I’ve had depression for months.
I had it in high school, but life got better when I went to college. That was situational depression — a side effect of living in the closet.
This is different.
Something happened last September. I can’t talk about it yet. Someday I will, but not now. It was a hard emotional blow, the hardest one I’ve been dealt.
September and October were blurs. I stopped eating. Then the holidays came.
This city gets bitter in winter. Not cold, just dull and grey. Winds come in from the ocean and bite.
I worked in a restaurant on River Street. Christmas Day was rainy. I went to the club, got very drunk, and sang karaoke.
I was sadder than I’ve ever been in my life. I called a few hotlines late at night in my car, scared I would do something stupid.
When you’re an atheist, you don’t have any self-comforting tricks to explain why bad things happen. Suffering is suffering. There’s no meaning behind any of it. It simply is.
Without a dictator lording over everything, nature is cold comfort. It will exist without me. It will hardly notice if I’m gone. A few people would grieve, but the cities would start back up and traffic would be bad the next day with people living their lives.
When I’m gone, white dwarfs will birth in star clusters as old as the universe itself. What am I? Tectonic things move above and below us, very slow and very fast. Our histories amount to a nanosecond of geological time. We are painfully small.
I realized my depression was taking me to dark mental places.
Religious people claim that tragedy turns people into believers. I’m not convinced. The last thing I want to do is get down on my knees and beg for grace and guidance. I have more self-respect than that.
I want to spit at god. If he exists, I want to hurt him back.
I’ve been running through Savannah late at night. I’ve never been a runner, but lately it’s been helping me clear my head. The streets are dead at 3 AM.
The thought of suicide has come up. When you’re this sad, living and not living are even choices, a pendulum that may swing one way or the other.
Suicide is an interesting thought experiment for a nonbeliever. Without god, why life? Without implicit value, the only thing you lose in death is sensory experience, along with the potential, however small, to feel happy again.
Two weeks ago, I went for a 3 AM run. I ran down Abercorn under the canopy of oak trees.
No one was out. No drunk late-night revelers. I turned around near my classroom and ran back. When I got back at my doorstep, I knew I wasn’t going to kill myself.
My reason why is something an atheist would say: I already have something, so I might as well do something with it.
Life has been deposited on me. It’s been entrusted to my care like a lost dog. It would be a shame to cast it out.
Depression is such an overused term. We forget what it means. It’s the ghost that never leaves the room. It lingers in the floorboards, waiting to strike at any time.
I’ve started to feel happy again. I’m eating better, re-reading Harry Potter (a better antidote than any antidepressant) and have started going to the gym.
I still think about death sometimes, death as this neutral thing that chases me around. It’s important to remember how close we live to mortality. We face it every day and choose, consciously or otherwise, to surrender or to keep charging forward.
I don’t know what I’m going to do now, but I want it to be for my pleasure. I want more great experiences. I want to be in the world and not just observe it. I want to enjoy my time.
I don’t want to be like my parents, cowed in conservative self-denial, terrified of everything, with nowhere to hide but a megachurch.
A note on Harry Potter. I’ve never appreciated the series till now. I get why people fall in love with it, why the fandoms get crazy. Everyone wants to live in a world where magic happens.
Then I think about how black holes work, how a godless universe exploded from plasma into light, and realize that we do. We always have.