To: David Wells, 2009
From: David Wells, 2019
I know you’re going through a lot right now. Trust me, I remember. But if you have a second, and you’re feeling up to it, hear me out.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Month. I know… who knew that was even a thing?
It is a thing, and it’s important. Because people are suffering, just like you, and they think they’re alone. And I know you don’t like talking about it; you think it’s embarrassing and you’re ashamed and it makes you feel weak. That’s ok – I’ll do all the talking. I’m going to tell you everything I wish I’d known when I was going through what you’re going through right now.
The first thing I want you to remember is this:
You don’t need a “good reason” to feel depressed.
People are going to notice (let’s be honest, you’re not great at hiding it). And they’re going to ask, “what’s wrong?” They mean well, but a lot of times this question just makes things worse.
Because nothing’s wrong. That’s the whole point.
I mean, if you were to try and answer truthfully, what would you even say? Umm…
“I had a messy breakup.”
“I can’t find a job.”
“I don’t know where my life is going.”
(Cue the tiny violin)
All of these “problems” sound trivial. But that’s exactly why this is so difficult. You are reacting to your circumstances in a way that is disproportionately negative, and you can’t help it. That’s what being depressed is.
Which brings me to my next point: you are wrong. You, are, wrong. Don’t brush this aside – you need to truly understand and internalize the idea that, when you are in this state, you are operating under a flawed mental framework. Take a deep breath, and try to accept that your current perception of the world is scewed. This won’t be easy.
A good way to start is to write stuff down. I remember how you used to write a journal, and sometimes you’d put a number at the top of the page, 1-10, based on how good you were feeling. Then you’d just write about the things and the people and the feelings of the day.
That’s important. Keep doing that. Not only does it help you collect data and possibly identify external factors that contribute to your mood, but writing about how you feel gives you an outlet. It forces you to detach from your thoughts and evaluate them objectively. Many of your problems won’t seem so bad when you see them on paper.
Take your meds. I know, it sucks and it doesn’t feel like it’s doing anything. And I’ve got bad news: it might not be. You’re going to have to try a couple different brands and doses before you figure out what works. Prozac, Wellbutrin… I think Lexapro is the one you eventually landed on. Lexapro to lift the cloud, Xanax to round out the edges.
Careful with the Xanax. I’m serious. By now I’m sure you’ve figured out that it serves you in the same way as alcohol – it turns the volume down. Don’t overdo it. And for God’s sake stop mixing the two. In fact, try to dial back the alcohol in general – it’s slowing your progress, and making it more difficult to figure out what’s working and what’s not.
And get out. Meet people, at places, to do things. Doesn’t really matter who or where or what. Even if it’s just meeting your friends for 25 cent wings and beers at Buffalo Wild Wings and playing video games after. It might feel like you aren’t having a good time, that you’ve forgotten how to have a good time, and that you’re bringing everyone else down. It can feel safer and more comfortable to stay at home under the covers. Don’t do it. Push yourself. Go.
Try not to hurt people. You will, but just try. When you look back on this period in your life, your biggest regrets aren’t going to be about the things that happened to you, but about the things you did to others.
Talk to someone, every day. A friend, a family member, a counselor, someone who will listen and care. But know this: no matter how attentive they are, how gentle their approach or how sound their advice, you’ll always feel like they don’t, exactly, understand what you’re going through. And that’s OK.
Because they don’t.
I’m not gonna lie – it’s a long road ahead. It’s going to a few years before you feel like yourself again. But remember:
This is not who you are. This will pass. And when it does, you’ll be stronger than ever before.
Keep going. Ten years from now your life is going to be amazing.