Monday, August 10, 2009

Depression. It Sucks. Part 1

Sometime during my junior year in college, I began to fall apart. I am not sure when exactly the depression started. But it had certainly taken its hold on me by the time Christmas break ended. I distinctly remember not wanting to go back to school. And this, my friends, was a big deal. I loved school. LOVED IT. I totally made fun of the goofy rules and traditions at Ouachita, but I adored that school and my friends. So it was A Very Big Deal that I did not want to go back. I secretly thought about dropping out, but the super student within me did not let that happen.

I went back to OBU with a heavy heart and little motivation. I had 15 hours that semester, including a tough religion class with one of my least favorite professors. He liked to call on people and ask them difficult questions and then laugh at them when they said the wrong thing. Not my idea of a good time. I was always really anxious whenever I entered that classroom. In addition to this, he also had a really strict attendance policy.

One weekend early in the semester, I drove to a nearby town to see my parents who were visiting some friends. My mom knew something was wrong and I cried on her for a while. I tried to explain to her how empty I felt. I think my words probably failed me and I don’t exactly remember how I described my feelings. I just remember that she cried with me. (Have I mentioned I have a great mom?) Saturday night, I got sick and it was worse Sunday morning. I wound up having to stay the night and came back to school Monday afternoon.

And guess what class I had on Monday morning? Yep, the tough religion class. I had missed one. I am not sure what the consequences were for missing one class, but I remember being very, very, VERY stressed out about it. I even spoke with the professor about it. To his credit, he was a nice guy, but stood firm on his rule. (Whatever it was, I really have no idea.)

I continued sinking deeper and deeper into despair. I dropped that religion class because I couldn’t handle the stress of attending or the consequence of missing that one class. I continued going to my other classes because of my previously mentioned compulsion to excel in school, but I barely made it through the classes. My mind wandered. I avoided people. I began thinking dark thoughts about death and suicide. It seemed as though I was being enveloped by a cloud of darkness. I know that sounds terribly dramatic, but it’s the only way to describe it. My thoughts and feelings were getting darker and more desolate each passing day. One Sunday after church, I reached a new low. I drove out to Lake DeGray thinking that I should drown myself and be done with it. What was the point? There was no reason for me to live anymore. I might as well stop breathing.

Fortunately, I am TERRIFIED of water and couldn’t bring myself to do it. The fear of drowning outweighed my desires to die and I eventually went back to campus. But that moment changed me. I had spent hours sitting in a parked car by a lake thinking about dying. About actually jumping in and sinking. Just letting go of this life. I knew I was racing towards very dangerous territory and I did not know how to stop. Perhaps the most disconcerting part is that I did not WANT to stop. I figured I might as well keep going down this path because my life was useless. (I am also pretty sure this was Super Bowl Sunday. I remember missing the Super Bowl party and avoiding my boyfriend at the time because I was at a loss as to how to explain myself or my situation. I was also convinced that my life was worthless so why would anybody care? I now face Super Bowl Sunday with a deep sense of dread and fear EVERY YEAR.)

Again, let me emphasize that I had GREAT friends. GREAT FRIENDS. It was not like I was surrounded by negative, unsupportive people. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. I was in a positive nurturing environment. But I was not letting anybody in at this point. Nobody knew. Nobody. And I was going to keep it that way. I don’t know if it was because I was embarrassed or ashamed or what. But there was no way I was going to tell anybody what I was thinking about or going through. I knew what I was feeling felt wrong and that scared me. Depression is such an odd experience to describe. Because objectively, nothing had changed. On the outside, everything seemed to be going great. I even started wearing make up that semester in order to overcompensate for my lost feelings. I looked better than ever on the outside, but was worse than ever on the inside.

One day, I realized I had spent the entire day thinking of ways to kill myself. I began wishing that I would have the guts to end it all. I was ready for it to be over. I often envisioned myself out in the middle of a body of water with nothing and no one around me. I was drowning in my own life. I wrote a strange, terrible poem where I described myself as being suffocated by a wet blanket. (Yeah, I have no idea.) I just remember that as I sat at my desk in the math department on that fateful day, it suddenly hit me that I was going to DIE if I didn’t do something. If I truly believed there was nothing left to live for, then I was going to stop living. And just as I had always envisioned myself in the water with nothing around me, I could now see a little light. It was a very small, very teeny tiny light. But it was almost as if I could hear a small voice telling me that there was hope. That things would get better. That I should go on.

So! I figured I should probably talk to somebody about all of this. I was pretty sure the only way I was going to make it to that little light in the lake of my despair was to get help swimming towards it. I made an appointment with the counselor on campus who was immediately concerned when I told her my situation. She gave me a diagnostic test confirming what we both already knew: I was experiencing depression. She suggested I inform my parents and visit my physician. She felt as though I could benefit from medication. I knew very little about anti-depressants at that time, but she encouraged me to talk to my doctor more and make an informed decision about whether or not I should take them.

I fearfully called my parents to tell them that I was pretty sure I was mega depressed. My mom scheduled an appointment with my doctor and I drove home that next weekend. He prescribed me Paxil with little question. He was very concerned that I was going to hurt myself and made me promise multiple times that I would find someone to talk to if I began to think about hurting myself in any way. My mom got my prescription filled and I began taking my first anti-depressants at the ripe old age of 20.

I made true on that promise to talk to someone and continued seeing the counselor on campus. It was my first time in therapy. I don’t remember her name or much about her other than she was really nice and had blonde hair. It’s funny how little you can remember about people who made such a big impact on your life. She was very helpful and we worked on different issues that were contributing to my depression. Between my sessions with her and the Paxil, I made it through that difficult time.


Jodi said...

That is scary. I am so glad that at such a young age you sought help.

I look forward to learning more about you!

philly said...

Ahh...junior year - the year of "drama drama" (as opposed to just "drama"). We knew something was up but didn't grasp the severity of it. I wish we could have been more helpful - I don't know if that is the right word?

Mel said...

I'll second Philly's comment. Crazy how much goes on inside people we that we never know. We should know or try to know, cause we know how much goes on in us that we don't share with others. But we still keep pluggin on through life head down with our horse and carriage blinders on thinking the truth about life and people is only what we see in front of our toes and it's all about me and everyone else is probably fine. Love you Cora. Thanks for sharing your life with us. Then and now.