This Is What Depression Feels Like 

I’ve had clinical issues with depression for 24 years now. I’ve been in and out of therapy, mostly in, for all of that time. I’ve been medicated for it for the better part of 19 of those years. I know the symptoms. I understand the importance of my medicine. I do everything I can to not be in an acute state, but it still happens.

It doesn’t help that my body has always had a love-hate relationship with the only antidepressant I’ve had a significant positive reaction to. Effexor is my savior and my torturer. It is fickle. It is capable of a level of pettiness that would cause Gossip Girl characters to screech obscenities.

So when I legitimately forgot to take it until nine hours after it was due, my nervous system decided to revolt. Two hours before I remembered, I was crying over a television show being watched in another room. My eyes were overwhelmed by light. My ears couldn’t handle sound. I felt tired. I felt scared. I felt like my life was meaningless and that I served no real purpose in the world. I felt like I should just go ahead and die.

I’m lucky. The years of therapy and medicine, of knowing what my disease is like, of knowing why grieving has increased my risk of suicide for a while,1 and of knowing that the disease was lying to me made me start thinking: why do I feel like this right now? Because I have the tools & skills to do so, I started figuring out what happened. 

When I fixed my breakfast, I didn’t take my Effexor because I was trying to avoid taking any of a new brand of Fish Oil supplements.2 I actually missed several medications & supplements while avoiding that one thing. And that sent me into a tailspin. 

That’s all it takes. 

One mistake. 

One bad decision. 

Depression takes advantage of those mistakes and decisions. It is opportunist, but with the right tools, you can fight back. And if it’s a chronic issue, like mine, that will just be one battle, or maybe just a skirmish, in a lifelong war with it. But I’m willing to fight because I prefer it to the alternative. 

Photo via Visualhunt.com


  1. Especially after a brief Facebook encounter where someone decided to discuss a graphic rumor of how she had died. 

  2. It’s too fishy. 

Defined Parameters

“You know how I don’t like to describe people or the things they do as evil? What she wrote was truly evil.”

That was how I described Amanda Lauren’s essay describing an ex-friend’s life with schizoaffective disorder and that friend’s death to my mother. I had already ranted to my father and complained on social media. I couldn’t tell my mom that this total stranger was happy her mentally ill friend was dead. I knew that if I told her that that I would break down. Each time I’ve thought about what was written, I’ve had to stop myself from crying or screaming or begging to be taken to the hospital because my mind starts going down the all too familiar path of my-friends-and-family-would-probably-be-happy-if-I-died-too. It was probably a path that “Leah” was familiar with as well.

There was always something about her that wasn’t quite right.

Lauren’s essay is narcissistic drivel at best. Her friend wasn’t living up to a standard that she expected of her, so she wrote her off. She could justify this lack of understanding by saying her friend failed her. 

“Leah” didn’t clean her house, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” didn’t have steady relationships, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” was a cam girl, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” had delusions, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” pursued her crush and failed in a job Lauren secured for her, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” had body image issues, so she was undeserving of respect. 

It didn’t stop at her friend’s failures. The friend’s parents also failed her. Because “Leah”‘s parents didn’t magically cure their daughter of an incurable disease, they failed their daughter and failed Lauren because now she had to deal with their daughter’s erratic behavior. Every struggle “Leah” went through was actually harder on Lauren because the world is apparently all about her.1

Lauren’s lack of compassion was horrid, but her choice to use a platform like xoJane during Mental Health Awareness Month to publish a tale highlighting her ignorance was almost worse. This is a month when mental health patients, caregivers, advocates, and healthcare providers try to educate others. It’s a month to become more considerate of the day-to-day struggles for mentally ill people. Lauren and xoJane could have explained what schizoaffective disorder is, how it impacts people who have the issue, and why they behave the way that they do. They could have explored the actual suffering of “Leah” and not focused on the self-involvement of Lauren. 

I can’t understand how a parent would let their child go on like this. Clearly, she was suffering and severely ill. If her disease were physical, would they have let her deteriorate to that point?

Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic illness. It is sometimes considered a spectrum disorder because it involves overlapping symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder. It is not as well understood as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression because it isn’t studied as often and is less common; it is seen in 0.3% of the population compared to 1.1%, 2.6%, and 6.7% for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, respectively. It isn’t well recognized by doctors or therapists; a lot of patients with it are diagnosed with a mood disorder or with schizophrenia first. It impacts men and women at the same rate, but, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, men typically develop it earlier than women. It can be treated, in most cases, by self-management, medication, and therapy, but people who have it are at risk for substance use disorders, suicide, attention deficit disorder, and anxiety disorders. Schizoaffective disorder is caused by genetics, brain chemistry, brain structure, stress, and drug use.

There are two types of schizoaffective disorder: bipolar and depressive. If the person has mixed or manic episodes, they have the bipolar type; otherwise, it’s the depressive. Unlike other situations, it’s actually better to have the bipolar type. Having it is less likely to result in suicide than having the depressive type. It is considered by some mental health professionals to be more severe than mood disorders, but less severe than schizophrenia. 

Because it is classified alongside schizophrenia as a psychotic disorder, it is more difficult to find providers willing to treat it. And treatments may be harmful to patients. Or they may not work. 

In my case, I have had many therapists “pass me off” to colleagues. I have tried multiple antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics. I’ve had many that didn’t work. Most have caused weight gain, including two that caused gains of fifty pounds or more. I’ve had seizures as a result of one medication. I’ve had a variety of less severe reactions to others. I even developed a temporary medicine-induced case of hyperthyroidism. Eventually I was switched to a high dose of an antidepressant, somewhat regular therapy, and self-management. 

I will always have this disorder. My parents can’t make it go away. Medicine can’t either. 

But I can cut people like Amanda Lauren out of my life. She thought “Leah” was toxic because of her issues, but, from my perspective, it was Lauren who was toxic. Yes, there were negative behaviors exhibited by “Leah”, but she was only behaving that way because of her illness. What was Lauren’s excuse? Why was she so petty, so judgmental? And why did she feel the need to cast herself in the role of victim? Why does she feel no shame in her words? 

I don’t understand how one person can be so selfish, petty, and cruel. As those are personality traits that can be traced back to parenting, I wonder why her parents let her attitude deteriorate to this point. Shouldn’t they have done something before their child became this remorseless beacon of hate?

Photo credit: Cameron Bathory via Visualhunt.com / CC BY
Updated: May 21, 2016 at 7:42 pm: Changed link to essay to one from archive.is as the Google cache link has updated to the “apology” by Jane Pratt


  1. Donald Trump could replace Melania with her. They’d be perfect for one another.