What Depression Means to Me

So I say I'm clinically depressed. "Aw, geez," you say, "You're depressed. Everyone's depressed. It's just a pathetic excuse for having a worthless life." And I used to agree with you.

Seriously, you have to understand that I fought against this diagnosis for about a decade. I refused to accept that there even was something called depression. "It's just a pathetic excuse," I used to say, "for having a worthless life." I really didn't believe in depression. I thought people who claimed to be depressed were whiny losers.

Eventually my life reached the point where everything was such a disaster, where I felt so totally terrible all the time -- where even waking up in the morning was too much for me -- that I just sort of had to accept the concept of depression because nothing else had worked. Originally I wasn't convinced, but over time I came to feel that, yes, depression is real.

Allow me to point out that accepting this diagnosis has done absolutely nothing to make me feel better. Part of me still believes that people who claim to be depressed are whiny losers; that I am, in fact, a whiny loser. Also, accepting that you are depressed means accepting that there's something wrong with you for which there is no cure and no real, definitive treatment. It's not like having cancer or a heart attack, which doctors understand and can treat. Accepting that you're depressed means accepting that you're going to try random chemicals which will sometimes make you feel better, sometimes make you feel worse, sometimes do nothing, and sometimes change what they're doing for no reason you can discern.

It also means accepting that a lot of what you thought was going on outside your head is actually occurring inside your head. It means realizing that changing your house, divorcing your wife, fighting with your family, buying a new car, whatever -- it means realizing that none of that is going to help how you feel, because your feelings have nothing to do with your house, wife, family, car, or anything else. They're biochemical. And they're almost entirely beyond anyone's control because no one really knows how your nervous system works.

I'd be more inclined to dismiss the diagnosis of depression except I did have a couple of months of clarity not long ago. I was suddenly not depressed. It was amazing. It was like putting glasses on for the first time. Some combination of the pills I was taking and the ones I stopped taking and who knows what all else came together and for a short time I was actually better. Slipping back into being depressed after that was awful, but at least now I feel that it really is out of my control, and changing my house and divorcing my wife and so on and so forth aren't the problem or the solution.

So that's what depression means to me. Take it or leave it.