Archive for July 25th, 2010


I am not one with the universe. Just lacking energy.

I have found a lot of creative ways to lean my face on my hand in the past ten years.

I like how this one makes me look like I have a headache.

Making funny faces helps me feel more normal, sometimes.

In case you can't tell, my shirt says "I do tricks for treats".

Today I’m going to talk a bit about my lifetime experiences with depression. I think it’s only fair that those of you who read this and aren’t very well acquainted with me should know where it came from, and that it isn’t something that just popped up yesterday.

I’ve always been prone to mood swings. I generally chalk them up to being an overly sensitive person, which is great as a performer, but horrible in everyday life. I’ve also noticed that people with higher intelligence (hey, I’m not bragging, it runs in my family) tend to be more prone to mental problems. Even when I was little I had episodes of swinging from happy to sad and back again, which I think most kids experience sometimes, but I never really got past it.

The first time I was diagnosed with clinical depression was when I was in middle school. My family had just moved from North Carolina to Missouri, which was a horrendous culture shock (especially for agnostics moving to the heart of the bible belt). I was sad because not only had I moved away from all my friends and couldn’t make new ones because I was so different, I had moved from a private school to a public one, and on top of everything else my parents had lost my beloved teddy bear (hey, at 10 years old that matters). In hindsight, the diagnosis of clinical depression was pretty stupid on the part of the psychologist. I wasn’t really clinically depressed. I was just a sensitive kid who had been hit with a lot of sucky life changes at once. I actually got put on Zoloft back then, which I hardly ever took because I didn’t like how it made me feel (I drove my mother mad with her trying to get me to take it), and eventually the problems sorted themselves out. However, I had learned from that experience that by claiming I had a history of depression and acting all mopey, I could get sympathy from adults.

The next time I began suffering from depression was high school. It was an awful experience, but overall I think it actually helped me. I had spent the first two years of high school pretending to be a delicate flower and manipulating my friends and family by claiming I was depressed and telling them I was going to commit suicide and they didn’t care about me. I was a little bitch, in other words, who acted out for attention. After my sophomore year, though, everything changed. My parents divorced, and I realized I hadn’t felt real pain like that in a long time, and all my actions before had been play-acting. I stopped talking about suicide and drew my suffering inside me, only letting it out to the few trusted friends I hadn’t managed to drive off. My high school voice teacher can attest that I used her as a therapist more than a teacher for most of my junior year, even though I was seeing a therapist anyway.

College was another matter. While I never was officially diagnosed with depression in college, I believe I suffered from it more than once. There was a lot of pressure I hadn’t had to deal with as a high schooler, not just in terms of school work, but with the added problems of being a performer and making my own schedule. I had some really bad days where I would have panic attacks and sit in the hallway crying quietly. I had days where I would pick fights with other singers because I felt so awful and didn’t want to feel awful alone. Those were pretty dark times too, and I think they’re a large part of why I don’t have many friends from my college days.

Most recently, my current fight with depression started around the end of last year. I started working at my old job (cashier at a major chain grocery store right near my house) in March of 2009, thinking it would be something to keep me afloat while I tried to find another job. Unfortunately, I had managed to get hired at one of the busiest stores in my city, which meant that not only were there days I rang up a ridiculous amount of orders, I also had to deal with a higher percentage of nasty customers. Not a day went by where I wasn’t yelled at, sneered at, or otherwise belittled by asshole customers. To make things worse, the management at the store was horrible. I won’t name names, but there was one particular manager who everyone in the store despised, because she treated everyone like a wayward two year old she had to herd back into place, as well as disliking anyone smarter than her, or who seemed to have ambitions to advance. She made working there more of a hell than it already was, and none of the other management made it much better (there were a couple okay ones, but they either changed their tune or left before I quit). In short, it was a horribly stressful job, without anything being wrong with the job itself. I’ve worked retail before, as I suspect many people (especially below a certain age or income level) have, and none of my previous jobs had been nearly that horrible. Hell, one year I worked at an entertainment store that went out of business, and I sometimes still have nightmares about it (customers… like vultures… asking if they could buy anything not nailed down for ridiculously low prices). Did I mention that was over a Christmas break? Yeah. So I’ve worked not that stellar jobs before, and being a cashier isn’t horrible by a long shot. But that store, specifically was awful.

