Clinical Depression is serious. It’s not mood swings, it’s not having a bad day–it’s not even having a bad week. Clinical Depression makes life a challenge, and not a fun one on Nickelodeon where you get to slime a celebrity, but one on Fear Factor like eating raw Rocky Mountain Oysters and then not even getting the $50,000 prize (which in my opinion, is not nearly enough money to justify eating those).
I have only be clinically depressed once. I was a freshman in high school, which kind of explains part of it. I had braces, acne, and an older brother who was a senior (he successfully thwarted any hopes and dreams I had of dating any of my crushes, but it didn’t help that I was a strange girl with a tendency to say really inappropriate things regardless of who I was around… I still do that, but now everyone has come to expect it).
But depression runs in my family, and that winter it hit me like a Cheetah on full sprint. Every winter my school got two weeks of vacation to cover the holidays. The second we got out of sports at 5:30 or class at 3:15, we promptly forgot everything we learned starting in August, and began our two-week terror campaign on our families.
Christmas was a big deal at my house. Not in the wow-everyone-has-so-much-spirit kind of way, but in the holy-shit-that’s-a-lot-of-presents kind of way. My mom and I would decorate the tree with occasional help from
my brothers and no help from my father. My mom gave us two ornaments a year to start our own collection for when we grew up and had our own trees, and my favorite was a cat ornament that meowed Christmas songs and was slowly and surely going out of tune. It sounded like the Devil took sonic form to sound like the Chipmunks were dying. Come Christmas Eve, we would all retreat to our rooms, my dad to his study, my mom to their bedroom, where we would wrap presents. We brought them down in armfuls, in boat loads, with tractors and tow trucks and the Abominable Snow Monster hauling the largest (okay, maybe that last bit is an exaggeration).
That year, like every year, I got everything I wanted and then some. And I completely and totally acknowledge that what I’m about to say will make me sound like the biggest brat in the existence of brats. Kind of like Veruca Salt. And you know what, I was.
I was extremely unhappy. It wasn’t that I was ungrateful or mean, I just felt dead. I felt like there was this gigantic hole eating me alive and I was supposed to be smiling and merry. But I couldn’t. I didn’t want to do anything, see anyone, interact, eat. All I wanted to do was be by myself. Getting up in the mornings–or at all–was nearly impossible. I dragged myself out of bed, my blinds drawn and lights turned off (for once in my life I wasn’t scared of the dark) and I would try to sneak downstairs, grab food, and return to my room before anyone noticed I had left my cave.
My depression gets kind of embarrassing here. Yes, I was so depressed that life seemed pointless. I resented my family for trying to spend time with me and I hated the thought of going back to school. I was so ready to just end. Not kill myself, mind you, but just stop. I wanted to disappear and wallow.
So what did I do instead?
I laid in my bed all day, every day, in complete darkness. With a box of Cheez-its. Watching The O.C.
The struggles of Seth Cohen, Summer, and whatever the hell the names were of the other two characters became my everything. I would sob when they so much as frowned. I got furious when they got furious. And I drowned in self-pity when they were happy and in love, because clearly I was never going to experience that.
In the one week where my depression was at its worst–and I mean like, I wasn’t showering or changing clothes–I watched the entire first two seasons of The O.C. on DVD. That is a total of 2,372 minutes. Or 39.5
hours. I watched a full-time job’s worth of shitty teen drama for an entire week. And it was the thing that kept me going. How sad is that.
One night towards the end of winter break, my dad dragged me out of my room. The exchange went something like this:
“Whitney, you’re coming to the dinner and movies with us tonight.” (I had refused every other offer for interaction and remained firmly locked in my room)
“I don’t want to,” I yelled. Seth and Summer were fighting–I couldn’t miss this for the world.
“I don’t care. You’re coming anyway.” I got angry, and astoundingly, I started to cry.
“I DON’T WANT TO,” I sobbed. I hated my father. Why would he drag me outside? Why would he make me hang out with a family that obviously hated my existence? It was cruel of him.
I was satisfied that he couldn’t make me go anywhere because my door was locked. He couldn’t get in, so I didn’t have to leave.
Shit. The lock on my door was one of those flimsy ones where you push a teeny little button on the side of the handle. It was easy to unlock, all you had to do was stick a bobby pin in the hole on the other side and pop the button out (that’s what she said?).
My dad came in, shut my computer, and demanded that I take a shower and join the family. I cried the entire time, furious that he would punish me with something so terrible as quality time.
I think the movie was good, but I know dinner was delicious. My dad and I split a Creme Brulee, which was our favorite dessert. I was smiling, happy, and God Damnit I was enjoying myself despite my best efforts not to.
“Whitney, we’re worried about you. We know you’re depressed,” my dad said over bites of dessert, “and we’re going to get you help.” I cried again, and nodded. I was a snot machine those weeks of my depression. Always gibbering and tearing up about something or other.
A week or so later, I went to the psychiatrist and was diagnosed with depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That was the best thing to ever happen to me.
But I will never forget those days shut in with Seth and Summer and wishing I could marry both of them.
Writer’s Note: If you or anyone you know suffers from depression, don’t be afraid to seek counseling. I know that talking to anyone sucks, and you don’t want to move or leave or interact with anyone. But you don’t have to feel that way, and you shouldn’t feel that way.