My Great Depression

I remember the very first time I heard the word ‘depressed.’ My eighth-grade boyfriend was breaking up with me, and he told me he was depressed because he wasn’t with his ex-girlfriend anymore. My heart was broken, and I cried through the second half of National Lampoon’s Vacation, alone in my room. I wasn’t depressed, though.

I remember the very first time I heard the word ‘melancholy.’ It was my high school sweetheart that first taught me this word and its meaning. He was often melancholy, and I began to feel similar things to what he described. I knew I was different in high school. I liked to be alone with my thoughts, even then. I didn’t have many close friends, though, and those I did have were a lot like me, mired in sadness more often than normal teens should be. We weren’t emo, though. I still wouldn’t say I was depressed back then.

I wouldn’t know depression until college, and then I knew it with a vengeance. It came before the breakup with my high school (then college) sweetheart. I wasn’t happy anymore. I wasn’t happy with him, even though I loved him and he loved me. I wasn’t happy doing the design work that once brought me a lot of satisfaction. I wasn’t happy living with my best friend, a girl who was loyal and honest and very sweet and generous. When the breakup happened, though, I went deep.

I had always been a good student, but I wouldn’t say I was naturally smart. I had to study hard and study often to get good grades. I was motivated until that time, and I had high expectations of myself. My senior year in college, though, I didn’t care to go to class anymore. I half-assed assignments, and when my professors were generous and gave me second chances, I wasted them. I had to drop a class because the 8am Monday-Wednesday-Friday German lessons just weren’t working for me. I started seeing a psychologist. Her notes to my professors helped me walk the stage to get my Bachelor’s Degree. I was on Prozac. My diet consisted of Dr Pepper and M&M cookies. I roller-bladed for hours every day. I lost a considerable amount of weight without trying. I would shut myself in my room every night and listen to “Everybody Hurts” or “Everyday is Like Sunday.” Seriously. On continuous loop. When I hear those songs now, they’re triggers for me, and they have the power to put me back in that tiny apartment experiencing all the pain and rejection and sadness all over again. I began to have suicidal thoughts. I was afraid for myself.

I’m a spiritual person–not a religious person–but that college boyfriend had given me a student Bible at some point when we were dating. On one particularly desperate night, I went through the Bible, trying to find a passage that applied to me. I finally found Psalm 69, and although not all parts of it fit my situation, enough of it did to make it relevant and incredibly meaningful to me.  I bracketed those parts, and I read them over and over and over again, sometimes twenty to thirty times a night. I’d pray through tears, worried I’d never feel normal again. I wasn’t sure what normal even was anymore, I’d lost so much perspective.

I credit that little piece of the Bible with saving my life, and I still refer back to it in desperate moments. I’ve been taking anti-depressants all of my adult life. Sure, there were months when I thought I was cured and could forego the pills, but I was always fooling myself, and my mother was always the first to notice. “You stopped taking your drugs, didn’t you?” she’d ask. I’d lie at first. Then I’d get the prescription refilled. Then I’d admit the truth to the woman who always knew me best. The pills don’t cure me. They don’t take away the depression. They just take away some of the utter hopelessness and the weight of the world that tends to crush me without them.

The only times I’m truly happy are when I’m writing consistently. Without it, I become overwhelmed and defeated. I feel worthless, like I’m wasting my life away. I don’t know what it is, either. I don’t know if the escape from reality is what I need? Or if I need to clear out the voices in my head? Or if the release of creativity is as much a physiological need as breathing? I’m not sure. I know the majority of other people don’t face this, though, and therefore don’t really understand what goes on in my head. And that frustrates me even more, at times.

Over the past few weeks, I have felt desperate again. I took a month off from writing, trying to catch up on re-reading so I could get into a character’s frame of mind to start writing again. I didn’t expect to be inundated with so many voices, though; with so many characters speaking to me at once. It’s a literal free-for-all in my head these days, and while I should be welcoming it, I’m trying to avoid it because I don’t have the time or energy to let my characters out. My ‘real job’ has become such a stressor that I worry about things long after I go home at night.  This is not what I need in a job, nor is it what I wanted when I took it.

I tell people I can’t continue to do this, and I get empathy, but no one truly understands the desperation I feel. There are moments when I realize I’m never going to get to live the life I want to… and I question my purpose at all. Why would God give me this talent and this passion, and saddle me with other things in life that keep me from doing what I love? I don’t know. I can’t answer that. It devastates me, though. Some nights it consumes me. Other nights, I manage to shut out the doubt long enough to brainstorm or write or market or communicate with readers or do something that connects me to the books and allows me to work toward my dream. I work so hard at it. I want this so badly.

My depression is a part of who I am. As much as it affects me negatively, I know it’s somehow related to the emotional person I am. (I’ve only recently discovered that I’m a Highly Sensitive Person.) I embrace that emotional side of myself whole-heartedly, though, and I accept that depression is a side effect of it. I would rather be this person than someone who’s happy all the time and can’t deeply express or experience real emotion. I didn’t realize what a gift this was until I started writing–or rather until people started reading my books. I accept the gift, though. I want to be able to share it with people… but I have to find a way to overcome the desperation, to deal with the parts of my life I don’t like, and to take whatever free time I have and use it for something productive that makes me feel whole. Sometimes, that means writing. Tonight, it means praying.

