Depression Is The Worst

the middle of nowhere

the middle of nowhere

Three weeks ago I had a routine appointment with my psychiatrist. I’ve been taking Wellbutrin and Lexapro for about a year, and I told him I was sick of feeling tired in the middle of the day for no reason. He said I should maybe try Wellbutrin on its own, since it’s an anti-depressant (I was taking it to combat the side-effects of Lexapro—like sleepiness).

I said, “You know what, I’m feeling good enough about where my life is, I have a writing job that I love, I just moved into a nice new apartment, and I’m finally feeling like things are going my way, sure, I’ll get off Lexapro.”

I had just ended a relationship, which was very sad, but it wasn’t a shitty break-up, so I was happy about that. I was determined to move on and be strong. I had confidence for the first time in my life and I was excited to work on improving myself. In the words of George Costanza, it was “THE SUMMER OF GEORGE!” Or in my case “THE SUMMER OF MELISSA!”

24 hours later: The rug was pulled out from underneath me and I got fired from xoJane for a stupid joke I tweeted years ago. I was called a “racist” and “insensitive” and “a shitty writer.” All things I’ve prided myself on not being. The Internet doesn’t care, though. When people are out for blood they will do anything to bring someone down. They don’t care if what you did or said was an honest mistake and you’ve learned from it. They don’t give a fuck about anything else besides your demise. It’s sad.

No one cares if your childhood was rough or if you grew up poor. They don’t know how many hours of therapy you’ve endured and the pills you’ve taken trying to understand why it’s so difficult to accept love. They don’t care about the times you wanted to stay in bed forever and wished someone would end your life for you because you didn’t have the courage to do it yourself. They weren’t with you when you were walking down 8th avenue, daydreaming of jumping in front of traffic because the thought of being dead seemed like the only solution to your depression. They weren’t with you when your best friend took too many drugs and had a psychotic breakdown and you were driving her to mental hospitals, only to be told “sorry, we’re closed, maybe try the emergency room…”  They don’t care that a guy called me a worthless whore the day my grandfather died. They don’t care that I can barely eat because I’m so stressed. They don’t know that my gynecologist said my body was shutting down because of stress and not eating. They don’t care that you’ve made mistakes and are trying to overcome and change things to become a better person. They don’t fucking care about any sob story you have, which is why they don’t care if you have depression because they don’t understand it.

I’ve been having night terrors, which is new. I wake up not being able to move and assume my anxiety and fear is going to make my brain spontaneously combust, like an episode of Ren and Stimpy. When you have depression, every negative thing turns into a horrible thing, which turns into an overpowering obsessive thought that only Xanax or alcohol can temporarily numb. Losing my job, my boyfriend, and my best friend (mental illness has turned her into someone I don’t recognize) all within one week is the most terrifying thing that’s ever happened to me.

But the worst thing I’ve lost is myself, and I miss her so much.

Sometimes I’ll wake up crying, not being able to get out of bed and stare at my ceiling fan, going over the things I could’ve done differently, but I know that isn’t going to change anything. I have to force myself to go grocery shopping, getting way too emotional over the organic beets being sold out, and leaving the store only having bought a bottle of water because the thought of food makes me sick. I’ll text my ex-boyfriend that I’m sorry and I can’t do this on my own, but then feel guilty about putting my problems onto him because he’s a really good person who doesn’t deserve stress anymore than I do.

Depression isn’t something that happens when you get broken up with or when a family member dies. It’s when you cannot, for the life of you, get out from under that dark cloud of sadness. Nothing works. And if it does work, it’s only temporary. I know that I have an imbalance of chemicals in my brain, because every time I’ve been in a rut I’ll take an anti-depressant and it helps to get me out. Sometimes it’s easy and instant, other times it takes a while, but I have never given up because I know there’s a light at the end of this sad and daunting tunnel.

With depression comes anxiety. It’s depression’s evil cousin, like Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son. Anxiety takes those depressing thoughts and turns them into worries, because thinking you’re not talented or smart isn’t enough, you have to worry that everyone else thinks you’re awful, too. The combination of anxiety and depression has been plaguing me my entire life. I’ve learned ways to keep it at bay, like meditating and exercise, but sometimes it shows up when you least expect it – like the scorpion I just saw crawl out of my sister’s bra, which she then smashed with her divorce papers, making that the most absolute bad-ass thing I have ever seen.

