Depression: Talking back to ‘the Big D’

Editor’s note: This series portrays one woman’s personal experience with depression, with a bit of advice thrown in. Please note that her shrink made her do it.

It’s been a Tilt-o-Whirl ride—moving in and out of depression most of my life. My brain chemistry leans toward the bipolar side of the spectrum, but mostly it is the doldrums I struggle with.

It’s hard to describe depression when you’re in the midst of it; it’s equally as difficult to describe when you’re not. I have never tried to live with my depression and write about it at the same time.

The Big D is what I call my depression. The Big D convinces me I’m an imposter, that I have no place in the world. It brainwashes me into believing I am a piece of gum on the bottom of someone’s muddy cowboy boot.

When the Big D speaks, it sometimes sounds like Cinderella’s wicked stepmother. “Who do you think you are?” it cackles in its horrible Hollywood screech, as it skips outside to smoke a cigarette and yell at the neighbor’s dog.

The Big D pulsates like a poorly drawn sci-fi character, blue and green and sometimes red. All the colors have a few drops of gray mixed in. The landscape is dull and monotonous. There is no neon. Only disembodied voices and gray clouds.

Sometimes the Big D is an imp calling my name from the bottom of a dark pit that it has furnished from the Goodwill store of excuses and melancholy. Not quite the Devil, but one of its attendants.

The Big D speaks in generalities and clichés. “Life is a bitch and then you die.” Or, “Forget about it. Don’t even try.” I lean closer to make sure I’m hearing it right. Yes, that was it: “Why bother? Who cares? Who really gives a shit?”

I listen to its orders like a good little soldier and give up on whatever I’m doing—a writing project, a school assignment. I close down Word, double-click into Firefox and escape into instant Netflix.

The dust bunnies continue their travels on the kitchen floor. The car remains unwashed. Cook dinner? Hah.

The Big D can be a seductress, a romantic. It lives down in that pit with the imp. It crooks its ugly little finger and says: “Come on, honey, you know you like it down here.”

It winks at me, but its eyes are hard. “We belong together,” the Big D-pretending-to-be-a-lover says. “We were born for each other.”

Sometimes the Big D tries to impersonate God, all those booming pronouncements it makes. It thinks it’s omnipotent. But you cannot seriously tell me that God would actually say to someone: “You suck.”

Until about 10 years ago, when I started getting proper treatment for Big D, I thought my moods and thoughts and the actions (or inactions) that resulted were something I should be able to control.

I should be able to pull myself up by my bootstraps. Work hard. Suffer. Keep on truckin’. If I just kept doing and moving and going and doing, I could outrun the Big D.

I did that for a long, long time. Tried, tried, tried. For far too long. I used alcohol and drugs and danger to avoid the truth. The Big D. The imp. The screaming banshee that lives to destroy me.

No longer. There was help for me, once I admitted defeat. There is lots of help out there. Asking for help was hard, but it worked. And it still does, most of the time. What more can I ask for?

Next: The shrink says, “Do anything, anything at all, except listen to the Big D.”
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