Psalm 69

9 thoughts on “My Great Depression

  1. Lori~ not so many months ago Shannon Eubinger said I needed to read this great book, Emi Lost and Found. I have to tell you I have NEVER been a reader until recently. So, I got this book and you know what happened from there. I became one of your stalker fans!! Honestly, I have never experienced nor read something that had such a profound impact. I kept reading then re-reading your works of art. Then, I realized it wasn’t just the books, it was YOU that had touched my life. I have never met you. I’ve never talked to you but I feel like there is some connection I have with you. When you posted last week about the beginning of a friendship I was so touched and honored really. I was going to surprise you but will tell you that I am going to the Book Bash in Orlando. While my husband thought I flipped my lid he said if it’s what you want to do, do it! I believe in you. I believe in your work. All I can tell you is that I KNOW your talent will be shared with the rest of the world. Like life, it sucks that this journey for you is so trying. I have made it my mission to do what I can to make this happen for you. Guess you kinda figured that out! Look at the last month. I see more reviews more sales I’m sure. I went back to work today and the gals were sharing the contacts others made with them from the Facebook picture promoting your work. Kinda like Field of Dreams only for you, “If You Write It, They Will Come” and they better buy the whole damn series!!! And they will. I don’t know how, but I feel so sure of this. More than of anything I have felt in quite some time. I can relate to the struggles of the day job. It is probably one of those necessary steps to get you where you want to be. Maybe this experience will somehow be worked into your writing, hopefully from Matty’s perspective!!! The voices you hear need to be heard by your many readers. This special person that has connected to her fans and actually interacts with us, the only good that will come from Facebook as far as I’m concerned is the most generous and giving soul that is Lori Otto. My sweet Poppet, I can only thank you for what you share with us. I will keep you tucked away in my thoughts and prayers. ~Jo

    1. Wow, Jo Ann. I’m overwhelmed by your compliments and confidence in me. And you’re coming to Book Bash?! YAY! I have these fears that it’ll just be my friend and me at my table, so it makes me happy someone I ‘know’ will be there, and even happier that it’s you.

      You have done and continue to do so much for my spirits. I know I’m a little fragile and seem down more often than not… but it is just a very trying time for me. I want to get back to writing. I have people actually asking me to finish stuff, and I won’t lie, it’s a little scary. I do know I’m capable of delivering a good story. I only hope it can live up to expectations. 🙂

      Thank you for including me in your prayers. That means a lot to me, because there are times when I do need more than I think I can provide myself.

      I’ll be so happy to meet you in June. I know one other ‘fan’ who wants to plan a little get together, so I hope you’ll join us when we decide what to do.

      I truly appreciate all you’ve done. I’m printing the picture you guys took and will be hanging it with my other inspirational things by my computer. It makes me smile, and I need that these days. (The Hello Kitty pic makes me smile, too. I’m [ ] <– that close to going out and getting one, but I'll need Andrea to make a ribbon-tie. I am NOT crafty like that.) 😉

      ((hugs)) to you, and I'll get to meet you in 137 days!

      1. Of course I believe in you. And as far as your writing goes, you always deliver extraordinary stories. You could never let any of your fans down as we are hooked on your style. And your style can change from time to time, That’s ok. We follow your work because it comes from you, whatever that may be. And for those that don’t get that, well that issue belongs to them!!!! I can’t wait for June and would LOVE to be part of the get together. I must tell you the thought of actually meeting you is a little overwhelming, in a great way. I will warn you, I will either cry or hug you, probably both!!! 🙂 I never thought in a gazillion years thought I would ever meet and chat with an author. I’m thinking a celebratory glass (or bottle) of wine is in order. Until later my dear Poppet. ~Jo

      2. I’m going to be equally overwhelmed. I have social anxiety. My friend, Katie, said she will be feeding me Xanax as needed. J/k. Hopefully I won’t need it.

        But still, I can’t wait!! So far, no one that I know will be there is frightening at all. Y’all are all so incredibly sweet.

  2. Lori/Friend/Lovely Human Being,

    You are not meant to be unhappy, and you will not lose your gift(s) when joy comes into your life. “Why would God give me this talent and this passion, and saddle me with other things in life that keep me from doing what I love?” I have felt this frustration and yelled nearly the exact question to my mom and my husband . . . and God; and added, “What does He want from me?!?” I have been heartbroken and devastated. I have convinced myself that I can never have what I want – what I need.

    I am personally amazed(!!!) by what you have accomplished. With all the love in my heart, I tell you this: you ARE the words. They live in you. They will never leave you. They ARE you.

    Be kind to yourself and just . . . keep . . . writing!

  3. You wake up every day and go to a job you don’t want to do. And you get there on time! And you’re productive even though you’re doing something you don’t want to. And then you go home and write wonderful stories for us. You’re my hero.

  4. Wow Lori! I’m speechless…I’m thrilled that you have found a way to rise from your depression and channel your sensitive side in doing what you truly love-write, and write you can! You have an amazing and uncanny ability to connect to your readers through your real-life stories, characters and feelings. Let those “voices” continue talking to you in your head because we, your readers, need more writers like you who know and try their best to connect and communicate with us! You are a God-sent gift to all us❤!

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