Photograph: Ion Chibzii/FLICKR @ion_chibzii

THOUGHTS ON
DEPRESSION:

AN AUDIO STORY

PODCASTS: ITUNES · GOOGLE
BY C. ELLIOT
Thoughts on Depression: An Audio Story

So, I guess I'm making a voice recording for ENDPAIN about my pain, specifically. I don't want to be doom and gloom with everyone, but it's gonna get kinda doom and gloomy so, I'm just gonna ask that you bare with me.

You're born, life is pain, and then you die. In my 23 years of life, that has been the experience thus far, and it has only been until now that I've begun to see the smallest pinprick of a light at the end of a very long tunnel. I suffer from depression and adult separation anxiety disorder, which is a kind of panic disorder that is terrible. I'll go into the details of those later, but for right now, the main talking point here is the depression mainly because of the effects that it has on my life, the debilitating effect that it has on my life.

Since I was a child, I have had what I would call depression, though I was not formally diagnosed until the age of 17 and I was not diagnosed with my panic disorder until 22. Both of which, just thinking back, were things that were clearly with me arm-in-arm since I could have memories. One of my earliest memories today is being six-years-old and sitting on a couch. I think it was after a thunderstorm, and I had just gotten done crying with my mom about the thunder because it was scaring me, and she told me that it was just God bowling in heaven with angels. And thunder was just them knocking down absurdly large pins.

ABOUT THE EFFECTS DEPRESSION HAS ON YOUR LIFE, IT'S INDESCRIBABLE. IT'S A DEBILITATING DISEASE, A PAINFUL DISEASE.

A little while later, maybe, in my mind, it's like a movie where it just cuts to the next scene, but it could've been a couple of hours later, it might've been a completely different day. But it was after that bowling scene because I thought about it for a while. And I thought about God and bowling and what people do in heaven, things like that. The first thought, it was unprovoked by any sort of media or reading material, it was a unique human thought from myself, and it was, "How do I know there is a God?"

This is coming from a point where I still kinda know about Santa, and I think I believed that Santa existed at this time. I was past the Easter bunny because it was kinda obvious but Santa Clause, sure. Throw him a pass. I would casually think about hypothetically, what if God did not exist? And I thought, "Well if there was no God then what would happen when someone dies?"

I couldn't. There were no words that would come for it. There was a “how do you describe it?” Is it another religion? But then you'd cycle through them all and say, "Okay, well what if that one... what if there's no God? What if it's just people? What happens?” I don't mean to go off on this Atheist tangent, but it kind of is... it's the cornerstone of my depression and where it came from, was this existential moment of terror on the couch for this five- to six-year-old kid in South Michigan.

I AM NOW 23 YEARS OLD, A LITTLE MORE ACCEPTING OF MORTALITY IN GENERAL BUT STILL UTTERLY AND COMPLETELY COMPRESSED TO A THIN SLICE OF HUMANITY BY MY DEPRESSION.

I pondered it for a little bit, and then the answer sent me kinda tumbling. I got the shakes really quick, I froze up, and I was terrified, and I got this terrible fucking feeling in my head, and I had to literally slap myself out of it. It was such a bad panic attack, I slapped myself in the face and had to just breathe really deep and all that. I went upstairs, and I cried a little bit because I came to the conclusion that it could potentially be nothing. And I thought, "I don't want to die and nothing, I want to live."

At the time, I could tell myself, I said, "You know, you still have that six-year-old immortality." I'm like, "I'm never gonna be that old, I'm never gonna have to die. That's something for older people." Obviously now, the hand of time still marches on, and I am now 23 years old, a little more accepting of mortality in general but still utterly and completely compressed to a thin slice of humanity by my depression.

Depression to me feels like you are going your entire life being stalked by a person. A person that never stops coming and you can't escape them, and that person is—what I would assume is—a metaphor for you killing yourself; ending your own life. So, this person is just following you everywhere, even in your happiest moments, they're right around the corner. Even in your darkest moments, they're standing right behind your shoulder. They've got the gun in your hand, they've got the belt in their hand, whatever tool and they just... in your worst fucking moments they just throw it down, and they say, "There it is. Do your business; I'll wait over here."

ONE OF THE BIGGEST THINGS THAT WE FEAR AS DEPRESSED PEOPLE, PEOPLE WITH MENTAL DISORDERS, IS THAT WE ARE A BURDEN TO THE OTHERS IN OUR FAMILY.

