Dealing with Depression: I’m an Author?

Depression and Anxiety suck but I've found that writing can actually help.

I’ve written more this year than I have in my entire life, but a majority of my work hasn’t yet appeared on this website. Most of my writing is locked away inside a book that I’ve been writing for a while about my junior year. Obviously most of it is about depression, but there are plenty of other topics too. As I mentioned before, I took up writing as a form of therapy, but I quickly found that I couldn’t get enough of it. Pouring out my thoughts onto paper (or a computer screen in this case) made me feel like a weight was being lifted from my shoulders, and it wasn’t long before my journal snowballed into a 10,000 word story.

At that point, I decided that I would do something that seven-year-old Donovan would have loved; I was going to write a book. Back in elementary school, I would occasionally have what I thought was a great idea for a story, so I would sit down to write my masterpiece. The problem with me being seven at the time was that I stayed focused on my “stories” for a whopping thirty minutes before getting bored and finding something else to do. Now that I’m a bit older and have more patience, writing a book doesn’t seem like such a challenge.

And it wasn’t much of a challenge really; it was just countless hours of me pouring my thoughts out onto paper, and with each of those hours I began to feel better. Finally, after a couple months of writing, I’ve completed a rough draft that has around 43,000 words. In order to celebrate, I’ve picked a random chapter and decided to share it with all of you. Please feel free to tell me what you think, and I’ll keep your feedback in mind as I spend the next few weeks making revisions.

The Actual Book Part

That feeling of control lasted through the rest of the semester. I was trained for work at Publix and quickly learned the ropes, I continued to do well in school and maintained all A’s, and my relationship with Leanne got better with each passing day. The weeks, dominated by time spent both doing schoolwork and working at Publix, flew by, and before I was truly aware of what was happening the semester was over. Finally I was free of the burden of schoolwork and could focus on more important things, like playing video games and spending time with Leanne.

That was the plan anyways. During the last few weeks of the fall semester I had noticed an occasional resurfacing of the Thought. It happened only rarely, but it was always alarming, especially when I would have the Thought seemingly without reason. I would get depressed to the point that I thought killing myself would be better than continuing to deal with the stress of school and work and running and everything else I was juggling at the time. After a while I would snap out of it and remember that I no reason to kill myself, and so I never ended up taking action. Logically I knew that I had plenty to live for, but logic didn’t seem to apply when I got depressed. It was weird.

Winter vacation, it seemed, would give me a break from the stressors that had been triggering my depression. That was not the case. I did have plenty of fun during the break, and I spent a lot of time with both my family and Leanne. Outside of that, however, I was getting depressed more and more frequently, and for longer periods of time. The Thought was becoming a much more regular presence in my mind, and I feared that if I allowed it to remain it could cost me my life.

No time was too happy, and no day too sacred, for the Thought to invade my mind. It happened on Christmas Eve as we celebrated my father’s birthday and again on Christmas Day, even as I enjoyed my new presents and the wonderful dinner my mom had cooked for us.

Okay, what the hell? I thought. It was weird enough before, but it’s Christmas Day. I’m with my wonderful family, I have a lot of nice presents, and there is absolutely nothing for me to be sad about. There’s no possible reason for me to have such a burning desire to be dead right now.

It was there nonetheless. I ended up excusing myself from Christmas dinner and retreating to my room to lie down and think. I felt so ashamed to be thinking the things that I was. Terrible images flashed into my head; first it was my dead body hanging from the ceiling fan, then it was crimson blood trickling from my freshly slit writs, and finally it was the icy feeling of steel cutting through the flesh of my throat. Where were these thoughts coming from? Surely it couldn’t be me thinking them. They were too dark, too twisted to be mine, but they were. I started crying, sobbing into my pillow as quietly as I could. I didn’t want my parents to know what was going on, not until I could understand what was happening to me. I cowered in my room for a while until I felt I had calmed down enough to go back outside. When my parents asked where I had been, I lied and said I was tired. I got the feeling they didn’t believe me, but they left me alone for the time being.

It had taken me a frustratingly long amount of time to relax, and I knew my parents were onto me. Eventually I decided to explain myself, knowing that if I hid what had happened much longer my mom and dad would start to question me. I asked my dad to come talk with me, and he entered my room and took a seat. I opened up slowly; I wasn’t sure what to say, or how much I wanted to divulge.

“I’ve been having these … thoughts,” I began. “Bad ones, about hurting myself.” I studied his eyes, trying to gauge his reaction, but his facial expression remained still as he thought.

