Sunday evening, I found myself curled up on my bathroom floor.
I wish I could say it was a rare occurrence, but on the days my depression hits the hardest, even lying in bed can be draining. So when the hours have blurred together and my sheets have soaked through with tears, I retreat to the comfort of my bathmat.
My depression keeps me company on the days I feel the most forgotten. She whispers in my ear, reassuring me of my intrusive thoughts: “Your friends do hate you. You are a bad writer. Your staff doesn’t respect you. He is cheating on you…” She goes on and on, picking me apart until she finds the insecurities even I didn’t know I had.
She’s supportive of my decisions, whispering in my ear that it’s OK to stay in bed for a third day in a row: “Your lectures are all recorded anyway, you can watch them later. You’re paying for school on your own, it’s nobody’s business if you skip class again.”
She’s the life of every party, feeding me drink after drink. A game of roulette where she spins the wheel to see how much of the night I remember.
She’s my chaperone, a constant companion sharing the space between my ears.
Depression treats everyone differently. Some people feel wild and uncontrollable emotions. Others feel nothing at all. Some are stricken with bouts of insomnia. Others can’t seem to stay awake. Depression is a shapeshifter, morphing itself to fit uncomfortably in the mind of its host.
My depression numbs me. She supplies a constant stream of empty tears. Sometimes I even feel guilty for crying.
Depression is a lonely beast, hiding behind the eyes of those who look and seem perfectly fine.
By all public accounts, I lead a fairly successful life. I’m the editor-in-chief of a pillar student organization at UB. I’m a teaching assistant for a 300-level English course. My Instagram is plastered with over-saturated pictures from parties, bar crawls and other events. Arms wrapped around my friends, cheesy grins plastered on our faces. From an outsider’s perspective, I probably look like I’m having the time of my life.
But I’ve barely written in months.
I’ve left nearly every social event I’ve attended in the past few months early.
I haven’t picked up my tennis racket or any of my books. I haven’t spun any of my records or done much of my homework. I haven’t run or sang. My depression has built a prison inside my mind, barring me from enjoying any of the hobbies that might loosen her grip.
So what have I been doing?
A whole lot of nothing, really.
Regardless of how much I plan, how many to-do lists I make, how many messages I send promising that I’ll get a task done that day, if she wakes up in the driver’s seat, she tosses my day out the window as we barrel down the I-90 toward Walden Galleria to spend my entire paycheck on clothes I don’t need. Any productive hopes I have are crushed as she scrolls through TikTok for hours on end, eyes glazed over.
It’s inconvenient, discouraging and embarrassing. For every work message she ignores, she hisses that I’m not even qualified to hold my position anyway so my opinion means nothing. She slips stupid mistakes into the work I do manage to complete, slowly chipping away at any confidence I may have left in myself, and sabotaging the confidence my peers have in me.
And the confidence is the worst part.
I would consider myself a pretty confident person. I’ve spent years getting to know the woman I am today, and up until recently, I was so proud of her. She had overcome so much. She had held her head high when the man who abused her for years was let off with a warning. She had spent nearly a decade battling anorexia, and learned to love her body. She had worked so hard to define her own worth, molding herself into someone who was kind and compassionate, hardworking and driven.
I miss her.
In September, I chose to begin my journey toward recovery. I found myself a psychiatrist who specializes in mood disorders and was diagnosed with chronic depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. I began taking an SSRI — a type of mood-stabilizing medication used to treat anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. I began seeing a therapist to talk openly about my struggles, and to help find coping mechanisms to combat the effects of my extreme mental illness.
But it’s been an uphill battle.
Seeking help from mental health professionals is incredibly important and, thankfully, is becoming less stigmatized. However, therapy and medication aren’t a cure-all. My daily 50 mg dose of Zoloft may make getting out of bed easier, and the sticky note tucked into my eyeshadow pallet reminding me to brush my teeth may have helped me build a routine, but I’ll never be cured.
The intrusive thoughts will never truly go away.
The empty feeling will still creep out from the corners of my mind from time to time.
But it will pass. It always does.
Reilly Mullen is the editor-in-chief and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reilly Mullen is the editor-in-chief at The Spectrum. She is a senior majoring in political science with a journalism certificate. She enjoys Dunkin’ iced lattes and Scrabble. A former web, features, news and managing editor, she is a columnist at heart but has covered everything from UB Football to breaking news.