I am twenty-three and I have lived with depression for half of my life. Before I was even aware of what the words depression and anxiety meant I knew there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t just sadness but a persistent feeling that nothing would ever bring me happiness. My depression was the result of a combination of traumatic events. I had no tools to process what was happening in my life and no one to help me.
I found escaping from reality to be the only relief from my depression. I escaped through books. I spent hours upon hours at the library and even developed a passion for library science. Sometimes I would avoid sleeping altogether just so I could finish a book. For me reading was like entering a new world and on the rare occasion that I would run out of books to read my depression would return. I see now how much depression has molded my personality and passions. When life is drowning me I escape by losing myself in the stories of others or the ones that I now write for myself.
By 9th grade I knew that what I was suffering from was depression and once I took an online test in the computer lab of my high school and I matched all the symptoms. I know it sounds a bit morbid but I was actually happy about the results. I thought this would convince my mother to get me help but she wouldn’t hear of it. There is still a lot of stigma and misinformation about mental health issues. Looking back I can see she suffered from depression as well but was just in denial of it.
I didn’t receive help until I became homeless my senior year of high school and entered a youth shelter. The psychiatrists there put me on an antidepressant. My mental state did improve some but not much had been hopeful that medicine would cure my depression and when it didn’t I figured that it was my situation that was causing me to be depressed. So I focused on getting to college thinking then everything would get better.
It did not. I continued to seek therapy but suffered from mental fatigue and isolation. On the weekends I would sleep all day. Oftentimes my depression would manifest as anger and irritability. It became harder to work around my depression. I could still work, still go to class, and maintain friendships on a
superficial level but many days I would finish what I needed to do and make excuses to lock myself away in my room until the next day.
Eventually, I was hospitalized for suicidal idealization. This was mostly due to a change in medication. I had previously been getting free medication from my university’s clinic and due to cutbacks, they advised me to switch to an SSRI that would be cheaper for the clinic to purchase.
I will not recount what happened during my time at the hospital. It is a long story and one that I find to be emotionally draining. I left in much the same condition as I entered, however, I had a strong support system at the time to help me.
I returned to school but after my second hospitalization finishing, a semester became more difficult. Each semester my GPA dropped. My depression coupled with unforeseen setbacks resulted in me dropping or failing multiple courses. After another mental breakdown last year I withdrew from school altogether.
There were times when I thought that there was something that could cure my depression. I found peace from it in converting to Islam, however, I am no longer a practicing Muslim nor do I see myself returning to that in the near future. Now I am just trying to find ways to live with my depression. Exist in my body without constantly wanting to separate myself from it. Most of the time I don’t even know if that is possible.
I struggle with everyday tasks such as practicing basic hygiene and maintaining a schedule. Holding down a job has been nearly impossible and for awhile I was homeless as a result of this. Similarly maintaining relationships of any kind has also been difficult. I isolate myself and spend weeks or months not reaching out or communicating with those who reach out to me. Either because I am fatigued or because I am ashamed to say that I am in the same place as I was before. I have few friends, am no longer active in my community, and I spend much of my time online to distract myself from the crushing loneliness that comes with isolation. Depression has taken so much of my life away and has left me bitter by how much it consumes of the life I still have.
I do not have any words of encouragement. There is nothing about my life that is inspirational. Right now I am at rock bottom. I have lost my will to practice my religion, I have no accomplishments to speak of, and my grasp on this life is tentative. However, I will leave you with a quote from my favorite movie, ‘The World of Tomorrow’.
“Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail. For all of these things melt away and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time. Live well and live broadly. You are alive and living now. Now is the envy of all of the dead.”
It is a reminder that although life is often empty and immensely painful that there are still parts of it that are worth experiencing. I will not rob myself of this opportunity. I am not living for Allah, my family, or friends. I am living because I refuse to leave this world without experiencing the most it has to offer. I will grab as much of it as I can before I go. I will take back the life depression has stolen from me.