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Depression Through the Looking Glass

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My friends and family are going to remember this as my worst time. I understand that. My announcement that I’m taking leave from college midway through my junior year has been met with many messages of love and support.

People want to know how I am. I have responded honestly.

I’m fine.

I only leave my room when I have to (which isn’t very often). I almost never go to class, and even when I do, I don’t do the work. Weekly therapy isn’t enough anymore. My therapist wants me to consider an intensive outpatient therapy program.

I promise I am fine.

When I saw my therapist yesterday, I complimented her dress. It was kickass sweater dress that deserved acknowledgement. According to the neuropsychological evaluation on her desk, I have a particularly kind and cheery disposition. That evaluation was six months ago. I’m not sure my therapist had ever seen those qualities in me before.

“You’re on a roll today,” she said.

My roommate talks about things sometimes and I have no idea what she’s referencing. I don’t remember my first semester of college. My thoughts and actions were erratic and disjointed. I saw everything through a haze. I couldn’t read. It took me an hour and a half to get through a page of notes.

At 17, I was the first author on a paper published in a scientific journal.

At 18, I failed my introductory biology course.

After my first semester, I attempted suicide. I wasn’t at school. I was at home. At that point, I had been suicidal for so long that I couldn’t trace it back to where it began. It wasn’t just something I thought about. It was a compulsion.

After I attempted, I opened the breathing exercise app on my phone, balanced it on my lap under my steering wheel, and drove home. I didn’t know then that it was an attempt. This was a point in time where I couldn’t be trusted with things like dates. That was January, but I was dating all the entries in my therapy journal as September. Why? I have no idea.

This illness doesn’t look the same outside-looking-in as it does inside-looking-out. I had all the information and vocabulary I needed, but I couldn’t attach words to feelings. Apathy? When my therapist says that I have to pause and remember, yes. Yes, I am. I don’t feel apathetic, but I am.

I’m learning how use the right words. Depersonalization is the most recent addition to my toolbox. I have successfully attached it to the experience of walking through campus, covered in a hundred inches of snow, and blasting “Weighty Ghost” by Wintersleep so loud it hurt my ears.

Depersonalization isn’t a problem for me right now, but it used to be. Apathy hasn’t always been a problem, but it is now.

I am fine.

I am depressed.

I don’t know that girl who attempted suicide. I don’t know why she thought she was living eight months in the future, and I don’t know why she wanted to die. I still love “Weighty Ghost,” but I don’t relate to it the way I used to. There is no ghost now. My body is right here.

When the snow starts to fall again, I won’t be on campus. I’ll be a thousand miles away, at home, seeking the right balance of medications. From the outside-looking-in, this looks bad. My family and friends are concerned, but there’s no need.

This is an upswing. It doesn’t look like it, but it is. My therapist was right. I’m on a roll.

There is a part of me that never changes no matter what my depression does. It’s been there since I was child, and it never gets bigger or smaller. It’s not on the outside or the inside. I can look for it, or you can, but we may not see it. It’s often hiding or hidden.

It’s not hope, or happiness, or whatever looming thing I sometimes think I’ll never feel again. It doesn’t have a name.

It’s just me.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Thinkstock image by agsandrew

Originally published: November 17, 2016
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