This friend was a real friend; she was an honest friend. I hate to admit it, but I really was a downer. My first "depressive episode" (to use the clinical term) had been a couple of years before. I was in another one on that trip. It was as if I were thrashing about alone, inside a zipped-up sleeping bag: My whole world was dark and suffocating, and it seemed futile to try to escape it.
I would love to say that the depression was just part of the usual sturm und drang of adolescence. Even I hoped it would be long gone by the time I became an adult. But it hasn't gone away. Here in middle age, I still have mornings where I am so depressed that I can't get out of bed. I still have days where I can't stop crying all day. Despite medication, exercise, and good nutrition, I still find myself alone, thrashing about in that zipped-up sleeping bag.
But I wonder how alone I really am. Just about everyone I talk to is taking an antidepressant of some kind. People who seem perfectly fine turn out to have stress-related illnesses. I've read in numerous sources that depression is the most common illness there is. There are now names for things that baffled everyone, including me, in the 1980s: For instance, those weird "freak out" occasions that landed me in the ER more than once? There's a household name for them now: panic attacks.
I suppose it's not really an illness. It's just the human condition. It has to be, if that many people are on medication for it. And before medication? People wrote great literature and created great art and music that spoke to people on a level that everyday chitchat could not reach.
Maybe that's not the way things are. Maybe I really am just a hopeless depressive. But I've somehow been given the "gift" of depression and the gift of writing. For most of my life, the depression has overshadowed the writing gift, and the medication, while making the depression bearable, has dulled my experience of this "human condition."
I don't know where I'm getting with this--just that it's really odd that we all have to take pills in order to avoid our natural responses to reality.