This is the story of a 24-year-old woman in San Francisco who asked to remain anonymous.
I am feeling depressed. It started more than a year and a half ago. I noticed that on my hour commute home that I felt something close to nothing. Not excited about things I had going on, kind of just "meh". I can calculate how "meh" my day is by thinking about things I should be excited about: Two-week trip to New Zealand, meh. My parents' loving labrador, meh. I waited and waited to get excited about something, but nothing happened.
I feel very little excitement or gratitude or wonder these days. I have a steady income, great roommates, a good job, a loving boyfriend, a supportive family. I've gotten to take trips and see places a lot of people haven't. But gratitude and excitement are missing from my emotional vocabulary. I know when I should be having fun, and sometimes I do. I know when I should be excited, and sometimes I say I am. It makes it easy to hide from other people. It's confusing for other people who think from the outside that things look normal. It's confusing for myself because it's up and down. It's not all bad; I would say out of 10, my happiness level swings somewhere between a four and a seven.
I wanted desperately to blame these feelings on something. First, I blamed my birth control. I spent hours looking up articles about other people who said [the Pill] led to depression. But after a year of being off, I realized it's not that. I went to the doctor and got blood tests done for my thyroid, but it wasn't that. Could it be something I'm eating? Maybe I'm gluten intolerant. Maybe it's my hour-long commute. Maybe it's my boyfriend. Are we having issues, or is my inability to feel anything making me overreact about everything he does. Does the longer you dig the hole make it harder to get out at the end? Am I going to have to deal with this on and off for the rest of my life, or is it just a phase? Should I be getting more help, or am I just not doing enough to help myself? I have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers, but for now I just have to take it day by day.
My family has a history of [mental illness], but I used to be so happy. I didn't think there was any way it would happen to me. But it did, and it could happen to anyone. My doctor had me take both a depression and anxiety test last year. I apparently passed, because she didn't bring it up again. She's my doctor and not my therapist, so I don't really even know if she'd be the right person to talk to. I tried reaching out to one [therapist] and never got a response. I stopped trying after that.
It's really, really hard to decide if medication is the way to go. Some doctors push it -- are they getting paid to prescribe it? -- and some try to avoid it. Then you hear about all kinds of bad side effects. My sister, who has obsessive-compulsive disorder, has taken antidepressants. Her experience was that it doesn't make you happy necessarily, it just makes it harder to feel sad. I'm not necessarily sad so much as numb, so would antidepressants even help?
No one should feel alone, and yet why can't anyone seem to understand? Someone needs to figure out a way to put it in perspective for everyone else. But I can't even explain it in a way that makes sense. My boyfriend has experienced this with me from the beginning, but it's a feeling he can't even fathom.
After a long day of work I have nothing left, and I just feel empty. I can smile and laugh, I can think things are funny, I can enjoy myself. But it's so incredibly difficult to have perspective. If you ask me during a bad time if I'm happy overall, I'd say no. During a bad time, I doubt everything and feel trapped. I don't feel like myself. This isn't me. Or is it? Maybe this is the new me. It's so confusing. I am afraid of getting worse.
I would tell family members of people with depression that it's not good enough to say, "I'm here for you." I think it's an active battle, and we need you in our court. We already feel a lot of guilt from putting this on you, and we might not ask for help. There are things I could be doing to help myself, like eating healthy and joining a yoga class and working out, but it is really difficult at the end of the day to feel motivated. It would be really helpful to have someone say, "We're going to the gym for the next 30 days together, and we're going to cook healthy foods and join a yoga class." We might need encouragement to see a therapist. If we're having a bad day, we might need someone to just be there. I think there just needs to be more awareness.
As told to Sarah Klein. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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