And it sneaks up on you. You could go see... I remember seeing one of the best concerts in my life with my beautiful girlfriend and then when we got back to the hotel room, she was taking a shower and in steps my stalker, and he's holding a belt, and he says, "None of this matters. It doesn't matter that you're happy. You've got what, 40 years left and you'll be dead? Do you really want to go through all that? You know, one day she's gonna die, and you're gonna have to live through that? You're either gonna have to leave her or live through the fact that she's gonna die and you'll have to hold her hand through it, or you might die first and think about how sad she would be if you were gone?"

And just shit like that, and it just cycles over and over again. It keeps repeating like a mantra. "You'll die. She'll die. You'll leave her. She'll leave you. You're terrible. You're shit. Why don't you just end it now?" It's not a literal voice in your head, but it's an intrusive thought. If you're hearing a literal voice that could be schizophrenia, you should be checked out for it, but it's more of an intrusive thought. The kind where when you're sitting on a ledge, and there's a back of your head sort of thing that says, "You could totally jump right now. Or you could shove that person over the rails." The call of the void, all that stuff.

Except it's you and it's a little more real, and it's depression. That's how it gets people, and I feel like that's how you have. With these most recent suicides from famous musicians like the guy from Linkin Park we're top of the world, just got done with a great show and then it's not that life wasn't enough, it's not that his children weren't enough or his wife wasn't enough. It has nothing to do with any of those things. And people who kill themselves are usually fully aware of what they have and don't have in life. It's just that they're stalker caught up with them. Got them at the right moment when there was no one else around to talk them out of it, and they did what they were told.

About the effects depression has on your life, it's indescribable. It's a debilitating disease, like a painful disease. A lot of people get those with depression some shit by saying, "This isn't ... it's in your head. Just feel better. Just take some pills." Like a 1950s housewife. "Just take some pills and make yourself okay. It'll be all good. Be the good husband or son or wife or daughter, whoever." But it doesn't work like that.

It keeps coming back. And you have ups and downs sometimes, not as bad as if you were bipolar but there's ups and downs where you have a great month, and everything is fine, your medication is taken on time, you're doing your homework, you're meeting friends and this and all that, your sex life is pretty okay, could be better but can't blame you. But stuff will tank, and it'll just tank, and it'll go down. You just feel terrible.

DEPRESSION TO ME, FEELS LIKE YOU ARE GOING YOUR ENTIRE LIFE BEING STALKED BY A PERSON. A PERSON THAT NEVER STOPS COMING AND YOU CAN'T ESCAPE THEM.

And the feeling that this has, it's hard to describe it other than the most intense mental barrier you've ever faced. Where you wake up and you're lying in bed, and someone says, "Hey, get up! We gotta go." And you just look at them, and you go, "It's not even that I don't want to, it's an 'I can't.'" He's like, "What do you mean you can't? Just get out of the bed." And you're just, "I can't." And yes, you can physically... if you were to go through the motions, one at a time, you could move a finger, move your hand, push yourself with the hand, roll yourself off the bed. All the steps of the physical action of moving yourself off the bed, but it's the mental idea of removing yourself from the safe place, the bed, in which you don't have to experience anything of the day.

But once you get out of that bed, you're opening yourself up to these experiences that you fear will further lower your mental faculties, if that makes sense. And it's a real thing, and I had people who dropped out of school for it, I failed a few classes in college for it. It was the same thing; I saw a looming assignment, I stared at it, couldn't do it. Stared at it, couldn't do it. Whoops, next thing I know it's the day before it's due and my girlfriend's like, "I don't know why you... why can't you just do this assignment?" And it would just cause me so much anxiety to stare at it.

And you feel so stupid because at the time, I was a 21-year-old man and I'm like, "I'm a man. I'm supposed to be able to man up and do these things, and I'm supposed to have the strength to do these things. I can just keep going, I can do this, and that and I should be able to do this and that. I provide for people." Why can't I just do these assignments, and you just pick up the pen and no matter what action you take, your brain blocks you off.

So, you try and pick up the pen, and your brain cuts off the words, and you can't think of anything to write. Put it down; you're laying down. Maybe something comes to you, but it's gone by the time you get up to write it down again. And so on and so forth. It's not like it's telling you, "Go procrastinate. Go play video games. Go exercise." It's just saying, "Do nothing. Sit in your chair for three hours, do nothing. Lay in bed for five hours, do nothing."

It's just like, it sucks the energy straight out of you and you just don't have the willpower to move, it's terrifying. And the worst part is, that no one understands it. People call into work and say... You basically have to fake a sick day if it's really that bad. And it's hard to find help as well, that's another point that I want to talk about. Is that, you go into a hospital, a clinic or a counselor's office, their first god damn question every time is, "Are you having thoughts of suicide? Do you think you might take your own life?"

