There’s a part of me that believes depression isn’t real. It’s all in your head, he said, and I believed him. Those pills don’t really work, it’s all just a placebo effect, and the side effects outweigh the benefits. Depression is cowardly, it’s laziness, it’s an unwillingness to take action to remedy an unwanted situation. It’s selfish, self indulgent, childish procrastination, a reluctance to move into adulthood, to deal with the real world, a crippling tormenting fear of reality and responsibility.
There’s a part of me that knows depression is real. The part of me that equates depression with a time in my life when I was cutting so much that I ran out of skin. The part of me still covering up scars from 7 years past and dodging questions about the ghastly wound on my thigh. “Oh, I don’t really know… I was stupid back then.”
I never wanted to blame my bad behaviour on depression because depression was me. I was desperately unhappy but I smiled at everyone. I was lonely but I refused company. My grades were falling so I cut more classes. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning and I became increasingly unpleasant to be around. It’s funny how something invisible can be felt with such gravity. It was like I could dampen the spirit of a room just by walking in.
I recall lying in the hospital bed, my leg bleeding, freshly stitched up, and my mother looking down at me with a confused mixture of anger and disappointment. She demanded to know “what the fuck do you have to be depressed about, I’m the one who should be depressed to have you for a daughter”, while the Doctor looked at me apologetically, having finally understood why I didn’t want to call my parents.
There’s a part of me that believes it was my fault, because depression is only debilitating if you let it be. Depression makes you feel like you made the choice. You chose to stop seeing your friends. You chose to not hand in that assignment. You chose to pick up the knife. You chose to let your boyfriend cheat on you. You pushed him away in the first place. What was he supposed to do, not sleep with the doe-eyed 21 year old who could actually hold a conversation?
Depression doesn’t just make you forget what happiness feels like, it makes you forget you are capable of happiness at all. It was never a low hum or simply background noise for me. It was deafening, it demanded all of my attention. It would start from the moment I woke up groggy and tired and continue until 3 am, as I lay in the dark, counting down the hours I had left to recuperate, growing ever more desperate as time ran out and I was still unable to trick my body into sleeping. Depression never let me rest, it wanted to be heard. It took precedent over my friends, my family, my dreams, my future. It became the only thing that held me together while I fell apart. It was the scapegoat for my mistakes. It was my enemy and my salvation. It was something I could fight, something that could be fought, and that made all the difference.