I want to be happy

Andrew Atkins

I’d like to share something with you all, dear readers.

As an article from Healthline called “Depression and Mental Health by the Numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You” by Ann Pietrangelo highlights, at least 16 million adults have struggled with depression since 2012.

On some level, my heart races just thinking about telling other people that. It’s all fine and dandy for me to make an off-handed comment, turning my diagnosis into a joke: “Why am I tired? I’m depressed.”

But to be serious and face it head-on like this? To share it with other people and be vulnerable?

It’s terrifying.

On some level, I’ve made it a habit to write it off as some sort of combination of circumstance. My dad died. I’m overworked. I miss my family.

But I was depressed before my dad died. I was depressed before I was overworked. I was depressed when I was around family.

That’s a trick I’ve learned, too. When thinking seriously, critically, about my condition, I think: I’m not depressed. I have depression. See, it’s an illness just like the common cold or the chicken pox. It’s a condition — not an identity.

To (over)simplify this: The chemical imbalance that has likely always been lurking in my brain has only grown worse. It reared its ugly head at the end of my sophomore year and roared.

And boy, did I hear it.

Lately, it’s been getting worse.

I’d like to express some of my frustration here. I’m a good student. I’m a hard worker. I try to be a good person. I go to counseling every two weeks. I take the medication every day just like I’m supposed to.

So why am I watching my progress slip through my fingers like wet sand drying out?

I went back to my doctor this week to renew my medication. The nurse, all smiles and good intentions, took my blood pressure and my temperature.

“Just here to renew your prescription?” she asked.

“Yup!” I chirped back.

“These are the best — we can get you in and out!”

I couldn’t help but feel guilty, knowing I would take more time than she thought.

My doctor came in.

“How are you doing?” she asked.

“Things have been getting worse,” I said.

How bizarre is it, though, that in a fraction of a second my brain fired away and boiled everything down to “things.” Things: night sweats, nightmares, lack of motivation, fatigue, apathy.

I digress.

I told my doctor that counseling has been wonderful. That even though things feel worse, I have the skills I need to handle what I’m going through. Just not the energy.

We upped my dose.

But this isn’t a situation that skeptics might claim is a doctor trying to throw more medication at a problem to make it go away. No, this is a doctor and patient working together to try to correct a deep-seated problem. To pull up a stubborn weed with its root to stop it from growing back.

Because I want to be happy. And I won’t quit until I am.

Andrew Atkins is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].