrated and angry. I get so mad at myself that everything could be going so well, but I just can’t be happy. Why can’t I just be happy, damn it?
I don’t know. I wish I could. I think one of the reasons I feel so tired is because I’m pretending all day every day that I want to be at school, that I want to work with these kids, that I’m happy to be there. I want to be honest about my feelings – that’s important to me, but I can’t be truthful and maintain the classroom atmosphere they need. So every class period I put on a smile and tell them that I’m happy to be there, that I’m excited to see them. Compile that with a particularly difficult 4A with students I have to be extra patient, extra nothing-you-do-will-phase-me, extra “happy” to be around….
It’s getting harder to get up every day and pretend for the sake of my job; and when I am less vigilant after work, when I am honest with my friends or my family about not being happy, I worry that I’ll drive them away. Because who wants to be around someone who’s depressed all the time?
I’m on a new dosage of the medication that gave me the glass partition, so maybe it will help me break through. In the meantime, I’ll keep lining up the good things in my head and try to ignore the thoughts that tell me that ‘hope is a thing with feathers’ because I’m fairly afraid that I’ll startle the hope I’ve only just spotted and it will too quickly fly away.