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"This is what depression looks like," says the pharmaceutical commercial. As my blood boils, we see a pathetic looking person who looks simply like they've give up, thus validating what the strong have always conferred upon those who've been hit by mental illness. A $40 co-pay to see a therapist shouldn't be a surprise then or that New York State's public health plan does not cover mental illness. It doesn't help either that "depression" suffices as a medical term, which misrepresents anyone who's experienced this condition. Let me clarify.
Depression, to me, is a normal emotion tied to something unpleasant. We've all been there. For me, most memorably, it was my senior year of college. I was monumentally depressed. It suddenly occurred to me that college would end, and I would be bound again to my hometown. A place where isolation surrounded everything I did (or didn't do).
There was also this girl - and like never before. Flatly, she would have none of that or me.
May 4, 1986 was the rapture, and with every passing day, the four horses got closer. I was so despondent that strangers would stop me on the street and ask if I was OK. But I was not depressed by medical standards. I needed information, not a pill (and some distance from the offending female).
I started to see that classmates were planning lives in places like California, Washington and Boston. Then my roommate dropped it on me. "Don't worry," he said. "We'll all move to Manhattan and carry on as usual.”
Life as we know it had not ended. As for the girl, I found that a job in New York City provided plenty just like her. I overcame my circumstance but also did a fair amount of feeling sorry for myself. The latter never sits well with others, and despite supportive friends, it was justified when my "choice" incurred their ire.
What Depression Doesn’t Necessarily Look Like
This brings me back to "what depression looks like," and the magic pep pills a strong person wouldn't need to get themselves off the couch. My behavior earned the tag in 1986. But now as the terminology inaccurately describes me, I'm yet another person who's offended. Sorry.
In 2002, my insomnia had me sleeping about 10 hours a week. I went to my medical doctor, and she told me it could be depression. Not offended, I assured her I was quite aggravated within a confusing relationship but definitely not depressed.
Nonetheless, I decided to see a psychologist. Using the current medical terminology she was correct, but it didn't double to describe my mind set. Despite a personal life that was slightly askew, this moment was far from depressing.
You Don’t Need to be Freud
Backing tracking first, my lack of vision in 1986 arose from a justified fear that I wouldn't be able to find work in my major (computer science). I managed to do so, but working with computers was always a struggle. By 1999, I was out of the field and floundering in life.
On the other hand, I realized that writing was a talent I could exploit - even if I wasn't quite sure how. Staying afloat, I worked in a daycare as a teacher's aide, but not having any tangible place to hang my career hat was very unsettling.
Definitely depressing, so maybe I had reached my limit and sat up all night worrying about the failure that I was. The problem is that just as my insomnia was peaking, I was hooking on as a freelancer with a local newspaper.
I found that getting published and paid was quite a thrill. Moving forward and nailing down a career that fit was about the best thing that had ever happened to me. You don't have to be Freud to determine that the depression label didn't correspond.
Therapy Better Than Trying to Run Through a Brick Wall
Go figure that, People of Strength, because no bootstrap could have altered what night time meant to my brain. No, it wasn't a stream of endless worries. In fact, my mind went blank at bedtime, and no matter how tired I was, my brain switched to a state of alertness.
Toggling it off would have been like running through a brick wall. Simply said, my brain was malfunctioning — and like a heart or kidney — medical attention was necessary.
Therapy allowed me to determine the underlying misconceptions I had of myself. For example, a minor mistake at work wouldn't have stressed me out at midnight, but it did provide mortar for the wall.
Growing up, I was the youngest, and it seemed like I was the only one who screwed up. So at night, I tied the past to present in writing and rationalized the erroneousness of my childhood thinking. In conjunction with the anti-depressants, which have nothing to do with making me drowsy (or happy), the process would make the wall fall. Sleep soon followed.
Unfortunately, if I couldn't find that moment from the day's events, the sleep was scant. All the holes in my bedroom wall speak quite well to "what depression looks like." By now, I'm an expert on me and sleep is a given.
Ultimately, the words matter. By labeling an illness with such an ambiguous term and showing "the pathetic" in TV ads, it compounds the stigma. This makes a condition seem like a choice. Since sleep still requires medication, issues yet remain to be resolved. I'd like to be completely cured, but a $40 payment per session means that will have to wait.