For almost all of my 36 years, depression defined my life. Sure, I had some of the obvious precipitating factors. I was emotionally and occasionally physically abused at home. I was bullied at school, in ways that would make your eyes pop out of your head. And depression’s part in the game was that it convinced me that these things were my fault.
When I was bullied, I assumed I had done something to bring it on. I got in trouble, at home, and in school. Often it was for things I didn’t do, as people learned that people in charge would believe anything about me. And the depression taught me to incorporate that all into the narrative about myself.
A girl trying to take revenge on an ex-boyfriend accused him of attempted rape, and since I had been there at the time, she had to accuse me as well. I had people who I thought were my friends ask me why I did it.I even saw written, detailed plans for my own murder from her then-boyfriend. Again, I learned that if it was so easy to believe such bad things about me, I must be that bad, even when I haven’t done the things I was accused of.
I was always a smart kid. Even with all that going on, I graduated with a 3.1 GPA and a 1520 on the SAT. I spent what would have been my junior year as an exchange student in the Czech Republic. I spent most of that year drunk, as, once I had easy access to cheap alcohol; I learned that I disliked myself a lot less with a few drinks in me.
When I was 20, I got involved with the wrong people, and made some rather permanent mistakes. I cashed some checks for the wrong guy, (my best friend’s father) who had been stealing them out of mailboxes. It was so easy to throw away my future when I thought I didn’t have one. Then I ended up with a federal felony record, 35 grand in restitution hanging over my head, and I got to see what “no future” really looked like.
A kind judge cut me a break, and gave me 5 years’ probation. I bounced around jobs for my twenties, and early thirties. Every failure became part of the narrative that I was a failure. Every friend I drove away, because they couldn’t stand to watch someone they cared about tear himself apart, became another mark against myself.
It poisoned my romantic relationships, as well. It torpedoed potential relationships, as I couldn’t conceive of someone I cared that much for actually being interested in someone like me, so I ignored obvious sign after obvious sign until even a saint would have given up. And the relationships I did have, I wouldn’t let them too close, as I knew if they saw the real me, they’d be horrified, or bored, or ashamed, and go away. And, each time, the depression convinced me to drive them away, for their own protection.
Three years ago, I was witness to a horrible fire, in which a friend and his four sons died. I won’t go into much more detail than that. That is something for another post. I, for understandable reasons, had trouble sleeping after that event. I sleepwalked as a teenager, so Ambien was a no-go, so they put me on a low dose of Trazadone, an anti-depressant, as a sleep aid.
After a few months, I realized that I had distinct days where I didn’t feel awful. I talked to my doctor, and we agreed to up the dosage to the therapeutic level for depression. It’s been like night and day for me. I won’t say the depression’s not there, but I can recognize it, and fight it now. Depression’s greatest trick is that it lies to you in your own voice. It says horrible things about you, things that if someone else said them about you, the people who care about you would be furious. This acts almost like a defense mechanism. It discourages you from seeking help.
This all sounds like a tragedy, but it’s not. I’m studying psychology at the University of Washington, with a 3.8 GPA. I’m looking to get into a doctoral program, and become a clinical psychologist, so hopefully I can help people before mental illness costs them as much as it did me.