I haven’t been able to be alone the past few weeks. I need distraction from my own thoughts, which is why I drove 5 hours to my sister’s house in the middle of the woods. The sound of wind chimes and a dog barking is heaven compared to the echoing silence of my new empty apartment, which I’ve barely furnished. I’m surprised I don’t have a wall full of newspaper clippings like in A Beautiful Mind or empty vodka bottles like Rust Cohle on True Detective. A few more weeks and I’ll get there.

I was planning on riding this out and trying to get over it without getting back on Lexapro, but it’s too much. I made another appointment with my psychiatrist for Monday to try to get back to a neutral place. The shit happening in my life currently sucks and I need help because it’s really fucking scary when suicide has even a miniscule place in my thoughts. No one should have to deal with that.

Depression is the worst. When I start to feel judgmental I always remind myself that I have no idea what others are going through, and they have no idea what I’m going through.

I was introduced to this David Foster Wallace commencement speech, and it’s truly influenced the way I think about others. If you have 20 minutes, it’s more than worth it:

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Depression Is The Worst

  1. Good luck Melissa.
    You’re a great writer with such an interesting life/perspective.
    I wish you weren’t going through such a rough time right now, and I’m not going to sprout some feel-good-shit about how this will make you stronger, etc. etc. I just wish you well in your journey back to wellness.
    You’ve demonstrated so much resilience already, that I hope this too will pass.
    🙂

  2. Your words carry weight and that’s why so many of us enjoy your writing. Thank you for getting these words down and sharing them.
    Here’s the thing about your episode with your recent employer – you may be surprised to hear – but many of us didn’t even know about the falling out. Believe me, in the world at-large, a vast majority of us don’t give a crap. We don’t need the approval or imprimatur of an editor with their own issues to tell us what has value. Stay true to your voice – keep at it. Please and Thank You.

  3. Thanks for writing this. Depression & suicidal thoughts are both terrifying and nearly impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through them — including the professionals who should know. But you did good. Now I have something to point to, to give people a sense of what it’s like. Since divorcing (with kids), having to sell the house, moving into a tiny apartment away from the place I’d lived for the past 20 years, having my financial and emotional life ruined, etc., etc., I felt clinical depression for the first time. It crept up on me. I thought I was OK, navigating each challenge, one at a time. But something happened. The first sign was terrible nightmares — about everyone in my life, especially the people I love most, dying; about losing everything; about the wreck I’ve turned my life into. Sleep became hard and eventually terrifying. And then suicidal thoughts just started popping into my head — like a runny nose or scratchy throat from something you catch. I could not control them. I never understood how someone could take his or her own life. But now I knew. It was, as I think David Foster Wallace once said, like jumping from a burning building. Pure pain avoidance — or, rather, minimization. I finally checked with a shrink and got put on Zoloft and Wellbutrin. I’ve lost count of the false starts, where the meds seem to be working, but then the terrible thoughts return and the crushing sadness. The slightest thing can trigger it. Yes – like the store being out of beets, or a colleague’s off-hand remark. What keeps me going is the slow progress of the meds, along with the observation, that you expressed so nicely, that there *is* light at the end of the tunnel. All of this sadness is temporary and will pass. Good luck to you and stay strong. Do not give in.

  4. Just sending some good thoughts your way! I have family members who suffer with depression and anxiety and I would not wish it on my worst enemy. I am glad to hear you are taking positive steps (going to your sister’s, where you presumably feel loved and can connect with nature – both always help me when I am feeling lousy – and going back to psych to see if you can get meds tohelp. I hope the combination of all that allows you some peace. And I respectfully disagree with the poster above – yes, we all do go through shit but I don’t think it is unreasonable to depend on others for sympathy or empathy. You have mine. Now, go try to eat something, it’s so so critical. Food is fuel!

