During the years in which I struggled to manage depression — from late high school to my early twenties — I was always on the lookout for one true metaphor to encapsulate the experience: a perfect cotton sheet I could whip in the air and watch waft down into every nook, reflecting the precise shape of the depression. I was constantly generating new metaphors, not to explain it to others (I knew that was a fool's errand) but as an attempt to cope, because every metaphor for the depressed state seemed to reveal an approach worth trying out.
If you call depression a dragon (metaphor No. 1), a slaying is in order, but that's far too vague to be useful, so instead you might decide to think of it as a poisonous fog (No. 2). Now you're dealing with something that rolls into your life and corrodes everything meaningful in its path. Your job is clear: protect what you care most about, and let the rest evaporate into the mist. If you choose to think of depression as a kind of gravity (No. 3), then you're tasked with building new muscles to push up against it or finding ways to leverage its downward force.
Ultimately, it was not the right metaphor that improved things for me, but the right meds. Yes, there were plenty of adjunct therapies as well, but the meds got me to a place of resilience that allowed me to pursue all that personal work.
This general better-ness took hold in my life approximately, oh, six years ago or so? I'm not sure exactly when, because paying attention to time's passage was a habit I gave up during depression. Seriously, I stopped writing the date atop journal entries, because the date was never good news:it always triggered thoughts of how "profoundly far behind" I was on "all fronts."
Depression feels like a long time ago now, and that's enough for me; I cautiously say I am pretty functional these days. I live in New York City, where I'm chasing my dreams or at least staggering after them like a monster arisen at the end of a film. I don't even "identify" as Struggling With Depression anymore. I prefer the term depresso, which I use to mean that I am merely One Who Knows.
I'd like to say it was quite a shock when some symptoms recently reappeared, but depression is just too sneaky a foe for a grand entrance (No. 4). Instead, it was a dark filter creeping its way onto my perspective over the course of a few weeks (No. 5).
I'm truly not quite sure how I caught it, because the symptoms were so subtle. Being generally pantsless and strategically avoidant are habits I've incorporated into my functional life and thus don't really raise alarm. There was the extra self-coaching I needed to get into the shower, the even-greater-than-usual resistance to picking up a phone call, and the slight visual change, a darkening at the corners that I swear is real.
I'm not sure exactly what made me wonder if something was amiss, but it was enough to check if something was up with the medication … and it was. A few weeks before I'd started feeling off, my pharmacy had filled my prescription for generic Wellbutrin with a different manufacturer's version. I texted my longtime psychiatrist, who confirmed with absoluteness that this could be the source of my mood change: "Not all generics are created equal," she texted back. My subtle suspicions that depression tentacles (No. 6) were beginning to slither up around my ankles were validated. "I was right! Something was up!" I breathlessly told my boyfriend Chris.