Disclaimer: I don’t have a formal diagnosis, hence why I’m hesitant to come right out and say “depression.” I have not yet spoken to a doctor or mental health specialist, nor do I have any kind of prescribed medication. Therefore, I advise you to take everything that follows with a salt lick. Links of note will be listed under Further Reading.
I don’t have a precise date for when it happened, but it started towards the end of college. I was on the verge of graduating with a freshly minted STEM degree. I had my first real job lined up for after graduation, and I had a solid social schedule. For all intents and purposes, I was living my best life. Shortly after leaving the bubble of undergrad, I fell off a cliff.
If you remember Hyperbole and a Half, Allie’s posts on depression are pretty fucking accurate as to how it started, progressed, and resolved. I remember waking up and having no interest in anything that used to bring me joy or entertain me. Books, video games, media in general, people, I wanted no part of it. But I hated being by myself as well. There was a lot of anger that I didn’t know where to direct. Sometimes it was at humanity in general, but most of the time it was at myself. I had a vicious internal dialogue, berating everything I did, everything I thought, how I looked, and so on.
Ironically, I was still able to function as a human: wake up, feed myself, go to work, come home, sleep, repeat. This pattern would be punctuated with attempts to be social, but it felt like a chore. I would spend these moments feeling disconnected from everyone and low-key resentful that I bothered to come out at all. I convinced myself that nobody wanted me there anyway, and when told otherwise, I refused to believe it. I didn’t want to do anything outside of sleep and vegetate on the Internet. I had no idea what direction to run in and no desire to fix it, everything sucked, the end.
To be honest, I don’t know exactly what my piece of corn was, only that it was only Q2 of 2019 that my brain finally decided enough was enough. I knew that things were amiss, but it was only then I understood that damage had been done. Once that clicked into place, I made some course corrections that had, and continue to have, a significant impact. In no particular order, here’s how I addressed the fallout:
- Changing my work environment. This is not a decision I made without heavy considerations, and I do not recommend doing this on a whim. When I finally came up for air, I decided I wasn’t happy with the job I had. There was no path to progression. My relationship with my boss had deteriorated. The scope of work I did was unsatisfying. It took about nine months start to finish, but I got a new job and my outlook has improved. I’ve shifted from a private sector to a public one. I’m more involved in every aspect of the job. My new boss gives a shit about the industry and their enthusiasm for what we do is infectious.
- Reading. The desire to read was a tragic casualty of my funk. When my interest started to come back, I clung to it, lest it slip away again. For a while, I could only read a few sentences at time before I got exhausted or distracted. Over time, I built up stamina to get through a few paragraphs, then a few pages, then whole chapters. The ferocity depends on what I’m reading, however. In my youth I picked books with sheer abandon and read constantly. Now I’m much more selective about subject and genre. Every now and then I’ll still take breaks from reading altogether to recharge.
- Exercise. Another critical change I made was increasing my rate of exercise. I was struggling to shed the weight I packed on in college (a consequence of unfettered access to eat whatever I wanted). While I was somewhat active doing Zumba twice a week, it wasn’t enough. I tried a gym membership, but soon found I didn’t have the discipline to go it alone. I stumbled into group fitness classes and flourished when I had an instructor to pave the way. Now, I’ve got my weight back under control, and I feel better when I work out because for a moment my brain shuts up.
- My own corner on the Internet. I have blogged before on different platforms over the years, but this is the first place I’ve thrown some weight behind. I’ve been sitting on this idea for a while, and since I’m thoroughly disgruntled with social media, now is as good a time as any to start. This needs to be a place where I’m not beholden to a company; here my content is my own.
I know I will never get the old me back. I want this to serve as an active part of my recovery as I figure out how to be this new version of myself. I expect in the beginning it’s going to be a bit messy, but I’m looking forward to documenting this process.
Welcome! I hope you’ll consider joining me as I chase chickens while grinding for life experience.