You are a force to be reckoned with. But you already know that. The way you overpower even the most strong-willed person is nothing short of astonishing.
You attach yourself to so many of us. And those who are lucky enough not to be afflicted often don’t understand your vehemence.
You’re sneaky and persistent. You kill too many. Too many depressives cannot work. Too many of our loved ones suffer along with us in our misery.
Here’s the thing: we who do have mental illness are too melancholy to raise awareness. Then when we do kill ourselves, go on disability, ruin relationships, it’s too late.
How do you gain anything from people’s suffering? Can’t you transform yourself into a disease that’s more understandable, more obvious? Then you’d be easier to treat. Can’t you play fairly?
I’ve been your host for over 40 years. When I was young, I was told that I was creating you on my own. I bet that made you happy, Depression. I blamed myself for how horrible I felt. Pretending that you don’t exist is a perfect way to make you stronger. While I tried to ignore you, you coursed through my veins like a virus from hell.
Denial is what you feed on.
Denial makes you stronger.
I thought I’d won the battle against you when I started Prozac 25 years ago. The drug helped so much, I wondered if you went away for good. I was able to live my life. I still got sad sometimes, but not depressed to the point of wanting to die.
But people talked about Prozac and depression even less back then. I was ashamed to the point of denial. After a couple of months, I felt well enough that I thought I didn’t need Prozac anymore. Only weak people take antidepressants, I thought.
You must have been overjoyed when you overtook my mind again after that little green pill left my body.
And 25 years later, Depression, I am still fighting you. You are so formidable that I almost lost the war against you this year. I almost took my own life.
You crept in when I lost my mom. You flourished when, three months after that, my dad died. Then, when Covid hit, you struck while I was at my most vulnerable.
Still, I fought back. I changed antidepressants and added another to augment the first. I started Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. I sought out trusted friends. Still, though, you took my grief over my parents and shock of the state of the Covid-soaked U.S., combined with my sadness over this country’s blatant disregard for Black lives, and brought me to a level of despondency I never thought imaginable.
Still, I was determined not to let you win. I underwent TMS and found a new ketamine clinic. The psychiatrist at the clinic attacked you with unprecedented force; he upped my ketamine dose to three times the amount I’d been receiving at the former ketamine clinic.
After that, Depression, I thought I’d kept you at bay. I even thought that maybe, I’d won. At least for the time being.
So we cut back on the ketamine treatments, monitoring me closely. But you saw an opening and attacked my brain again — even with weekly ketamine treatments, DBT, and antidepressants. You are insidious, Depression.
It’s not fair that most cannot see how you decimate a person. That you are covert. And that while you destroy a person, she is too devastated to fight you.
You’re like many diseases in that you weaken your victim to a point of incapacitation. But what’s most harmful about you, Depression, is that others often cannot see how sick your victim is. So she can’t be helped. Then it’s too late.
So now I’m back to twice-weekly therapy, my doctor has added scopolamine as well as upped the frequency of my ketamine treatments — again — and I am starting to scratch the surface of stability.
I want to beg of you to play by the rules. Diseases that incapacitate and kill people usually have symptoms that are more obvious. Do you know that close to 800,000 people die from suicide every year? There’s still too much shame. Mental illness is not discussed enough.
I wish I could ask you, Depression, to please stop taking advantage of that. But I know you won’t. That’s not how you operate.
If I can stay above water, I will do everything in my power to help others beat you.
Then maybe some day, we can treat you as we do other diseases: shamelessly and forcefully. I am going to start by writing this letter.
Hopefully those who read this will know they are not alone and that as convincing as you are, Depression, you are also impermanent.