I keep a baker’s dozen of empty Wellbutrin bottles in my closet and look at them once in awhile, to remind myself of the 13 months of hellish depression I went through several years ago.
The cause doesn’t matter. Once depression grabs you by the throat, or seemingly the soul, you don’t care about the reasons. When you are in the depths, burning the last package of Pop-Tarts in the toaster, or running out of Nutella could set you back. It is unpredictable and unimaginable. After a couple of doses of medication, my equilibrium faltered, and unfathomably, I felt worse. I knew I’d have to give my body time to regulate and adjust. On days I could summon the energy I exercised, meditated, listened to music, and all the other things people recommend. I was not adverse to anything, because I was too apathetic to raise an objection. Nothing held pleasure nor excitement.
My kids saved me with their laughter, stories, and curiosity about the world; and the fact that I needed to hold it together for them. I created important habits, like dinners with plenty of discussion about the day, goals, and future planning. I posted our family charter, which they helped craft. I welcomed meals from family and friends, and long phone calls with those who checked in. Every day was sluggish, sad, and punctuated with tears which leaked from my eyes without notice or cause.
There was also laughter. I worked, I wrote, I created nearly every day, even with the burdensome weight on my chest. I felt fraudulent. How could I advise others to manage better and lead well if I couldn’t manage my own affairs? With help and time, I learned I was managing. Each day I did not succumb to dark thoughts was a victory, and those victories began to stack up. Inevitably, something in life would knock them over and throw me back. I could retreat to the corner, curl up into a weeping ball, or I could stand and persist, still weeping. I permitted myself to be vulnerable, to allow each emotion to wash over me. I was committed to learning from the experience, not ignore or deny its existence.
Thirteen months is a blink of the eye that takes place over an eternity. The daily battles were real, unwanted, and not simply thought away with happy platitudes. Depression is hellish, and it is conquerable, although your pride will not serve you. You need others.
I can be fairly stubborn, and I was not going to allow myself to be defeated. Even when the bleak fogginess enveloped my head and robbed my passion, I trudged through to meet my demons, looked them in the eye, flashed an FU signal, and hissed, “Not today. You don’t get me today.“
So many ailments, diseases, and epidemics plague our fellow citizens. Find one to help defeat. Do not sit on the sidelines while others are plunged into private hells. Begin to lead. Be a persistent, dogged opponent of the things that cause pain and suffering. Help others to know, it gets better.
Also published on Medium.