Now that I’ve described some of the events of my early childhood, I want to talk about how depression effected me through my more formative years.
As I’ve said, I started experiencing depression when I was around 11/12 years old. I didn’t know what to call it then, but I did know that I was different from other kids. I was not an outcast or a social pariah, but I nevertheless felt separate and apart from my peers. I remember not understanding how they were so happy and carefree. In reality, it wasn’t my peers that were different, it was me. I was the one with a distorted view of the world and what was normal.
Junior High was…awful. I hated it. New school, new peers, now popularity and clothes and status were becoming “important,” and puberty was setting in. You could not pay me to relive that experience. Again, I never understood why everyone else wasn’t as miserable as I was. All I wanted was to be a grown up. Sometimes, I wished I was dead. 7th grade is when I started thinking about death, and how that seemed preferable to constantly feeling like a fish out of water. I can remember my pathetic cries for help. I would say something cryptic to my mother, like, “I wanna go home.” This was code for, “I want to commit suicide,” but she would have had to have been a mind reader to pick up on that. I think the only thing that go me through that phase was a close friend that I had. We spent every waking hour together. I think we could both feel alone together, and that somehow made it bearable. I’ve never told anyone this, but when Kurt Cobain killed himself, I cried. Nirvana was the music of my formative years, and when Kurt died, it was like the world had taken one of the few things I loved.
High school was better, but not great. I had a girlfriend for the first time. Let’s just say that we were sexually adventurous and leave it at that. I viewed high school as a sort of purgatory I had to suffer through before I was finally off to college and free from the shackles of my small town and all of its stupid cliques.
College was a time of ups and downs. I had a great time in college, but I also started to deal with depressive episodes rather than just the usual low-level dysthymic hum I was used to. I met my ex-wife in college. I remember once being in the midst of a dark episode and, through sobbing tears, trying to explain what I was feeling to her. I remember describing depression as a dark hole with walls that recede with every attempt to reach them. That might seem like an accurate depiction to someone experiencing depression, but that perception is through the distorted lens of depression itself. Like the proverbial fish in water, a depressed person cannot objectively perceive their situation.
It was not until after college that I finally did something about my depression. I had lived with it all these years, but it was beginning to take a life of its own and sapping my will to live. When I came home after college, I remember sitting on the foot of my parents bed, my father’s gun in my hand. I sat there for a very long time. I really really wanted to end it all, but I ultimately couldn’t do that to my mother. It would destroy her and I knew it.
I finally went to see a doctor, who prescribed me Zoloft. Zoloft is a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI). Serotonin is a neurochemical transmitter. The idea is that people with depression have a deficit of this chemical. SSRIs work to inhibit the absorption of the serotonin, thus maintaining a normal level in the brain. (Noto bene: I’m not a scientist or doctor, so forgive me if that explanation is faulty). I remember taking the pill on a Saturday around noon. I was so desperate for something to take away the pain, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up because I didn’t think I cold handle the disappointment. I went to bed to sleep so I could forget, and when I woke up that evening, it was like a light switch had been flipped. They say it can take up to six weeks to feel any different on SSRIs, but it was not like that for me at all. Suddenly, I felt like me again! I felt lighter, younger, and….happy. I remember smiling and feeling so thankful. Amzing stuff.
I’ll cover anti-depressants in another post.