The grocery store is a weird place in the middle of the night.
It's also a lonely place. There are about twenty people here. Most are employees; then there's the strange couple bringing their four-year-old to the grocery store at 1am. Shouldn't that child be in bed? Shouldn't YOU be in bed? There are giant pallets in the middle of the aisles and forklifts zipping around. It feels like I'm stuck in place and the world is moving on around me.
On the other hand, it's freeing in a way, if only because the pressure to keep up appearances is almost nil. When you're already a One AM Grocery Store Person, you stop worrying about being judged by the checker. People don't shop for free-range chicken and organic mustard greens at that hour; they shop for microwave burritos and those terrible fruit pies that we all ate growing up.
Depression changes my relationship with food. When I'm struggling with a low, comfort holds an inordinate amount of value. As I've mentioned before, I'm certain that there are episodes of Futurama that I've watched over a hundred times. My favorite comfortable shirt becomes my uniform. So it goes with food. There are a thousand foods that I prefer to a terrible fruit pie; I can whip up a delicious fresh burrito with quality, healthy ingredients in fifteen minutes.
But when that low hits, there's something about certain foods that, while certainly not lifting me out of a depression, is very effective at making the lows a little more tolerable and a little less suffocating.
Is that a good thing? I can't say for sure. After losing a significant amount of weight, I've gained a large portion of it back since my most recent wave of depression took hold about a year ago. I can't summon the energy to exercise or eat many fresh foods and the consequences for these choices are noticeable; I believe on an abstract level that no matter my size I'm deserving of love and respect and dignity and happiness. But even though I know that societal body standards are bullshit, it's easy to be self-critical when I see and feel the difference in my body.
But if it's a choice between feeling bad about myself at some nebulous point in the future or feeling crushed under the weight of depression now, there's never going to be a question. Depression means constantly negotiating with yourself. A night of peace is almost always going to be worth long-term consequences because the pain of depression is present and consuming and right now.
As always, I have linked to each contributor's full story. Clicking on each name will take you to their full story. I will be continuing to publish Depression Stories volumes until I have no more stories in my inbox; e-mail me your story with the subject line "Depression" if you would like it included in a future volume, and remember to indicate whether you would like your story to be anonymous.
Previous Depression Stories
Dullness and Fog: Depression Stories, Vol. 2
Somewhere Someone Loves Us: Depression Stories, Vol. 1
*some names changed
I tell people sometimes that depression is like drowning, but there isn't enough grace left for death to just come quickly, quietly, and do his work. Instead, it's fighting against the current, the endless onslaught of wave after wave, trying to catch breath that doesn't come. It doesn't matter if there's a hand extended up to the cold, unforgiving sun; no one bends down to take it, there's no one to grab on and say "i've got you, don't you worry."
The most dangerous part about this, I believe, is the rescue fantasy. Every addict has one; I am no exception. I used to think that someone would come running in to my bathroom, kicking open the door on their way, and scoop me into their arms. That there was someone looking out for me, caring enough to take me away and keep me safe. Of course, that's demented in its selfishness. Everyone's got pain. Sure, some people more than others, but bottom line: we're all wrapped up in our own worlds of pain, and it's so hard to see through the cellophane put over our eyes.
I'm an adult now, but my depression began much earlier. Still reeling from childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a well-trusted, respected adult, I hid everything I thought and felt under superficial smiles, promises that yes, of course I was fine. Lying through my teeth even as I locked myself in the basement where I was disturbed only by my own paranoia, digging into my skin with knives, safety pins, thumbtacks, screwdrivers — anything could be a weapon, and until I discovered razors, anything was.
I am not the typical depressed person. Unlike the majority of the stories that I've read, I do have a lot of good friends and a loving family who's always been there for me. I began having depression issues as soon as I started my teenage years, in middle school. Before that, I did not care about the way I looked or how the other kids perceived me; I was just being me, little tomboy me. But when I started middle school I noticed something that really hit me (and still does): All the other girls were pretty except for me, or at least that's what I thought (think). I have struggled with my weight all my life. I have no idea what being skinny feels like. There was a time when I started doing Spinning and I did lose a good amount of pounds, but even then, I was still not skinny. My weight has always been my biggest trauma and, I believe, it is one of the main reasons for my depression and my lack of self confidence. I know I don't even fall into the category of "obesity" yet, but the way I perceive myself tells different. There were days when I didn't want to go out because I didn't want people to see my "ugly face and fat body." Sometimes when I'm at school, I walk with my head down, staring at the floor to prevent people from looking at my face. I speak in a low voice because I don't wanna be heard. Nobody wants to hear me anyway.
