We don’t talk about these things.
When I was in high school, my brother helped me realize something about myself that was fairly obvious, something that I knew but didn’t know.
I was depressed. Clinically.
My brother used to host a Bible Study in our basement for guys our age, high school, where the discussion was mostly about lust and masturbation (the most commonly deployed weapon of Satan), although the topics ranged the spectrum of teenage male interests (so, you know, masturbation). One night, after the group had left, my brother and I kept discussing our lives and something clicked.
He found his Senior Psychology textbook and read me the symptoms of depression. I was a dead ringer for something like 75% of them.
Once in college, psychology became a main area of emphasis (outside of English) and between my best friend being a Psych major and my own self-interest in the subject, I became fairly well versed in the subject.
I have family members who have been professionally diagnosed as clinically depressed and bipolar (a.k.a. manic-depressive), so it is no surprise that I would also suffer from a similar disease. Additionally, I have family members who struggle with panic attacks, a condition that is rooted in the same brain chemistry as depression.
My self diagnosis: SAD. Seasonal Affect Disorder. There are other names for the condition, but nothing quite as fitting as SAD.
Now, I am aware, few people like the winter as much as the summer. Enjoying warmth and sun over cold and clouds isn’t symptomatic of SAD. But, feeling your entire mental and emotional perspective tank into despair because there is less sunlight and less reasons to be outside definitely points to the condition.
Actually, to truly diagnosis myself, I’d say I have Bipolar SAD (not really an official condition, but an apt descriptor of the swings). A select group of friends can tell that when spring hits, I am a completely different man than who I am in winter. I love spring. I love the beautiful weather, I love the warm rain, I love the women in short skirts (love, love, love). But I love it all the more because the chemicals in my brain are kicking into overdrive in reaction to the increased sun.
Should I self-diagnose myself? No. But I have.
Should I be self-medicating myself with copious amounts of alcohol? Definitely not. But I do.
Depression isn’t the shameful secret it once was in our society, but that doesn’t mean we are honestly accepting of it. We openly talk about the medication we’re on, we watch television characters struggle with it and we have our Dr. Phils to tell us it’s normal. But no one wants to deal with a depressed person.
I don’t talk to people about my depression. Not my family, not my close friends, and not a psychiatrist (I’ve never been, but I highly recommend sessions to anyone who feels the need to talk). There are one, maybe two friends that know me well enough to know when I’m depressed versus when I’m manically happy, but most everyone else just sees me as a mellow guy who is sometimes pissy, while occasionally in a good mood.
When I was a freshmen in high school, a friend of mine killed himself. I don’t know why. I don’t know that anyone does. It took me many, many years for me to come to grips with his death. While I can’t claim that he was my best friend, I can definitely say he was a better friend to me than I was to him.
I will always remember the week that he died: I randomly ran into him on the way into school at the beginning of the day, Monday or Tuesday. That semester, we didn’t have classes together and our schedules didn’t coincide, so I saw him rarely, though we were in the same circle of friends. When I saw him that morning, I said ‘hi’, and asked how he was doing.
Or maybe I didn’t, honestly. I don’t actually recall because at the time the interaction felt so insubstantial.
Until the next Sunday morning, my birthday as it happened, when I walked into my church and a friend told me, Nick was dead.
You never know the opportunities you have to matter in someone’s life. But you will always remember the missed opportunities.
“There aren’t words to say; word’s aren’t remembered, but presence is.” ~ Derek Webb
I am a man who deals with his depression daily. I understand it scientifically, medically, logically. I combat it when I can, but bear it when it breaks me down: knocks me to my knees, leaves me with my fists in my eyes and tears streaming down my cheeks.
Honestly, there is a part of me that believes one day this condition, this disease, may best me. There is such great irony in the fact that I am an eternal optimist when it comes to other people’s lives and the fate of humanity, yet when it comes to my own existence, I am the consummate pessimist. Of course, that is the disease.
But there are people out there, people in my life who I love so dearly, and when I see them struggle with the same condition I have, the condition that plagues my family, the condition that overwhelmed Nick, I feel compelled to struggle on.
We are a miserable lot, the depressed. We ruin relationships, we abuse drugs, we fail daily.
But we are trying.
We, The Depressed
We, the depressed, are the artists of the world. We are the geniuses. We are the engines of history. Ironically.
Because while, historically, it has been the mentally unstable that have furthered humanity more than anyone else, it has also been the same group that has despaired and departed the youngest.
(We’re also the comedians of the world, believe it or not.)
We smile and we frown, we work our jobs and kiss our loved ones. We are responsible adults who, like everyone, nostalgically think of our innocent youth when we were simpler, freer. We can be happy, but we get sad, like you do. The only difference is that our sadness breeds thoughts we cannot control, emotions we cannot bury, and impulses we must, must, contain.
This is our lot.
But we are trying. For what that’s worth.