And the answer to that question is always, eternally gonna be 'no' because of the way they treat it. They treat it when you say that with hospitalization and that's stupid because it's basically saying... With your doctor, you're supposed to have an established truth. The idea that you're going to tell the truth with them because they're not out to get you in any way. But that first question immediately tells every single terrified, hurting individual who has hands and knees crawled into this doctor's office, "You can't trust me because if you tell me the truth, you're gonna go to the hospital and everything in your life is gonna get uprooted."

A YEAR AGO I COULDN'T SAY THIS, BUT TODAY I CAN SAY THAT THERE ARE AVENUES THAT HELP THAT ARE NOT SELF HARM AND ARE NOT SUICIDE.

One of the biggest things that we fear as depressed people, people with mental disorders, is that we are a burden to the others in our family. And not a psychical one so we feel a stronger judgment coming from them because, in a relative or a friends mind, you can't do much about a physical disability. That's something you live with. But a mental disorder, people don't understand that it's a similar issue. It required treatment; it required intense treatment. And they don't get that. They think it's just a 'feel better' thing. Wake up, snort some cocaine and you're good. Some stupid shit like that. Don't snort cocaine guys.

So, yeah. You can't develop this relationship of trust with your doctor when the first question they ask you basically says, "This is the coin toss that determines whether I'm gonna uproot your entire life and take you to a hospital." It's gonna be super fucking embarrassing for you and everyone in your family having to explain why you're in the hospital with no physical injuries versus you could just lie and say, "No" and continue getting the same treatment.

But now that that salient point of, "Do I want to kill myself?" Is unknown to your doctor and they'll progress the treatment without knowing that that is something you've thought of. And it cracks open the door a little bit and let's little stalker man lean in a little more and go, "Oh, I didn't realize I was invited in. Cool. I'll just sit in the corner while you talk about your problems."

And it's terrible, it's terrifying. I use that word a lot, it's true. Everything about this disease is terrifying. So, life is pain. You're born, life is pain, and then you die. It's the gist of it, but it doesn't have to be that way. I am depressed. Horrifically so. I have a panic disorder that is debilitating in my life. But, I take medications for it that deal with the worst of the feelings, and I am starting to see a psychiatrist to assist with the rest of the feelings.

PLEASE JUST GO SEEK HELP IF YOU NEED IT AND KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE GOING THROUGH WHAT YOU'RE' GOING THROUGH.

A year ago I couldn't say this, but today I can say that there are avenues that help that are not self-harm and are not suicide. I would encourage anyone who even thinks they have depression, to go to a doctor and force the doctor to take it seriously. Lots of doctors are gonna shake you off and go, "I think you're just sad. It's a passing thing." You need to be excruciatingly brutal and detailed in your stories as I had to be for them to understand because you can't assume the doctor is gonna know what's going on inside your brain. They're not neurosurgeons, they're not neurological researchers; they're just physicians and physician's assistants.

So, you have to say, "Hey, I wake up and I feel like I can't get out of bed. And I often fantasize about how I might kill myself, including leaving a note or maybe not leaving a note or just typing 'fuck you Debbie' on the postcard or something like that. But, I have these really strong, unbelievable fantasies about ending my own life." And they'll take you more seriously, they might also hospitalize you, which is again the problem I was talking about, but if you think you need help then you need to ask for help because the biggest thing about a mental disorder that's not crazy like schizophrenia, is that you can go all day and no one's gonna realize that that's what you have.

So, please just go seek help if you need it and know that you are not the only one going through what you're' going through. And I totally get that you don't want to hurt yourself, but I also understand that the person trying to get you to kill yourself isn't you. You need to separate that part of you as a separate entity of your mind.

I think that's all I had to say on my car ride home. Thanks guys for listening.

RELATED
On Anxiety as your greatest strength
There Is More Than Just One Name
On Acknowledging All Parts Of Yourself
Why I'll Never Be "Cured" Of Mental Illness
On life before and after loss
Losing My Little Brother
On finding healing through nature
A Wolf's Journey
Class Clown
ON LAUGHING THROUGH THE PAIN
Directed By Nick Cavalier
Stand-up comedian, Billy Bonnell, opens his set by asking, “Hey, who here wants to live forever?” The audience is silent. “That’s how I know depression is real.” Bil...
Class Clown
ON LAUGHING THROUGH THE PAIN
Directed By Nick Cavalier
Stand-up comedian, Billy Bonnell, opens his set by asking, “Hey, who here wants to live forever?” The audience is silent. “That’s how I know depression is real.” Bil...