What Is Depression, Anyway?

I have never enjoyed the winter season, specifically the month of December. Everyone is scrambling to buy the latest useless thing for their loved ones for the holidays, its cold, I can’t enjoy my happy places as much as I want to, and the month generally makes me want to sit at the house and do nothing. December gives me the blues. It is the perfect month to take time off, at least for me. I often argued that the school year should run from March until December, with the major vacation taking place during the whole winter, instead of the whole summer.

All of that being said, here’s what happens to me during the winter months. I lose some motivation, my production takes a hit, and I usually perform under average in most areas. But it goes away, typically by January. By January I become more motivated, I start getting better at things, I become more productive, and things usually return to normal within two weeks into the new year. And by March, the weather gets a bit better, I start going for daily runs outside again, and everything is back to normal. March and April have typically been my most productive times in the year, and that is because I have spent the winter months slowing everything down. Again, it is why I argue that school students should get the entire winter instead of the entire summer off.

That is not depression, no matter what anyone says. The blues is not depression. Slowing your work down and taking some time off of life is not depression. Having lapses in your discipline because there is pressure, or lack thereof, is not depression. And lastly, being overwhelmed by things that you want to do is not depression.

Do you want to know what depression is? Watch this clip of the infamous anime Dragon Ball Z. Watch the guy in the black hair, body armor, and the navy blue outfit. He has given up on everything and is letting his opponent beat him to a pulp.

When you feel like that every day for several months, no matter what the weather is, no matter how supportive those close to you are, then you might be depressed. Although there is more to this than just feeling bad and helpless.

You might enjoy feeling this way. You might actually like feeling helpless, like a leaf in the wind, like someone is torturing you and pounding you into a hamburger, like we see in this clip. It might make you feel bad for yourself which gives you all kinds of excuses to do nothing to improve yourself.

And here come your responses: “No, Joelsuf! I hate feeling this way! You still have no idea what depression is! You’ll never know what depression is!”

But I do. But before I get into that, I’d like to explain exactly what I mean when I argue that you may actually enjoy being depressed. Let’s call this being a “pleasure depressive.”

Let’s go back to my analysis of 13 Reasons Why, specifically why the girl in the book/show killed herself. Although I can sympathize (and even relate to) many of the things that poor girl went through, she was the type who enjoyed feeling bad. She made conscious decisions to always be around people who made her feel miserable. Now I agree that she was heavily influenced, as I explain here, but that does not mean that she did not have the ability to break away from the high school mentality, which is what her buddy did.

One of my favorite shows in my high school years was Daria. The main character of that show is another example of someone who just enjoys being miserable and getting a rise out of others. She clearly enjoys her unhappiness and often uses it as a weapon, just like I did when I was in high school.

So now that we are able to discern between what the blues and being a pleasure depressive, let’s talk about actual depression. And for me, when I think of depression, I think of the years 2008 until 2011.

What people do not understand is that depressed people don’t just sit in their rooms all day and feel bad about things. That’s what pleasure depressives do. They do the things they do because they are begging for cheap sympathy from others or using the blues as an excuse to do nothing to improve themselves. I was doing none of the sort from 2008 until 2011. In that three year spread, I did a whole bunch of cool stuff, like travel outside the country and within the country on my college bowling team, but I was nihilistic to the core and really only cared about short term happiness that never lasted. Here are some things that I did in that three year spread that contributed to my self destruction:

-I took out almost $6000 per semester in student loans instead of holding down a full time job (or having any other source of consistent income) and paying for my expenses that way. I remember saying to therapists in 2011 and 2012 that I did this in an attempt to get me to take my own life.
-Despite having an idea of how to approach, invite and have sex with the opposite sex, and more opportunities than before or since, I decided not to pursue any romance
-I still had a crush on a girl I met in my freshman year, who at one point wanted sex (but I refused). I still attempted to pursue romance with her after this, but she was not having it (for obvious reasons)
-When I was living with my buddies, I attempted to control them by paying all of the bills of our apartment
-My grades were the worst I had ever received. At one point in 2008 I was nearly dismissed for having low grades. I hardly ever went to class and had next to no discipline.
-I had a sleeping pill addiction until 2009 when one of my childhood friends who was living with me left on very short notice.

