I’ve faced depression before. I’ve suffered long bouts of hopelessness, of feeling like a crushed bug under the heels of adversaries. I’ve been fueled by longing, sadness, emptiness, and frustration that melted together and threw me into a whirlwind of near-constant tears, dark thoughts, and anger. Working through these episodes in the past has meant mostly shouldering my way through it until I could see the person I normally was on the other side. Usually, it also meant I wrote rabidly, feverishly. And not on a laptop – in a notebook, holding the pen and watching the ink transform into ideas that I did not even know I had, ideas made permanent on the page. Some of my best stories – the ones closest to my heart and the ones that garner the best results from outside readers – have come from these moments of utter despair, of feeling like writing things down was the only thing that kept me alive.
So for the last six months, when I could hardly get myself out of bed to do anything – write, work out, read, cook, clean – I didn’t think I was depressed. Absent also were the feelings of blackness and desolation that normally accompanied my particular brand of depression. I attributed my lack of motivation to exhaustion from working demanding low-wage jobs – one of which required me to wake up at 2 a.m. for nearly two months. I dismissed my constant need to Netflix binge – and do little else – on pure laziness. I assumed my inability to complete even minuscule tasks I set for myself, such as edit a chapter of my book or fold the weeks-old laundry, to procrastination. Who wants to work when I can sit and veg? I’m an adult, dammit, and I can finally push away all of my chores if I don’t feel like doing them.
Only after speaking with my mom did I realize that I was, indeed, facing even more depression, but that it had manifested entirely differently than what I was used to. Having graduated college in May, I mourned the loss of the institution I grew to adore, the classes that kept me stimulated, the place where I was somebody. Having failed to find a job for nearly six months, I resented having to work in minimum wage retail stores, having to smile and bow down (figuratively, of course) to the customers, who had no regard for my feelings or personhood at all. Having to wake up every morning at 2 a.m. for months in order to get an extra quarter per hour, I loathed even going to bed at night because I knew before too long I’d be jarred awake by my most unwelcome alarm, telling me to get ready for another long, exhausting day.
In addition, I live three hours away from any of my family, who have always supported me in times of distress. While I do live with my boyfriend (who, I should clarify, is the most supportive, loving, and patient person ever to put up with me…and the persisting pile of dishes in the kitchen), I missed my dear friends from school – all of whom live spread out around the country – and my parents. I just didn’t realize how much I really did.
So, like any daughter can be counted upon to do, I called my mom to complain about my job. I hated waking up so early, I hated that I was paid less than 8.50 per hour, I hated that I dealt with dust and dirt and sticky stuff that I didn’t want to identify. I mentioned my lack of motivation, more in an incredulous, Why can’t I make myself do anything? sort of way. My mom replied, You sound depressed.
It was a novel idea I had never considered. Well, maybe I was depressed. Maybe that explained my recent lethargy, my irritability, my frustration that I attributed to a number of different catalysts. Only one thing didn’t make sense: why hadn’t I been writing?
Up until now, depression meant pouring everything I had into elegant words in a notebook, creating characters who could act out whatever angst I felt and work through them, or couldn’t. It meant spending a day working on a single paragraph, finding just the right combination of uncommon but well understood words to flow together like wine does from a bottle: smoothly, with a hint of sweetness. Being depressed meant writing down stories and characters until I ran out of anger or pages. If I were depressed, why hadn’t I been writing?
I still don’t know why. Perhaps because my depression wasn’t fueled by hurt or trauma, or because my depression was less or more intense than it had been before. Maybe it simply had to do with my age, or the unique set of circumstances I found myself in. Whatever the reason, my writing dwindled to near nonexistence over the course of six months.
When I decided to quit that middle-of-the-night job, things started looking up. I landed an interview with a marketing company (and secured the job in less than a day!). My inbox began to see requests from freelance clients, wanting me to work with them for features stories and editorial projects alike. At my new job, I even get paid holidays off, so I can see my family.
And, I felt like I needed to write.
So, the first thing I wanted to do, obviously, was tell you – my wonderful readers – about my absence, and why I had so unceremoniously abandoned you. For that, I am deeply sorry. But now, I’m better. And I am back. It’s never felt so good to write.