Depression Doesn’t Look Like You Think It Does

Megan Sims ’18

Depression doesn’t look like you think it does.

I’m sitting in the office at my unpaid internship, which I’m lucky enough to have because I have parents who are able to pay for me to attend one of the top private universities in the country. I’m anxiously waiting for my laptop clock to flicker to 5 p.m.—I recall learning to tell time during Yiddish class today, how learning a language feels like being a child again. I want to edit together press clippings for my organization, but I don’t have the energy to place files in an InDesign document. I could at least work on the paper I have due in less than 24 hours, but I can’t tease out the categorical imperative from my stores of knowledge on normative ethics.

My brain feels foggy.

I spent most of this past weekend in various stages of panic. It’s something of a haze. There was a lot of shaking, some stress cleaning. There was crying in Café Algiers that I kept swearing was a purely physical reaction to walking the tightrope between sane and anxiety attack for too long.

I swear I’m not crazy.

It is Friday night. I’m drunk because someone hurt me years ago and I can’t get over it. I’m drunk because I’ve hurt myself. I’m drunk because people die, people throw up, people stay where they shouldn’t, people are afraid. It is Friday night, and I’m drinking because I’m sad even though I never drink because I’m sad and I know where this leads.

I don’t expect it to take that long.

Saturday is an anxiety day. Depression and anxiety don’t look like depressed and anxious. I am not anxious because. I am anxious, and there is little more to it than that. I try to read minds when I can’t even manage to study my own, and suddenly everything is so much more intrusive. It feels like Harvard Square is burying me alive.

This is overstimulation.

On Saturday night my peer counselor friend comes over. I try to think rationally. I think rationally. I have nothing to be afraid of. On Saturday night I eat pizza and talk about the past. I laugh at the people who hurt me.

Sunday doesn’t change much.

I am still panicked, still too emotionally drained to write that paper on “Anna Karenina”—the Sermon on the Mount scares me, so Jesus-y. I want the anxiety to flicker out, but I know what’s coming next, and I don’t want that either. I want to go back to the farm 20 minutes past Walden Pond where I walked out to the end of the rows to pick the best apples. I want to pretend I can still run away and not live in this body that was built screwed up from the start.

I just want to drive somewhere.

It is Monday. All day I’ve felt as though the birds building nests in my chest the past 72 hours have laid eggs and abandoned me. I am heavy and quiet. My brain is foggy.

Depression doesn’t look like you think it does.

Yes, it is sadness. But I am not sad because. I am sad. I wish I was sad because. Then at least I could try to fix it. Depression at the heart of it all does not look like the piercing sobs when the friends you trusted betray you. It is not the feeling that once again, you’ve peeled back your layers and found people to be afraid of the blood. It is not missing him. It is not hating him.

Depression looks like sitting at your computer trying to make something beautiful out of mental illness because you can’t bring yourself to do anything else. It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s the most mundane thing in the world.

It is 5 o’clock on Monday. It’s time to go home.

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