  5. I’m so sorry Melissa. I’m commenter on xojane but my involvement has been slowly wanning since the whole incident went down with you. I did think you reneged on your apology when you published that tweet although now I can understand you were trying to lighten the mood. I know woulda,coulda, shouldas mean nothing but I wish you would have laid low for awhile and let everything blow over. But that does not excuse how you were treated and the insane witch hunt that followed.Like seriously, it was pure insanity. I honestly think that some people were just waiting to knock you down a notch and gleefully relished in your firing. Looking back on it now, it is very unsettling to think about a supposed community for empowering women could be so cruel. I do believe people can change, I’ve done and said things in my early adult years that were wrong and I would be absolutely mortified if someone brought them up and used them as ammunition to defame who I am today because I have grown and learned so much. And the fact that Jane or Emily did not consider for one minute to pull that article or close the comment sections just shows you how fake those bitches are. I hope things get better for you and you can get your head above water once again. I also want to add, most people won’t care about your hardships and I don’t think they excuse your bad behavior in the past. We all go through shit in life and sadly we can’t depend on others to have sympathy or empathy for us. You have to rise above your circumstances and I know it’s hard when you feel like your world is collapsing but don’t stop trying to be better. I know you can be.

  6. I have been following you for a while now and have always sensed the conflict between some of you posts that are raw, cynical, and sometimes a little mean with the slightly insecure and obviously sensitive woman who writes them (For the record I think your self-deprecating humor is typically the toughest of all). All are well written, many are funny and some make me cringe. So what? That’s what writers are supposed to do right? Make us think, make us uncomfortable, provoke and instigate thought and action. I believe that once you have found your own voice you will be able write with conviction and controversy without much regret and apology. I am also confident that any pettiness or ugliness will be drowned out by clear, funny, thought provoking content from a smart and lovely soul. In my experience depression and anxiety are rarely situational, but the “black dog” loves to visit us when we are in turmoil and in conflict with our self. You don’t need to hear it from me, but I am fully confident that you will persevere in your career and life. Please stay away from the raging, sociopathic mob of internet commentors . xoJane should know that allowing trash to be posted on a site is no better than posting trash themselves. The idea that they would allow the online mob to attack and savage someone they believed in enough to collaborate with speaks loads of their integrity and character. Perhaps the separation was truly for the best. Best of luck to you.

  7. Thanks for posting this Wallace speech. Haven’t heard it in quite some time. It reminds me of the choices one has in dealing with the soul-killing inanity of so-called “real life.” Given what happened to Wallace only three years later, it’s also disturbing. Melissa, I’ve been following your blogs since you wrote the article that appeared in Aeon a while back. You’re a good writer and I’m hoping that you find a way of dealing with whatever shit you might be going through at the moment. That’s why I think the writing-or any other creative process-is so important: we get to choose for ourselves our own reality. (That, as opposed to being handed somebody else’s shit and effectively being told to like it.) I look forward to your continued posts.

  8. That’s all a shame. But have you thought that maybe stepping back from the media spotlight may do you good. If the mean comments, firing, etc really makes you depressed maybe it would be good to just step back for a while and not engage in twitter and social media.

    Also as someone who has battled anxiety, are we supposed to suffocate the condition with drugs forever? Isn’t there a time we should face the condition head on and try to heal ourselves rather than just block the pain? Hope it all works out.

  9. Hey Melissa. Great writing, as usual. 🙂 Have you thought about altering your diet? Well, what little you are eating. My roommate suffers from depression and anxiety, and while she still takes medication (and sometimes thinks she go off it when she’s doing well), she’s also been experimenting the last year with cutting out gluten and soy from her diet. I know it can be rough at first, and requires lots of package reading, but it couldn’t hurt to try for a month. Maybe one month of gluten free, then a month of soy, just to see if you notice any difference?

  10. Good call going to see the psychiatrist & getting back on Lexapro. To have all those shitty events happen in quick succession sounds downright traumatizing. Hell, receiving the wrath of the pitchfork-wielding internet police sounds so awful and anxiety-inducing, I commend you on even being able to leave your apartment at all. They show no mercy (even though you can bet your ass they’ve made similar offensive, tasteless jokes in the past and wouldn’t want anyone shitting all over them, either)

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