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27, 28, 29, 30. 31...

Depression has no end date.

By Lindsey DonatPublished about a year ago 7 min read
27, 28, 29, 30. 31...
Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

It started at 27. Coincidentally, 27 was the most chaotic, beautiful, and memorable year of my life. I married, got a puppy, had my very first "big girl job" out of graduate school, and became an aunt. It was everything. It was pre-COVID bliss. Until it wasn't. Until it became a 50-pound weight gain, calling out of work seemingly every other week, missing doses of my SSRI (and my anti-hypertensive, YIKES) because I couldn't give a fuck, and requiring every last milliliter... (Milligram? How does one measure energy? This distractibility has increased one hundred fold since my diagnosis!) ...of my life force to type a two-word text response.

Some days I can only lay in bed, admiring my dog. Bless him, he dutifully snoozes on-and-off beside me for hours at a time. His adorable facial expressions hint that he is bored and my heart breaks, but I can't move. I lay there and let the guilt spiral. His life is so short, and so is mine. Why are we wasting time in this cocoon? I cry as I imagine his final breath, rather than take him for a walk to smell the clean Vermont air, to play aimlessly in the snow, to peruse Petco and eyeball the rodents in their aspen wood tunnels.

I've essentially Dr. Googled myself to death, convincing myself that maybe there is more to this dysfunction. Unchecked anxiety? Burnout? ADHD and executive dysfunction? Bipolar? In an effort to relieve my symptoms, I quit drinking. I figured it was better than my choices at 27 when this all began, which was to drink a bottle of wine a night and pass out, IN BED, in my disgusting nursing home scrubs.

Yeah, let's forget I mentioned that.

At age 30, when my choice to severely reduce my drinking was realized, I felt better for awhile. I was still taking an SSRI and felt emotionally numb, but I was getting through the day. I did daily yoga, breath practice, meditation, cared for houseplants, journaled. I lost a bit of weight and was embracing my human form. I played with makeup and my husband bought me a glamorous, rose gold makeup kit with professional lighting. I dabbled in spirituality, took some supplements, and picked up my guitar. Rifling through the old songs I learned from my instructor and feeling the muscle memory guide my fingers to their respective positions for my favorite chord, G, was an out-of-body experience. I felt motivated to re-discover the me I had been before the tsunami: the tsunami of unmanaged, lifelong people pleasing, generalized anxiety, and perfectionism that swept away not only my passion for life, but most of my identity.

The catalyst(s): my makeup case was stolen with hundreds of dollars of makeup inside of it. Probably a minor factor. An incidental finding on a kidney ultrasound revealed a large ovarian cyst, which made me go into existential crisis mode regarding my potential future life as a mother. But also, I applied to a job I was well-qualified for but for which I ultimately did not get hired. This was the final skull-fracturing blow.

~Depression quote break, straight from my journal: "Tonight I mentally grappled with whether or not I had the energy or care to take an empty La Croix can, which I drank in a water-only bathtub, 7 steps from the bathroom floor to the recycling bin."

One of my earliest childhood memories is being referred to as smart. I can still recall a time one of my family members snidely asked me if I wanted to be "average" after I expressed that I didn't care about an upcoming test. And I just remember thinking, "What's wrong with average?"

I was always near the top of my class. My friends would copy my work and others in my class wanted me for group projects. I cried when I received a B- grade in my European history college course. Even in graduate school, I received an award for "outstanding speech pathology student" or something like that. My identity has always stemmed from my academic performance.

So now that I am a working adult, no longer enrolled in graded coursework, what am I good for? If I can't even get hired for a job after successfully passing two interviews, related to the field in which I'm currently working, it's hopeless for me, right? This may sound a bit melodramatic to those on the outside, but at the time I placed a lot of blame for my condition on my job. I was miserable, overworked, and this job prospect appeared to me as the one iota of hope to improve my quality of life: to work from home, to focus on my lifelong passion of writing, and, honestly, to get a damn break. Once I had fully processed that rejection email, there was no clear life trajectory anymore. Is this lack of resilience? Maybe. But it was enough for me to initiate work towards the end, no longer the means.

~Depression quote break: "I feel like I'm shrinking. I've lost all motivation to fight and stand up for myself, to branch out and get to know people, to even try and pull the energy forward to do what makes me happy."

What was the "end?" Well, the literal end. It remained to be seen whether that was going to be the end of the emotionless void my existence had become or the end of my existence itself. I stopped taking my SSRI cold turkey. I couldn't stomach a visit with a doctor explaining why I needed to wean off of it. I just wanted it gone. For a few months after I discontinued the medication, I felt a sense of euphoria like never before. The side effects weren't great and I still burst into tears for no particular reason, but I felt like I was in control. When it came time for my prescription refill, I picked up those 90 tablets just in case. Then I found my fingers disengaged from my body, typing, "how many mg to overdose on antidepressants" into Google.

~Depression quote break: "This feels like it could go on for eternity...thinking about organizing something, doing it, and hating the outcome. Not texting friends back for days because having a conversation twists up my heart and stomach. Being desperate enough to fall for the next TikTok fad, the next miracle cure, the self-help book, the affirmation, the angel numbers, the crystals...I am the last blade of wet grass left stuck to the shoe after it has been pounded against the pavement 50 more times. I'm tired."

The whole "unaliving" myself thing seemed miniscule in comparison to the other changes that were occurring. I was enjoying more hobbies- reading for pleasure, cross-stitching, coloring, walking my dogs, even baking bread and shit. Some of these hobbies were activities I enjoyed as a child. It was like they were emerging from hibernation after a long and arduous winter (think Game of Thrones' style). I don't think I had picked up an embroidery hoop since before age 10. But every day on my way out of the bathroom I'd glance up at those orange bottles on the shelf. Break in case of emergency.

Now you may be thinking, "Girl, why weren't you in therapy?" Short answer: money, time, lack of therapists, and a bad prior therapeutic experience. It wasn't attainable for me. My work required hefty documentation and prep off the clock, and my anxiety made sure that was prioritized over all else.

On my 31st birthday I grieved the loss of 30. Most people would grieve their 20's, but for me, 30 was one of my best years to date from a personal growth standpoint. When I was 30, I took an honest look at my life and I pumped the brakes. I had the house, the job, had started taking the prenatal vitamins, and then upon further reflection, realized I was on auto-pilot. For that reason, I can express sincere gratitude for my antidepressants (and probably cannabis as well, to be transparent). Had I not been emotionally stabilized with medication, I may have tried to keep up the status quo just for the sake of it. Because everyone around me was committing to their jobs, having kids, and going to Disneyworld every year (sorry, but twice in my teen years was enough), I could have fallen into the same rhythm. There is a lot of anxiety and fear surrounding one's chosen life path, and I think it is easier to emulate your community's actions even if it doesn't align with your authentic desires. The medication helped me quiet the internal noise as well as the external pressure. I'm appreciative of my past experience and continue to highly value consistent personal reflection, because that is how we grow and get the most out of life. It's also how we prevent life from happening TO us.

There isn't really a happy ending here. I'm still depressed and unmedicated. I still have my stash of SSRI's. But I at least have some tools (and hopefully therapy when I can afford it) to keep making choices and have no regrets about those choices. And yeah, I'm "average." That's OK too.


About the Creator

Lindsey Donat

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  • Cheyenne Bradyabout a year ago

    As a first born daughter with perfectionistic and people pleasing tendencies, I relate to your struggle. Also having had a couple of the hardest years of my life recently, I feel your pain. I had dark moments and my therapy helped me tremendously. I'm happy things are starting to feel better and you're making strides to living the way that makes you happy. I'm here for you ❤️

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