While I was generally enjoying quite a few things (I did a whole bunch of awesome stuff in 2009), at the core I felt like I was accomplishing nothing. I had severe self esteem issues in those 3 or so years and legitimately thought that I did not deserve good things. And the major tip off was that I told very few about this. Sometimes I would talk to my mother or my closest friends, but I was not sharing what I needed to share as often as I needed to. And I was certainly not getting proper help.

This is what depression actually is. When someone is depressed they act completely normal most of the time, but they feel like they are on a mission to nowhere, which is how I felt from 2008 until 2011. The only things I really sought were sources of short term happiness: A lap dance from a stripper (I would often travel to South Florida just to go to strip clubs), drugs and alcohol (my sleeping pill addiction scared even me), excess food and drink (I would often order and eat an entire pizza on any given day and would waste hundreds of dollars eating out), among other things. And while it was true that I bowled for college, it was the only thing that I had any real stake in (which is not good compared to all the other things I should have had stake in, like making sure I was having sex regularly and staying out of debt).

And my nihilistic thoughts never seemed to go away. My thoughts of suicide, which I had been wrestling with since I was in high school, were now much more frequent. I remember one night in South Florida when I walked onto a pier and thought of jumping in to the ocean, either dying from the impact of the fall or by drowning. But then I remember uttering “nah, I have a bowling tournament in a month or so. And I already feel like I am dead anyways so whatever.” That was in late 2010. I can specifically remember that semester saying to certain professors in classes that I was failing that I stopped caring. If you refer to the scale in this article, my happiness “level” would be at around 1 or 2 most days, sometimes getting to about 7.

Recall the video I posted earlier. I felt like that for three or so years straight, the beatdowns only slowing, but not stopping, in 2009. And no one really knew. I felt like an inconvenience, thinking that if told anyone how I was really feeling that I would just be slowing them down. I was right, but that’s what therapists and counselors are for. That’s what this blog is for as well, and in the coming years I want to make some real contributions to improving the lives of many by sharing my own journey.

So the burning question must be asked: How do you stop being depressed? Are there treatments? Can you take drugs to make it go away? Are there a set amount of actions you can take?

My answer to all three questions is no. I myself took antidepressants (Google Welbutrin) and they had zero effect. None. Drugs do nothing for you. Decisions do. Do you want to know how to stop being depressed?

Make the decision to let go of your ego. And then make the decision to be self aware of said ego at all times.

Simply put, know when to be selfish and when to be selfless, but never be totally selfish or totally selfless.

Depressed people are the most arrogant individuals on the planet. They do everything they can to indulge themselves. Mere months after my father died, I adopted two cats. One is still alive (and is actually sleeping on my couch right now as I am writing this), but the other died when he was only 5. It was in the fall of 2011. I had just decided to take some time off of school (I actually RAN OUT of student loan money to borrow) and by that time my depression started to surface itself. My cat ate some torn up carpet in my apartment, and could not eat or drink anything. It was too late at night to take him to get some help (although I could have easily dialed 911 probably, but I was way too depressed to care), and he clung to life all night. I brought him into the animal hospital that morning to find that he was dead on arrival.

I originally did not want pets so that I could take care of an animal and raise it to live a long, healthy life. I simply wanted them for company and as playthings. Had I not kept the other cat with my mother, there is no doubt; chances are really good that he would have died as well. When I invited my buddies to live with me, I did not want a support system where we were all in each others corners all the time, I wanted both of them to be in my corner all the time. I wanted them to take the same path I took: Go to college because its what everyone else does.

When my buddies moved out and then when my cat died, I was all alone in my two bedroom apartment. I had lost all of the things that fed my ego. I struggled for a bit and on one fateful night, everything came together.

What I eventually learned was that the ego is omnipresent; it never rests. When you are overly selfless, you become selfish because of the expectations you develop if you are not cognizant of this paradox. There exist people who act very giving on the surface, but at the core, they want to be seen as a martyr. Those are the individuals who are truly depressed and who need some serious help, like I did roughly a decade ago.

I’m just glad I experienced all of this in my late 20s. I cannot imagine how things must be for those who go through these kinds of things in their 30s or older. Here is an example of one such person, who fell very hard from grace.

Paradoxically enough, I look back on that era in my life and am quite fond and nostalgic of it. I kind of really miss it. No, I did not accomplish much other than sleep, consume things, and kind of travel. But when I come across someone who is doing similar, I will know what to do. And I will help him or her accordingly, should they ask. And I hope they do. Because I want to help.