Content: Descriptions of depression and anxiety
Last week, I was diagnosed with depression. I’ve known I’ve had depression since I was about 9, but I’ve sought out a formal diagnosis because I thought that it would provide some sort of solace – some sort of ground to walk on, outside of the hole that depression causes me to fall into. And…that hasn’t happened. In fact, the diagnosis made things temporarily worse for me, because as several therapists have told me, depression isn’t an end-all-be-all. It’s a series of symptoms related to something bigger. And so in getting this diagnosis (which I did push for, because I thought it would help), I’ve had to reckon with what those bigger issues are and accept that they affect me in such deep ways.
I think all of my writing on this website, as well as my Medium article, were attempts for me to make sense of the depression, without specifically naming it or the situations that caused it. In thinking about having depression, I realized that part of my avoidance in naming it was this realization: I hate being vulnerable, and the fact that someone else can prompt a depressive episode seems like the worst kind of vulnerability. I’ve been more than willing to take stock of what’s been difficult this year, but the things that I haven’t wanted to claim are the ways that other people have hurt me in profound ways, whether intentionally or otherwise, because that feels emotional, not factual. And so for a time, this diagnosis made the depressive episode I was already in even worse, because I felt pathetic for letting other people have that power over my ability to function.
I’ve claimed anxiety since I was in high school, if not before. It felt tangible – real, with panic attacks, racing thoughts, and shortened breaths. And in time, once I started going to therapy in college, I realized that anxiety wasn’t just some condition. It wasn’t like catching a cold – my mind was trying to signal to me that things were wrong. There were reasons why I was having such awful panic attacks. I remember once telling my sister that I’d only had panic attacks in front of my partner at the time, and she said, “Don’t you think that means something?” At the time, I thought it was that I felt comfortable letting go. In reality, he was causing them. And in time, I became better at hearing my own thoughts and feeling the anxiety in my body more, to the point where my panic attacks have become few and far between.
And although the depression has also been real and tangible, in ways that are a lot more debilitating, I thought of it as some kind of personal flaw. As I said, reckoning with the depression meant recognizing its causes, and that’s something I’ve never felt prepared to do before now (and still don’t, for fear of falling into that hole). I’ve written it off as stress, being overworked, and other things that while real, were not the root cause of what I was feeling. I can’t begin to tell you how many times in college I said I felt “tired.” I wasn’t tired. I was depressed. And now, I’m left (on my way out of a depressive episode) to sort through all the shit that’s brought this on. This last episode alone, which spanned most of this month, I don’t know if it was caused by flying out of state two weekends in a row, seeing my family for the first time since moving and having to say “actually, it’s not going well,” a month long breakup finally ending in the worst possible way, or never fully coming to terms with the transition my life is in right now. I mean, where do I start? And I’m starting to truly wonder if the anxiety is in fact but a limb of the monster that is depression.
I share all of this to say that depression is a real, tangible thing, and writing it off as “life is supposed to be hard” can in some ways make it worse. I’ve been privileged enough to access therapists and many friends who manage their symptoms in various ways. And, in a convoluted way, finding this out has made me want to write and share even more. It made me wish that I had a place to go to, people to turn to, who I could hear from about what they were going through. And I do, but I’m not keen on asking for help yet. One of the hardest parts of this transition has been having no idea what to expect. And I want for my writing (and eventual podcast) to be a hub on all the things that don’t seem to have a space. There are resource guides for how to find a job, how to get good grades, how to dress better, how to budget your money and where to shop. But where is the spot for finding motivation when you’re on E, or letting people go when they mean the world to you? Maybe those places exist, but I haven’t found them in a centralized location. And maybe I won’t entirely be able to create that, but I’d like to and believe I can.
So, I have depression. And I’ve been thinking, too, of what that means as a Black person – whether that depression is in fact inevitable. But anyways, now I’m left to dig through the shit and perhaps in ways that are graceful and empathetic and accepting, but for now just feel scary.