I hate feeling depressed. Every day I wonder how much longer I'm going to have to go through this. I hate my job. I now a lot of people say that and really don't mean it, but I do. I hate going there every day dealing with people I don't like or respect. I hate feeling like an outsider there. I hate feeling like I have to "get people to like me" so that I can get a promotion. Especially when the people I'm supposed to get to like me I'd never even associate with in real life... because I don't like them very much. Because I didn't have a boyfriend and didn't want children, I put all of my focus and time on my career and the payoff never happened. I feel like I've failed. I feel like I want to just give up.
The job search has been fruitless for the last year and a half. The depression is always made worse when I don't get called for an interview and even worse still when I am called for an interview and they offer the position to someone else. In my mind it means they didn't like me. In reality it means I'm still stuck at my job. It makes me want God to kill me so I can end this torture.
I never thought about killing myself, but there were so many times I'd full-body sob in my bedroom until I made myself sick while asking God to just kill me. Please kill me! Please kill me! I'd scream into a pillow so my neighbor wouldn't hear. I'm single, and have no children, so no one would even miss me. My parents live nearby, but I feel like such a burden on them because I am always calling them to tell them how miserable I am. Once time I even walked to their house at 3 in the morning because I was afraid I was going to take a knife to my wrists in my own apartment. When I got there my dad just held me and sobbed like he did with my grandmother died. Those were the only two times I've ever seen him break down like that. I felt horrible.
I struggle with depression. I have for years. I am on meds and see a counselor regularly. But some days it overshadows everything else. I feel like I'm walking in a light fog/mist or through hip deep water. Everything feels harder than it should be, my arms and body feel heavier than they should, nothing makes me smile, my brain obsessively repeats
I DON'T CARE.
I DON'T CARE.
I DON'T CARE.
I DON'T CARE.
My baseline is depressed. I'm really convinced that I'm just a "depressed person". Looking back, I think I've always had either a dash of it or an overdose of it or some measure in between, but I didn't realize it until I was in my mid-30s and experiencing what I thought at the time was my first bout of it. Now, at one week away from turning 45, I have been pretty darkly depressed for the last year - no joke. Yeah, I have had periods of time when I was able to yank myself out of it - especially when I decided that drinking was doing me no favors. I totally put the brakes on it in July and didn't have another sip until January.
The past year has been bad. Actually, the past 7 years have been pretty hideous, but not consistently hideous like the past year has been. I left my Personality Disordered ex husband in 2006. At the time, I was the sole supporter of the family and the mom to 3 kids, aged 5, 3 and 1. Right after I had my 3rd, I thought I had PPD because I was LOW. I was so bleak. I was so disinterested in every crevice of my life. So I shopped around for a therapist while toting an infant in a car seat with me so I could feed her on demand while sitting across from potential therapists and sobbing for 45 minutes a shot. I met one man, from Brazil, who looked at me and said, "I don't doubt that you maybe have some hormonal issues going on because you just had a baby 8 weeks ago and your body is likely a mess. But I've only known you about 20 minutes and I am smacked over the head with how unhappy you are in your marriage." He was 100% right and over the course of about 6 months, I had felt empowered enough to tell the monster I was living with that I wanted out and just suffer the wrath later. Which I did. And 6 months after telling him I wanted out, I got out. I moved with my 3 kids and I think only missed about 2 days of work. I'm also an adjunct law professor and I taught the first night of the fall semester class the very same day I moved out.
