Health And Wellness

The Best Depiction Of Depression

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sad woman laying in bed

I used to think no one had depression. Then I thought everyone had depression, just some of us are better at hiding it than others.

I’m flabbergasted that there are legit people out there who exist without the ongoing, lifelong battle of an internal monster actively working to make you feel like garbage.

This article isn’t about meds or therapy. I’ve had both through varying degrees my whole life. Everyone is different. Everyone’s experiences with either are different. There’s no one-size-fits-all for depression, despite what your insurance wants you to believe.

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TV shows tend to make the subject a single-episode character arc. The shows that drag it out tend to take it to an extreme level, showing the character spiraling down until they hit rock bottom. Cue friends and an intervention. All is well and the credits roll.

I don’t know a life without depression. It’s just always there. I look at pictures of myself as a small child and remember those feelings of depression. This wasn’t something that arrived as an adult. I don’t know a life without it.

Depression has phases. It’s possible to go extended periods where you’re on top of the depression battle (if you’re lucky). It never goes away. It’s the ivy growing in your backyard that you can nuke in a weekend with a shovel and tenacity but it’ll come back. It always does.

While others listen to music when working, I have the TV playing. It’s the kind of background noise I can drown out and ignore but also serves as a quick distraction without effort. Covid Life ramped that up as I worked from home. Divorce Life made it a necessity because a quiet house reminds me that I don’t have my kids, which is more fuel for the depression weeds growing in my brain.

My current TV binge is You’re The Worst on Hulu. I don’t know anyone that watched it; Hulu recommended it because it knows that I’m a complete asshole who enjoys shows about other assholes. It’s a dramedy centered around the relationship of two selfish jerks.

As with most television jerks, there is an underlying cause for their flawed personalities. Jimmy is a dick because he grew up with an emotionally absent and verbally abusive father (yes, it has plenty of comedic moments). Gretchen is a b*tch because she grew up with overbearing and uptight parents.

Jimmy wonders where Gretchen goes at night and follows her, assuming she’s having an affair. It turns out that she sits in her car at night and cries. She explains to him that it’s something she’s dealt with her whole life and that it’s not a big deal.

Gretchen’s depiction of depression is spot-on. She has an ongoing need to escape and cry for no particular reason.

It’s such a second nature act for her that she even plays mindless mobile games while sobbing. If you’ve suffered from depression, it’s a small detail that you may not have noticed: time doesn’t stop when managing the emotional acts of depression. You can feel utterly suicidal while simultaneously sobbing and doing laundry.

Like Gretchen, I’ve got those mindless cell phone games too.

Her symptoms get worse as episodes progress. The show doesn’t revolve around Gretchen’s mental health. It shows life carrying on despite her mental health.

When Gretchen isn’t crying, she’s numb. She explains to Jimmy how she feels nothing. “I feel nothing. About anything. Dogs, candy, old Blondie records, nachos, you, us, nothing.”

There’s a misconception that depression is long-term sadness. Instead, it feels like a boomerang between crippling emotional pain and feeling like a hollow, soulless robot going through the motions of life. Gretchen’s explanation shows how easy it is to look like an uncaring asshole when really, she has no feelings to give. She’s not trying to be a jerk; there is simply no emotion inside.

Sometimes, Gretchen is immobile. I don’t mean she’s napping. I mean immobile. That’s what it feels like when depression hits so hard that you can’t get out of bed. It’s not feeling sleepy. It’s not exhaustion. It’s paralysis and simply existing, letting time pass, is the best someone can do.

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“I’m scraped out. I’m that car we sent to Mars flipped upside down so the sun can’t reach my solar panels. I’ve always been able to flip myself back over eventually, but I ran out of times.”

Yeah. It’s as depressing as it sounds.

When I first moved out during my divorce, there were plenty of distractions to get me through it all. My emotional focus was on the kids and my physical focus was on renovations. While I hated the constant barrage of contractors every day, it was a relief to not be alone (this coming from an introvert who hates people). It was a Band-Aid on the days when I didn’t have my kids.

It’s been six months. There is no more unpacking. Most of my home improvement projects are complete and the rest are pending due to my lack of cash (being on one income for the first time in 17 years sucks balls). 

On days that I don’t have my kids, I let the house become an absolute mess so that I can distract myself later with the cleanup. For someone who thrives on orderliness and efficiency, it’s an odd coping mechanism.

My boss was fired and since I’m working from home, no one gives a sh*t what I do as they scramble to find his replacement as well as the office return plan. I can easily go an entire week doing at most 10 minutes of work. I could do more. But as Gretchen said, I feel nothing.

Feeling nothing means a lack of motivation. I care enough about the things that matter (ensuring my kids have food and buying toilet paper) but that’s the extent of it right now.

In one episode of You’re The Worst, Gretchen tells Jimmy that he can’t fix her. She explains that she’s had it her whole life and that she’s really good at handling it. Anyone who has depression is good at handling it. Like a diabetic who must take insulin, we have no choice but to be good at handling it because life doesn’t allow us to lay in bed for 80 years straight.

There is no “cure” for this. There’s only management via medication, therapy, exercise, unhealthy addictions, and the inevitable unsolicited advice from strangers on the internet with their brand of armchair expertise.

I’m not at my lowest since moving out. Those days were rough. But I still struggle with motivation other than getting up to shovel Twix down my throat before crawling back under the blankets. Despite my marriage being an emotional punch in the face, having extra income allowed me to go places and do things. Money may not buy happiness but it sure as hell makes life easier.

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My kids and I are sick of all the free and low-cost activities one can do in one of the most expensive cities in the US. I’d love to take them away for a weekend in San Diego or Catalina. Those are well outside my budget. I splurged on doughnuts yesterday for breakfast only because we spent the entire weekend indoors having a Simpsons marathon.

Until I rebuild my emergency fund, things like crappy parenting via television marathons are the best I can do (cue the readers who will tell me things like “you can go hiking!” or “you can go to the beach!” or “you can go to free museums!”).

Being frugal requires a lot of planning with little room for spontaneity. I’m praying I can continue to pull myself out of this depressive phase to plan summer activities in the absence of full-time care.

I appreciate the makers of You’re The Worst for depicting depression with such accuracy. To see it represented in such a way makes me feel a little less crazy and more human. This is real life. And it’s not something that can be packaged in a single thirty-minute episode before the credits roll.

Jennifer M. Wilson writes because in real life her humor is allegedly too sarcastic and inappropriate. Follow her on Medium.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.