… You learn that eating two pounds of trail mix in five minutes is not a good idea. Of course you already knew this before the fact, but you did it anyway just to get some form of sensory stimulation.
You spend a lot of time thinking about food because at least when you’re eating, you’re doing something and can forget about everything else.
You learn that major problems can’t be solved quickly or easily.
When this first started you thought it was going to be just like any other illness, that one day you’d wake up and be back to normal, completely cured. You try eliminating different food groups from your diet, exercising continuously, meditating and practicing yoga, but you’re still mired in a fog.
As the days go by and nothing seems to change, you slowly begin to realize and accept that this may be something that stays with you for the rest of your life. There are brief moments where the cloud that’s suppressing your mind breaks apart and allows some happiness or clever thoughts to shine through, but the cloud always returns.
You spend half an hour sitting motionless in your car because you lack the willpower to get out and walk the 50 feet to your house. You wonder if this is all just a matter of willpower — that maybe you could just choose to be happy and energized if you tried hard enough.
Eventually this notion fades away, and for better or worse you make peace with the person you’ve become.
You stop hoping that people will take pity on you, stop lamenting all the things you could be doing if you weren’t depressed, stop worrying about whether your friends think you’re as fun to hang out with anymore and lose your fears about almost everything. Whether this is due to apathy or a newfound maturity is difficult to tell.
You learn the value of genuine kindness, and make the effort to thank people in your life who you’d never bothered to thank before you were depressed. You notice the listless atmosphere when you take the bus, and wish there was something you could do to change it beyond saying “Good morning” to the driver. You buy a Guy Fawkes mask on State Street just to try to amuse yourself, and laugh when you think of putting it on in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. You look forward to talking with the friendly female cashier when you go to the grocery store, but not much else.
The blind desire to survive never leaves you, but you don’t know why. You see quotes like “Ignorance is bliss” and “Gaiety is wiser than wisdom” and know that they’re true, but despite knowing that, and despite knowing how awful depression can be, you’re still glad you ended up on this path because now you’re aware of things you never would have known otherwise.
You feel like you’re a better person because of what you’ve been through, and hope that maybe this is all part of a long, arduous journey, an adventure of sorts, and that someday you’ll feel a sense of fulfillment from it.
You don’t know if happiness will ever come but, like the Count of Monte Cristo, you wait and hope. Depression has motivated you to change the unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior that led you here, and you continue to transform yourself, because maybe if you change enough you’ll eventually overcome this enormous adversary. There is always more you can do, more you can learn, so you keep looking.
Connor Hastings is a graduate student of environmental science and management.