I've always wrestled with depression, for lack of a better word. It manifested itself in a form of quiet anger. I always chalked it up to hormones and teen angst, amirite? But several years ago, I began third shift as a night nurse at an animal hospital. The work was high stress, the compensation was shit, the support from administration was abysmal and I did not know how to take care of myself. For two years, for months at a time, I would get no more than 5 hours a sleep each day. I would be awake for twenty-four hours or more on weekends so that I could have a social life. Patients would die on my shift or their vital status would change overnight, the veterinarians would look arrive in the morning looking annoyed and I would go home an agonize for hours thinking about all of the fuck ups I had. I would sleep, restlessly, for a couple of hours.Then I would wake up so I could meet with my friends to do All the Things, because I didn't want to disappoint them, either.
I am amazed I never killed anything or anyone. But the pressure to live up to unbelievable standards, either set forth by my workplace, friends or, most especially, myself, almost killed me. I despised compliments on my performance, because I knew how truly awful I was. To have an ego or reputation for excellence meant that someone, very soon, would discover that it was, in fact, completely untrue. And how fucking painful would that be?
It's nice to hear people admit that they are hurting as well, because I feel like too often we just try to cover up how tired we are, how beat up we feel, how lonely we are.
I was around six when I first noticed that I didn't feel that happy about anything. There was nothing to be happy or excited about at that time for me. My parents were getting divorced, and although my teachers commented on how intelligent I was, I got in trouble for not paying attention and being distracted a lot. I think at the time nothing just really interested me anymore. From then on, I always felt like I was in trouble or doing something wrong. Depression and anxiety both run in my family, and I guess it manifested itself in me.
Being depressed is a constant battle. I remember when I was 18, my best friend said something along the lines of "Well, I feel sad sometimes, maybe I should get on medication, too." It was a big slap in the face. I've tried to stop taking medication and every time its been a dangerous failure.
I've never seen anyone for a formal diagnosis, but I know something's wrong.
My senior year of college, I suddenly stopped caring about school. I skipped classes, bombed tests, forgot assignments... It was highly out of my usual character. I had trouble getting out of bed, I rarely left my room, and I didn't have any friends. I think that last bit was a lot of the weight I felt. My housemates were people I barely knew, and by agreement we pretty much left each other alone.
When I failed two classes completely and had to make up the credits over the summer in order to earn my diploma, I finally admitted to my mother that I thought I was dealing with depression. She blew me off. That still hurts, almost a decade later.
I hold a full time job, own my own home, participate in martial arts and other exercise, but I don't feel fulfilled by any of it. Most days, the only reason I get out of bed in the morning is because I have an obligation to be at work and my work ethic is stronger than my malaise. Only barely though. When I don't have work, I have to make sure the cat is fed. If I didn't have her, I'd probably give up.
The first time I wanted to kill myself was at age 7, because my father had lost his job. With one less child, the household would save money. Seven-year-old logic led to a plan to throwing myself in front of a go-cart while on a field trip at the zoo. Later, it would be a lot of self-loathing, and an emotionally abusive father didn't help any. My mother was aware enough to get the family to go to counseling by using the children as an indirect way to encourage my father to work on his volcanic anger. Despite having several outbursts per day over minor issues, he presented a charming facade to the therapist. The therapist took his side and said that my mother was a nag. He also did not think our middle-class black family had any problems because there was no physical abuse, addiction, or criminal justice system involvement. To roughly quote a friend, middle class white people can seek therapy "just because," but when black people do it, it's because it is court-ordered.
I first starting fantasizing about killing myself at 11 when my dad killed himself. He had attempted suicide a few times. In my little realm of existence, it seemed normal. Even in my teens and early 20s (when I took up cutting), I truly believed that everyone was suicidal but we were all just too ashamed to admit it.
It wasn't until I experienced a period of good mental health in my late 20s that I realized life wasn't supposed to be as hard as it had been for me.
I still struggle. I refuse to take drugs because I don't trust the manufacturers. I try and apply a formula of eat, sleep, exercise, repeat but when I'm feeling off I don't/can't do any of those things. I tell myself that if I can just achieve that cycle, I can keep the bad times at bay.
Reading your collection makes me feel less alone/freakish.
Joshua David can be found on Twitter at @joshuaadavidd.
Image via Martina K.