At 13, it was being the odd kid and Zoloft. At 16, dark self-loathing and Prozac. My 17th birthday brought parental issues and Celexa, while my 19th pushed me to anorexia and Prozac again. My early 20s: failed relationships, Effexor, Ativan, fear of getting nowhere, issues at work, and Lexapro. Long story short: I’ve never been a happy camper. True, depression does run in my family, but being diagnosed with it so young, it’s come to be something that’s part of my personality.
Sometimes feeling sad would make sense because it would force me into isolation. There, I could concentrate on writing. Even if I wasn’t very good at it, the time spent and the mindset it put me in seemed worth something. There have even been times that I’ve been thankful for my depression, knowing that years of therapy have taught me how to look at people and situations differently. (Although I’ve come to realize that having psychological epiphanies doesn’t change scenarios, relationships, or how you feel.)
As a result of all this, I’ve largely lived my life in the future—either fantasizing about the next life transition that will finally make me the fabulous person I’m meant to be, or visualizing a lifestyle a few years down the road that doesn’t involve antidepressants. Unsurprisingly, this often means crushing disappointment when the transition arrives and doesn’t live up to my Disneyland standards, as well as meds freak-outs that prompt me to go cold turkey, only to desperately return to them a few months later.
What I want to write now is something like … and then something changed, but that’s not quite right. There was no huge light switch or magical day when I woke up to birds singing. What actually happened was this: I got bored and gave in. I began Wellbutrin about a year ago, and when it seemed to be working a bit, I didn’t say, “Well, now I can go off,” but rather, “You might be on this drug for the rest of your life, so you should just shut up and stop reading ladymag articles about how it may make you fat or infertile.” In my head, I let some aspirations go, and stopped agonizing over the disappointment in vanilla days where nothing eventful happened and I just went through the motions.
It began to feel peaceful inside when I expected less of myself—and of my depression.
In turn, I did end up completely changing my life, but slowly this time. The lack of self-obsession made the world seem less serious, and so I started doing the things I wanted to do: I left my job, and I moved an ocean away from everything, to France. Because, why not?
Weirdly, when I turned my life upside-down like this, I expected my traditional sadness and issues of loneliness to set in. Even warnings came from my friends and family: “You know, those first few months are going to be really hard, and you’ll want to give up, but you have to ride through it! You’re finally doing something for yourself, and from your heart. Don’t self-sabotage.” I agreed with them. But when a few weeks into things, I didn’t experience those feelings, I became confused. Where was the anxiety and stress about my future? Why wasn’t I freaking out about something, goddammit?
Could I actually be happy? I thought to myself one day. Let’s see … these days I don’t think I’m gorgeous, but I don’t feel ugly either. I’m content with where I am professionally, and haven’t felt guilty about not doing more. I don’t have a boyfriend, but then again, do I really want one?
So, yes, for the first time in my life, I’m happy. Very happy. I wake up knowing that where I am in life is a great place to be, and I want to enjoy everything about it, rather than sulk in a corner. The biggest difference is that I want to feel this way, and learn how to keep the ball rolling for as long as possible.
Yet, I must admit the newness of being happy is a weird feeling. At times, I’m not quite sure how to handle it, because it certainly has changed my habits. I almost feel guilty about not having issues to deal with. I’ve also realized that I need to come up with new conversation topics. The ones I used to use with my girlfriends no longer seem relevant. (“Why is there no love in my life?”; “Why am I so stressed all the time?”; “Ugh … my day was so awful, let me detail every sucky second …”).
But, I guess that if being happy is now my biggest issue to deal with, then I might actually get to know who I am. And maybe like who that is.
Original by: Leonora Epstein