First, my gall bladder began acting up. I became so ill I couldn’t work, and because I had no money and no insurance, I had to wait a month and a half before I could get it properly diagnosed and have the fucking surgery, and I’m still paying it off (and likely will be for the next two or three years). So last summer, while still in the midst of dealing with the stress of bed bugs, I spent two months not working, eating rice and beans to stay alive because my stomach couldn’t handle anything else, and lying in bed because I was too weak to get up or go out. When I finally got the surgery and was able to return to work, the management began treating me like a shirking employee, especially every time I was sick (remembering that a gall bladder is actually a fairly necessary organ, and removing it causes permanent changes to your digestive system that take a long time to acclimate to). I was still weak, and began having serious problems. First came the panic attacks. I started having them at my register during work hours. I would feel as if I was going to puke, I was dizzy, I had to hold on to my register to keep from falling down. At first I thought it was just nausea (I’d experienced similar symptoms when the gall bladder problems became serious), but they just kept happening, and nothing made them better. Finally, in February of this year, I had a complete breakdown. I called in to work, sobbing, and told them I couldn’t go in, that I felt horrible and wanted to die. I spent the rest of the week in a black mode, alternately sobbing uncontrollably and feeling jittery. I had friends who tried to help, and everyone encouraged me to see a doctor, but I couldn’t pick up the phone and call one. It finally got to the point where my mother called a doctor for me (one I’d seen before, albeit only once) and my aunt came and picked me up and brought me to see her. She took one look at me and prescribed me anti-depressants.

I’m going to take a moment here and set my stance on anti-depressants. After my experience with them in middle school, I deemed them vile, useless things and swore I would never touch them again. I decided they were worthless, that if they’d been useful they would have helped me instead of harming me, and basically took up a very strong stance against them. There were a few times in high school and early college where they were suggested to me, but I raged against them and absolutely refused to touch them. It wasn’t until later, when I started talking to people (really cool, interesting people) who were on or had been on them that I began to see that they had some merit, and that I’d simply been scarred by a bad experience. By the time I was tearing myself apart in February, I’d made my peace with the fact that sometimes, they’re necessary, and in my case they were the last line of defense.

At any rate, she gave me anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills, and told me to come back in a few weeks to see if things were getting better. When I did, she commented on the marked difference, and I told her about how I was using the anti-anxiety pills to just get through the day at my job. Finally, in May, I called it quits. I decided I’d rather work fast food than continue at my old job, and my mood improved exponentially after that. I figured it was partly the anti-depressants, and I wasn’t stupid enough to think that feeling good now meant I should stop taking them, so I continued (and I’m still taking them). I started projects (including this blog), found a new (if temporary) job, and everything was going better. When I went back to the store I’d worked at (it’s the nearest store to me, doesn’t make sense to go anywhere else), my former co-workers all commented on how much happier I seemed. And I was. And I am, generally.

So that’s where I am right now. Most of the time, I feel fine. I feel optimistic, productive, and otherwise good about myself. But then black days happen. Days where I just curl up in bed and sob uncontrollably for fifteen minutes. Where I have suicidal thoughts and can’t think about anything good about my life. Where even a purring kitty in my lap doesn’t bring me happiness. Once again I will state that if I’m actually voicing my suicidal thoughts, I’m in less danger than if I was conspicuously not mentioning death.

I wish I had a solution. Right now I’m thinking about how if I could afford it, I would go to the doctor and ask her to help. Unfortunately, I still have medical bills I owe on, so unless it becomes a true emergency (i.e. I can’t work again), it isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

I will try not to allow a post like yesterday’s to happen again. Not that I want to hide my life or my feelings, but I don’t want to go down that path. Thanks again to everyone who emailed and messaged and tweeted me yesterday. It’s a blessing to have friends like mine.


Read Full Post »