During my freshman year of college I made three close friends, and our lives became so intermingled that I once lamented to my journal that I couldn’t even take a shower without returning to at least twenty texts from them wondering where I had gone.
When I returned sophomore year, I expected us to pick up where we’d left off. But we didn’t. One friend had to take medical leave, one had gotten into a serious relationship, and one was fully immersed in her new sorority. It felt as though they had all boarded ships headed elsewhere, leaving me alone on a desert island.
Depression took this opportunity to drop in for a reunion tour.
I could suppress depression during the week. I was grateful for the distraction of classes, homework, and studying. It was comforting to move anonymously through large packs of students on a vast campus where nobody knew I was a loser. Monday mornings became my favorite time of the week because they were farthest away from the weekend.
On weekends, depression overpowered me. I’d take Melatonin pills on Friday afternoons and try to sleep through as much of the weekend as possible. Time gets so distorted when you’re depressed; two lonely days can feel like two lonely years. The idea that college was supposed to be the best time of my life constantly nagged at me, making me feel like even more of a failure.
^Saddest girl on the Dean’s list?
It was hard to believe I’d ever lamented about getting too many texts while in the shower. Now I wondered how long it would take someone to notice if I died.
Just when I thought I was at my lowest point, my best friend’s brother was killed in an accident. I’d known him my whole life.
I decided to seek therapy through the university. My first therapist compared my suffering to Britney Spears, who had recently shaved her head; her life had looked good on the outside, but was falling apart on the inside. (Aren’t those basically the lyrics to “Lucky”?)
I decided he was an idiot. I called the next day and requested a new therapist.
I decided my new therapist was even more of an idiot. I never went back.
The problem with depression is that it blinds you to good feedback, and high-functioning depression especially can sabotage your efforts to get help by convincing you that you’re smarter than your therapists. (If I remembered the name of the first therapist, I’d write him a letter to say thank you. He told me things I still think about today. I’ve even quoted him, numerous times, to my own therapy clients.)
But sometimes depression also makes you bold. I was so desperate to escape my life that I started plotting a way to study abroad junior year. Under normal circumstances, this would have been completely outside of my comfort zone; I didn’t get brave until I had nothing left to lose.
Studying abroad would end up being amazing, and I’m forever indebted to depression for giving me the push—but it’s not what cured me.
What I really needed was to make new friends.
In January I decided to contact every acquaintance I could think of, and ask them to hang out (again: not something I would have been bold enough to do without depression). I socialized more that first weekend than I had in four months.
Most of those connections didn’t stick long-term, but a couple of them did. I ended up with two great new friends who hung out with me at McDonald’s (there was one in the basement of my building) every night for the rest of the year.
And just like that, depression floated away. As it turns out, it doesn’t take much to keep me happy; just one or two good people who I like enough to share my French fries.
One of the lies depression had told me that year was that depression was my life—that I had always been depressed and would always be depressed. I truly believed this, I even remember telling someone this, even though it didn’t line up with the facts; I was only depressed for the second time in twenty years.
I now know that everyone has their own happiness baseline that they eventually return to, regardless of major highs or lows they may experience along the way. Luckily, mine is fairly high. I’ll try my best to remember this in case depression ever comes back.
Hopefully, it won’t come back. It does seem less likely now that I have a life partner whom I love and enjoy so much; a good relationship can serve as armor against a lot in the world. But who knows. Maybe depression still has more to teach me.
Right now though, I’m just grateful to be celebrating 10 years depression-free.