“Are these the same ones you were having at Apalachee?” he inquired, referring to my first meltdown after a cross country race. I nodded, too ashamed to speak again. I could feel my cheeks turn red, and my face became hot with anger. I couldn’t believe I was doing this to him again. What kind of terrible son was I? He remained quiet for a few moments as he considered what I had told him, and then he spoke again.

“How often are you having these sorts of episodes?”

“I don’t know exactly. They don’t come around too often, maybe ten percent of the time, max,” I answered. It was the best assessment I could give him, it was hard to think straight when I felt so terrible. He still seemed worried, but the relief at knowing that I wasn’t feeling this way all the time was clear to see in his eyes.

“Well, I know this probably isn’t what you’d like to hear, but at least it could be worse,” he said. “Just promise me that you’ll keep coming and talking to me or Mom when it happens, and if it starts happening more than thirty percent of the time we’ll talk to Dr. Kelch.”

“Sure dad, I’ll do that,” I answered. I did not want to go to the doctor for this, I felt like enough of a freak just for thinking about killing myself in the first place. If I admitted to Dr. Kelch that I could actually feel the burning sensation on my neck as the image of a knife slicing through it forced its way into my mind, I was gonna end up in the insane asylum for sure. I couldn’t allow that to happen, so I was determined to remain below ten percent.

* * *

The trend that was beginning to establish itself – me vowing to do something and then failing to do so – continued. First I was unable to stay awake during a run, next I failed to break 17:00 during cross country season, and now I was failing to control my depression. It took me only a day or two to pass the thirty percent mark that my dad and I had agreed upon, and by the time a week had passed I was over fifty percent. The depression manifested itself in a variety of ways; sometimes it was a sudden, uncontrollable urge to cry, other times it was a barrage of horrifying thoughts of suicide, but more often than not it was just a feeling of emptiness. I had no purpose; I drifted in and out of each room in the house searching for something, anything that could arouse some sort of emotion. Occasionally I would succeed in using video games, or running, or some other activity to distract myself and the emptiness would go away, but most of my time while I was depressed was spent lying on my bed and staring at the wall. It was boring, but so was the thought of doing anything else. I didn’t care anymore.

My parents and my sister, Kaitlin, who was home from college for the holidays, noticed this easily. I wasn’t acting like my usual self, and though they did everything they could to make me feel better, I showed little improvement. Leanne did what she could to help too, and when I spent time with her or with my family my mood did improve a little. This was always a temporary fix, however, as they could only spend so much time helping me before necessity forced them to attend to their own lives, and I was left alone once again. I didn’t fault them for it; rather, I was glad that they didn’t feel the need to hover over me 24/7. My depression had begun to dominate my life, and I didn’t want it to start ruining the lives of the people I loved. It had caused more than enough harm already.

Each day had started to feel like a small eternity, but winter break still passed with enough speed that I soon found myself facing the prospect of returning to school. The New Year began, and suddenly I only had a few days to get my act together if I wanted to make it through the school days without sobbing. My parents and I talked about how I was feeling, and together we determined that a doctor visit was necessary. It was clear enough that I was clinically depressed, and it was going to take medicine to make me feel better. I was apprehensive initially; I had seen the antidepressant commercials on TV and listened to the long lists of undesirable side effects, the most notable of which was “increased likelihood of suicidal thoughts and actions”. I already had plenty of suicidal thoughts, I did not need to add any more to the mix, and I definitely didn’t want to mess with suicidal actions. That was one thing I had managed to avoid so far.

Despite my reservations, I ultimately agreed with my parents that medicine would probably help. Anything would be better than what I was dealing with now. We made the call to the doctor’s office and set up our appointment for the sixth of January, a Wednesday during my first week back at school. We had that Monday off, so I only needed to make it through Tuesday before I could finally get some medicine. It was just one day, I could handle that.

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3 Thoughts to “Dealing with Depression: I’m an Author?”

  1. wow reading this is like reading my own story. I too got depressed in the Fall semester of last year still dealing with it on and off. I wish you well.

    1. I’m glad you were able to connect with my writing. Hopefully the entire book will get published when I finish my revisions! I hope you continue to feel better, you are stronger than you realize

  2. Zay

    Donavon, thank you for sharing your writing. It’s wonderful. I teach writing at our community college. It’s funny, but I’m home for another “sick” day dealing with anxiety and depression. It’s my second day in a row. I’m embarrassed to call in sick because I feel the folks I have to tell this to probably roll their eyes and feel that I should just get over it. It’s not that easy is it? I will begin writing again because of what you shared. Thank you.

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