Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The comfort of being sad

In Paris before mah meds... Also, horribly into Boho Chic

Jezebel posted an article yesterday titled "In Defense of Depression." It covers the over-prescription of anti-depressants and the new tendency of both drug companies and society alike to deem typical moroseness as "depression," and thus produce a need to eradicate it immediately. But I agree with Jezebel: what the fuck is so wrong with being sad?

I've dealt with depression my whole life. My mother had it when I was younger, so I was exposed to crying spells and unnecessary lashing out at an early age. I was born with the predisposition, due to depression being genetic, but it truly reared its sadistic little head once I became a teenager. I literally lost the will to do anything; I would sit in my room listening to Dave Matthews Band and wallowing in a crushing pool of self-pity. But it extended beyond the typical teenage melodrama: I was a nasty little Sylvia Plath, taking out my sadness on everyone around me. I just didn't know how to cope.

The summer before I left for college my father took us on a trip to Europe. It was there that I admitted to myself that what was going on with me was far worse than simple teenage awfulness. It had taken years to come to terms with the idea that there might be something critically wrong with my brain; but in that Rome hotel room, after drinking a bottle of champagne and getting into a screaming fight with my father over something completely unimportant, I realized that, like my mother, I had depression.

I went home and immediately began my first course of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. Ativan for oncoming panic attacks, Zoloft for my sadness. I changed slowly. I began to feel better. My family noticed a gradual shift in mood, and I no longer collapsed into a fit of tears if I couldn't get the top off of the jam jar.

But things were not as simple as taking that little blue pill once a day. Zoloft made me absolutely exhausted, and I soon realized that any creativity I had harbored in the darker stages of my life had all at once vanished the second I put that pill under my tongue. I couldn't write a damn thing. Every word I put down on the page was forced and contrived. The outlet that had kept me going those months when it felt like the whole world was crashing down had suddenly been rendered irrelevant. I felt better about life, and, without the medicine, I probably wouldn't have been as successful as I was my freshman year at NYU, but I had somehow lost touch with that pained part of myself that allowed me to write anything honest. That aching, hollow place in all of us that depressives seem to be in direct contact with: I could no longer get to it. It was buried beneath waves and waves of absolute non-feeling.

These days, I still sometimes feel like a zombie. I have to choose between the thing that makes me want to live (writing) and actually wanting to live. Sometimes I brashly choose to go off my medicine, and spend a week locked in my room chainsmoking and listening to "Videotape" by Radiohead and crying uncontrollably. I get a few good pages out of it, but in those times I also sacrifice my relationships, my desire to do anything but pity myself. It's a lose-lose.

I envy the people who don't have to take medicine and therefore are allowed to experience the full spectrum of human emotion, down to the harrowing sadness, the delicious anger. But my depression was worse than just feeling teary one night and watching romantic comedies and eating Ben and Jerry's. I was paralyzed by sadness. I couldn't progress anywhere.

So yeah-- being able to appreciate feelings other than happiness is extremely important (cue Bright Eyes). But for some people, maintaining the desire to live is even more so.


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