I say "probably", because I've never been diagnosed with it, despite knowingly battling with it since 1994. I know it runs in the family, because Dad has since been diagnosed with it. It's either been bad enough that I couldn't face anyone to do something to deal with it, or else under control or not so bad. These past several years, now that I am taking my St. John's Wort religiously, it has been under control, enough so that I can confidently say that any and all bad days in the past year have been caused by my reaction to external factors, not my biochemical inability to snap back from a bad mood.
I am grateful beyond belief that I have come to a point where medication will keep me on solid ground, and I am grateful to have found a medication that works to keep me there so long as I have good mental hygiene. Too many people do not have that, and I did not have that for too long.
It first got bad in the winter of 1994. My journals from then exist somewhere, most of them. I knew that something was wrong when I had to keep telling myself that I needed to stay alive long enough to see the new Star Trek movie. I was fourteen, everything was more or less going right in my family and school life, I had a cluster of good friends, and I didn't want to be alive anymore.
The movie came and went, and by that time, I had entangled myself with enough things to finish that I couldn't just drop them, and I'd gotten used to the idea that even though at any given moment I was perfectly bubbly and happy, there was this underlying lurking overwhelming woe that could come out of nowhere at the least provocation and eat away any and all of my happiness. I subdivided my brain, and let the happy side of me be in control and face the world, without really realizing just how bad it actually was. This continued throughout high school, with more and less success at keeping the depression under wraps. My everyday public-facing persona was not allowed to understand exactly how bad it was. I did not exactly repress memories, but the guardian persona was the gatekeeper of as many bad emotional memories as possible, and the main persona was not allowed to check those memories out without explicit permission and supervision. Most of my junior year of high school passed in a blur. I was not used to not remembering things, and most of that year had to be stripped of its emotional content before I was allowed to remember it. The catastrophic and epic bad relationship with my then-best-friend Shawn did not help matters at all, as he was self-centered, manipulative, callous, and histrionic. (More so than normal for a teenage boy.)
Each year was worse than the next, with little ability to recover from emotional blows, and quite a lot of deliberately self-destructive behavior. I think I started wearing at least one item of black clothing a day in 1997, as a reminder that anything I said or did was suspect, because I was depressed, and I could not forget this at any cost, or it could mean my life. After the incident that involved some muddy green paint and my beautiful white pirate shirt, I started phasing out coloured clothing altogether.
Things that get worse sometimes start to get better. After the final curtain closed on the Shawn Era, I wound up moving to Arizona (in the wake of BJ). Between one thing and another, I wound up on LJ. (See, I met Sis at school the first day. Then I met Darkside. Darkside's friend had a webcomic. In the message boards for the webcomic, I met godai, who dragged me on to LJ.) On LJ, I met iroshi. Between Darkside and iroshi, my head got a housecleaning, and I got on St. John's Wort.
It got worse before it got better. See, the fact that I was getting counseling for the built-up issues of years meant that all the screaming agony that had been hiding under dull endurance started popping out, and that led to some scary and slightly psychotic acting-out. I would go through phases where I felt that I had recovered, and was doing better than ever, and so I'd stop taking the St. John's Wort. I'd be fine as long as it was in my system, and then I'd coast, and sometimes it would be quite a while until something happened. But, inevitably, something would happen.
Without medication, I do not snap back from emotional blows. I am slowly but surely training myself out of the idea that one poorly-placed word will inevitably ruin my week. When depression is lurking just around the corner, one event will snap me back into it, and I will obsess over that event and how horrible I am, and obsess over the running litany of ways in which I suck, and notable occasions in the past in which I have sucked worse, and how I could have, should have, would have done them better. That's not the case anymore. Sure, I will be put out of sorts by bad stuff happening, but within a few hours (depending on how bad it was) I'll feel better. I could have done things differently, sure, but it's not something to obsess over. I won't get abandoned by my true and close friends; the sort of friends who abandon me weren't really that close to start with, and if I was wrong about how close they are, then I'll just have to keep that in mind for next time. (I'm no longer scared that Darkside will tell me he's sick of me and to stop trying to be his friend. We've known each other too long for that now.)
When my brain chemistry is behaving itself, I am a bright and cheerful person. But even for all that, I know I can't dare let myself forget how tenuous that hold is. I've finally come to understand how it is that people who haven't touched a bit of alcohol in years still think of themselves as alcoholics, and go to meetings. It's part of who you are. It may not dominate your life now, but it did once, and it can never be allowed to do that again.
I'm Azz. I'm not depressed now, but I have depression.