Education over War: Depression

My phone let off its recognizable “Da da ding.” My neck stayed stiff but I managed to move my eyeballs down and to the right. I mustered the strength to bring the distant screen into focus. A text.

It was the first time someone contacted me in weeks. I thought it was a meaningless sound until I saw the green bubble, bolded contact name, and thin black paragraph text. The rush of interest I’d become accustomed to didn’t fill my body.

My arms were folded. I wanted to want to check the notification. I took note of the distance between my right hand and the phone on the carpet beside me. I realized the pressure it would take to push down on the home button. I noticed the finger movements I would have to perform to unlock the screen. I thought about how long it would take to enter the passcode. The complicated movements to text back seemed impossible. I willed myself to will my hand to move but it didn’t. I willed myself to will my head to turn but it didn’t. My vision slowly went blurry and every muscle on my body was still.

I took note of how ridiculous it was — I should have been able to simply move my arm. I slouched against a dark blue futon unable to move even a pinky finger. I noticed a desire to not be paralyzed by a demon that couldn’t be detected. I noticed I could not get rid of this monster because the monster was a lack of something — a hunger for which there is no food. This thing inside me could not be exorcised because the only way to fill a hole is by replacing the space with something else. I knew I couldn’t “kill” an empty space. The only solution was filling the hole but every possible filler was met with apathy.

I recognized that my mind was capable of moving the body I inhabited. I saw how I should have been able to function. I engaged in introspection and became aware of the condition I was in. Even still, I did not move. I wanted to have the desire but it would not arise.

I knew the potential I had. I hated the human I controlled for not being different.

It was the first time I wondered what it’d be like to not continue living. I’d had episodes in times past but any life-threatening experiences were only desperate attempts to express pain. They were violent and dramatic. But in this paralysis, I questioned the reasons for living. When the apathy was more prominent than anything in my universe, I struggled to find tangible reasons to stay alive. I noticed the purpose of staying alive was sparing my family of grief. I wasn’t suicidal because taking my own life would have required an intense spark of vitality. Instead, I just wanted to fall asleep and not wake up.

I desperately wanted friends but when an opportunity to spend time with others arose, I thought only about what effort it would take to shower, to get dressed, to chew food, to move the muscles on my face in a way that they would interpret as a smile.

I remained unmoved for two hours. I barely blinked. Eventually, I noticed a part of me experiencing a desire to move. I mustered all my strength and grabbed my phone. I moved my fingers and entered the passcode to get to the messages screen.

“Jackson, you are one of the nicest people I know.”

It was the first time someone said something good about me to me in a long time.

It didn’t cure me but an interaction that could be classified as positive filled a tiny fraction of the emptiness. I realized that I’d been isolating myself for months. The emptiness was a lack of healthy interactive experiences.

For the first time, I saw a potential filler for the hole in my soul. I hadn’t had a meaningful interaction in so long and I made sense of how it contributed to my condition. I decided to get out.

I’m continually surprised by how many people have closet depression. You might. It’s something we may walk with until death. I learned this as I spoke to a number of elderly people, learning there is no day where it all comes together — a day where depression disappears, life purpose emerges, and everything makes sense.

Perhaps we ought to stop taking the violent approach — promising to kill depression, to fight depression, to exorcise depression — and start learning to deal with a depression without allowing it to be paralyzing. Maybe fighting it so hard only catalyzes it. Perhaps we should focus on understanding depression at its core before we wage war against it. Perhaps we should identify the sources of depression, accept depression as an experience we may live with, and learn to change the world regardless.