We were at a pizza place. She told me that a wise friend had told her that for different people, our ability to be happy ranges on a spectrum. “Some people need to work harder to be happy,” she told me.
“Isn’t that obvious?” I responded. It was not the reaction she probably hoped for, and I felt that she was surprised by my lack of surprise.
“Not to me,” she answered.
“You could exercise. Exercise releases endorphins. Oh, and you could listen to music. Do what makes you happy.”
In my head, I thought “I know. I know. I’ve heard it all before. From parents. From counselors. From myself. From lovers. From teachers. From friends.” In my words, I said, “You don’t understand. But thank you for trying… I really appreciate it.” I really did.
“Thank you?…” A pause. She did not let the conversation fade. “How would you describe how you feel (depression)?”
I could not say anything so coherent in that moment, which is why I am cringing at myself, why I am taking this moment to try to describe what it is I feel. How do you describe your depression to someone who, presumably, has never been depressed? Well, it helps that we are both Biology nerds.
Depression is like a bacteria
It is not an innate part of my being, but feels like something from the outside trying to infect me, trying to become a part of me, live inside me.
Depression is like a phagocyte
And I am the cell it engulfs. I become part of it, which contradicts the bacteria metaphor, but bear with me, because depression is complicated. It can feel like bacteria. It can feel like a phagocyte. It can feel like both at once.
Depression is like a virus
And I am its host. It injects its genes which code for dissatisfaction, discontent, self-loathing, irrationality, and comparison. They replicate. They spread with the goal that the host cell dies
I have tried to cure it.
First, I tried using antibiotics.
They stopped depression from growing for a while.
Antibiotics were movies, music, friends, and art.
But then depression grew resistant to music by altering its shape in such a way that it still functioned but the drug could not bind to it anymore. The depression grew and grew.
It became resistant to movies, deciding that it could feed on feelings of failure and harness the energy to pump the drugs out of its cells as to become untouchable.
Depression became resistant to friendship. It closed its membrane off to love.
Finally, it tried becoming resistant to art. It did whatever it could. It mutated. It got stronger. It continued to grow. But so did I.
The antibiotics are within me. They are not external. I am, at present, not on antidepressants. I am not clinically diagnosed as depressed. I cannot validate these experiences with anything other than my words. But this is what it feels like.