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: