I am on a mission to better understand Depression—the one with the capital D. I found a guide, a key informant in Abby. She is a gifted writer and graciously agreed to allow me to tag along with her on a larger research project. I asked her to put together some free-writing exercises as we explore narratives of survivors, conquerors, and loved ones. Following is one of her submissions. Time to write, Abby! –Michael theMentor Wright
It was a typical day in class, and someone asked what depression was.
“So like…if someone close to them dies or something, do they go to the doctor and the doctor gives them pills? And then, maybe in a few months they’re not depressed anymore?”
My professor responded, “Yes, depressed people need medication.” And that was the end of it.
I wanted to say to her “depression is like feeling like you can’t ever leave your bed again.” But that wouldn’t cover it. I wanted to say “depression feels like a voice inside your head that constantly tells you that You Will Fuck This Up.” But that isn’t even all of it.
Did you ever play “the floor is lava” when you were a kid? You have to bounce around from perch to perch, because the floor is lava. If you touch the floor, you will burn up. Think about that, except everything and everyone is lava, not just the floor. And you’re playing against your will every day of your life.
And people make fun of you and say “why don’t you just stop playing ‘floor is lava’ and walk like a normal person?” AND, they don’t understand that EVERYTHING ACTUALLY IS LAVA from where you’re sitting. AND you are most likely sitting on the couch in your pajamas because pants and being in public are also lava. BUT, the couch is also lava and your pajamas are also lava. The things you should be doing right now are lava AND the fact that you are not doing them is also lava.
Have you ever been embarrassed in public? Ok, now relive that moment for the rest of your life. Allow that fear to shape every decision that you make. Lie in bed for twelve straight hours because you can’t get up. Yet, still feel too exhausted to handle human interaction.
Reflections on Diagnosis and Treatment
Sit in class and listen as a teacher tells you and everyone near you that you should be medicated even though she doesn’t understand that medication, at least for you, takes away the bad days but also all the good ones too. Sit quietly without asking her if she’s ever even been on those medications. For some people they work, but for others they completely erase everything. And honestly, sometimes the struggle ends up being beautiful.
I want to ask her if she’s ever had to choose between painful beauty and perpetual static. And that’s just what it feels like to me.
Depression manifests differently in different clients. This is a core competency in mental health practice. The diagnosis of depression and the treatments of the recurrent symptoms are as varied as the people receiving the diagnosis and treatment.