It’s always late at night that I feel my mind becomes more intellectual. I don’t know why, I just have always found more inspiration and creativity when everyone in my house is asleep and I’m out here in the office alone. It’s nice.
Anyway, the thing I wanna talk about today (or, tonight) is a general mental illness known as depression. You know what it is. Well, you do, don’t you? I mean, if someone asked you if you knew what depression was, surely you’d say yes, right? It’s almost like someone asking you if you know what an apple is. You do!
Or, maybe you don’t. Or maybe I don’t, and you do. Maybe neither of us do! What really is depression, what is it defined by, how do you know if you or someone you know has it?
Well, to start off, it’s usually referred to as an illness. A sickness. And, it’s believed to stem from an imbalance of feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, etc. Neurotransmitters firing slower, not firing efficiently enough, not producing enough of a certain chemical that regulates your mood.
And while there is scientific backing to the arguments of “depression is a chemical imbalance, nothing else”, let’s skip past that and just assume it’s true. Because, I actually don’t feel like analyzing science right now. It has it’s place and can be super interesting, but I wanna talk more about my views. Call me selfish.
I always tell people (if asked about it, or the topic is being discussed) that I’ve fought depression before. Around 13 I started noticing intense feelings of sadness, for some of the most random things, and they’d last months at a time- then go away for a month, rinse and repeat. Off and on up until about when I turned 19, it became routine to be battling it. And, I say all of this in confidence that it was what I was dealing with- I never sought help from a doctor, I never considered antidepressants, I just wanted to internalize it and fight it off myself. I know, you’re not supposed to do that, but if I had gotten to a dangerous point, I’d speak out. I always assumed going the prescription drug route was a bad idea, because the only antidepressant I’d ever heard of was Prozac, and we all know we’ve heard negative things about it.
Anyways, I was confident I was depressed. But, what if I wasn’t?
Depression is subjective. Unfortunately. There is no gold-standard way of scanning a brain to check for activity that would lead a doctor to a confirmed diagnosis. No “Oh, look, there brain activity in this region is very low. Depression is what they are dealing with. *writes prescription*. If you think you’re depressed, and you want to get help for it, the way a doctor is going to diagnose you is by having you report your feelings in the form of a question packet. I know this now, because I inadvertently talked with my doctor about depression.
Right now, I deal with something. I don’t know what it is, to tell you the truth. Since June of last year, I’ve been consistently feeling sleepy. It started off as brain fog and general lack go mental clarity, then became a “I’m waking up in the middle of the night for no reason” kind of thing, and finally settled into this vivid-dream-every-night thing. Sounds kinda cool, doesn’t it? Well, it’s cool to remember all your dreams every day- and in great detail, at 2-4 per night, but, it seems to leave me feeling excessively sleepy every day. Long story short, I’ve seen plenty of people and doctors, and a few thought I was depressed.
This struck me, when I saw a diagnosis paper of “atypical depression” last September. Okay, I thought. If you were to show me this diagnosis 5 years ago, I’d not argue. But, now? I don’t even feel sad. I just feel sleepy. So- how do I feel about this? Am I right to disagree, or should I listen here? It threw me off. Because, depression can manifest itself in so many different ways, I’ve learned.
My understanding of depression 1-2 years ago from today was vastly different from what it is now. Atypical, melancholic- I’d never considered that you can be depressed yet still feel happy after doing something fun. I’d alway heard that depression is loss of pleasure in previously pleasurable activities. But, alas, this spectrum doesn’t seem to end. Atypical depression can mask as a sleep disorder. Or a binge eating disorder. What the fuck? Is everything just stemming from depression?
I think about this topic because I’m back on the antidepressant that my doctor prescribed, it’s common name is lexapro. I stopped taking it in Decemeber- it didn’t seem to make me any less sleepy, and another doctor has prescribed me vyvanse for ADD (caused by sleepiness, I guess). I don’t want to be on drugs, and it seemed the small dose of 10 mg a day didn’t help. Plus, I hadn’t even thought that I was depressed. In fact, I was pretty sold that I wasn’t.
But here I sit, pondering that question again. Am I sleepy and of low energy because I never fixed my depression in the first place, and now it’s manifesting itself as something else?
My sleepiness issue has been a subject on my mind daily for almost a year. It has to be. It’s hard not to want to talk about it all the time with my family. I wanna know what’s going on. If you suddenly got sleepy one day and couldn’t seem to shake it, you’d wanna speak out too. Anyone would. It got to the point where I started believing I had narcolepsy. And, I’ve shared that idea with my sleep doc and talked with my friends about it. Narcolepsy isn’t just randomly falling asleep, in fact it’s not that at all, but when that’s the public perception of it, you can imagine how many judgmental responses I get when I try to explain to people that I’m afraid I’m developing it.
Narcolepsy is a scary disease. For the uninformed, it is a loss of a wakefulness promoting neurotransmitter in your brain due to autoimmune attack. It develops between an age range of 10-30. It starts off tame and eventually, because you’re not getting restful sleep over time, you become more and more sleepy. Then, you can potentially fall asleep in public. Not because it’s random or spontaneous. Because you’re extremely sleep deprived. They say a narcoleptic feels like a normal person would if that person had stayed up for 48-72 hours. Yeah, not so funny at all. It’s terrible. For anyone with narcolepsy out there, I’m sorry. I hope that it’s taken more seriously soon and awareness is raised.
However, I don’t have narcolepsy. I thought I did, sometimes still think I do, but unlessl I’m diagnosed, I don’t have it. I’m not nearly sleepy enough right now to be qualified as narcoleptic. I’m still sleepy, but not that fucking sleepy.
Anyways, the reason I share that story with you is because I think it should help to highlight that depression is no joke. I could very well have been depressed this whole time- hypersomnia, or being super sleepy, is a symptom of atypical depression. Everyone usually associates with depression as a feeling, or at least I did, but no, it can literally physically debilitate you. You can have sleep disturbances because of this illness. Your personality can revolve and be formed because of this illness.
I now understand that. I’ve felt happier today. And, admittedly, when I’m happier, I feel more awake. Maybe it’s depression I’ve been fighting, and regardless of whether or not it is depression, this whole thing is making me realize that depression is an enigma. It’s for real, it is real, it’s serious, and I’ll never take it lightly.
If there is an uplifting piece of advice to end this one on, it’s that even though depression may be a 7-foot-kickboxer, you can always kick it in the shins. Came up with that on the spot. Nice.
Thanks for reading
Luca DeJesu, 3:31 AM