I don’t believe in bright-side, think happy bullshit. I’m too crazy for that, personally. I can’t smile my way out a depression. I can’t calm a mania just by doing some yoga or taking a relaxing bath. That doesn’t mean that I don’t wish I could. It does mean, however, that I fly into a rage of a thousand angry cats when someone suggests that I try one of the aforementioned “cures.” If only it were that easy, that simple. But no, my brain angries ensure that I don’t get to do that, and they work really hard at throwing bouts of madness at me at the worst possible moments. You know, like right now. “Hey, did you know it’s getting close to finals time? It’s that part of the semester where everything is due and it’s too late for excuses!” says one Brain Angry to another. “Really? Awesome! Let’s attack Elfity!” says the other. And so it begins”¦
Yes, mid-April is crunch time in the semester, that time when deadlines loom forward, giggling and screeching, “You’ll never make me, never!” and challenging you to make a passing grade. Papers pile up, presentations are stacked one on top of another, and professors start chastising that it’s too late to ask for help now. You sit inside at your computer while spring taunts you from a nearby window and mountains of pleasure reading beckon you to take a break. In all honesty, that is happening to me at this very moment while I try to just get things done and not to fall off of a manic depressive precipice. In the past, this part of the academic year has spurred within my brain either a mania or a depression. Last year I was safe, having taken a year between undergrad and grad school. The year before that was a depression, and a mania twelve months earlier. It’s easy to succumb to when one is faced with the choices of a) either crawling under the covers and avoiding all work, putting in minimal effort and rarely showing up to class, or b) staying up all night because of a mind racing with proposal ideas and deadlines, worrying about the hours that will be spent typing out last-minute papers that need to be perfect. This year I’m leaning towards the former, and I’m holding on so hard to my wall of sanity, trying not plunge into the dark river of clinical depression.
I’m pushing forward. I’m giving it every effort I have to not go curl up in bed with my iPad and the politics that I take odd comfort in. Against all desire, I get up every day, shower, dress, and push out work that I want so desperately to be meaningful. I let myself put off deadlines and due dates until I can’t put them off any longer and they collapse onto me with some huge academic weight, stressing my mind until I’m sobbing about how if I don’t make perfect, perfect grades I will never get into a PhD program, even when I know my health is so much more important. But I still keep going. I keep writing, keep pushing out papers with feedback like “brilliant ideas, but not academic enough” that depress me more because I feel like I’m being stripped of my writer’s identity, and that the voice I’ve developed for years is being crushed under APA format and red ‘X’s. One more month, I tell myself. Just hold on for one more month. A few more weeks and you can retreat to your bedroom. Yup, just a few more weeks and I can be free of the stress, if only for a few weeks. That’s what I tell myself, anyway, just to get through the here and now. I know that if it isn’t one thing, it’s another, but I think what is really torturing me is the specter of happiness that I’ve only recently known. Why won’t it come back, to visit if not stay forever?
I move forward because I know if I stop, it will get worse. I push forward because I have to. I wish it were because I’m just thinking happy thoughts, looking at the bright side, taking some time to “relax.” I wish those things worked so I could take a few minutes, think about happy, trivial things, get back on my horse, and ride into a crazy-free sunset. But it doesn’t work that way. It takes effort, concentration, therapy for me to get there, and I always get sent back, right to square one. I know, though, that for a few months, I will get reprieve, just as soon as this is over. I know I’ll be truly happy again, taking advantage of the wonderful life I know that I actually have. Until then, I will push back against the depression moving against me, so determined to back me against a wall and into small, unlit spaces.