I can’t remember when I watched Splendor in the Grass, but it must have been late high school, early college. In the movie, (Spoiler Warning*) Natalie Wood goes crazy trying not to have sex in a small Kansas town in the 1920s. She goes so crazy that she has to go to a mental hospital, where she gets to wear white clothes and paint pretty pictures. She eventually gets better and gets to leave the mental hospital, at which time she goes in search of the boy who led to her breakdown, Warren Beatty. But he’s now living in a little shack with a new wife, and it’s very sad.
I hadn’t thought about this movie in a long time, until the other day. Between my freshman and sophomore years of college I had a rough summer mentally, and was diagnosed with depression and OCD. I’ve always had OCD symptoms, and will continue to, but that summer something happened in my brain that made me totally unable to handle my OCD. I went back to school that fall with some medicine and orders from my parents to go to the on-campus counseling center. I took my medicine and went to counseling, and eventually started to feel better. But it was hard, and a lot of days I had a really hard time going to class. My roommates were very supportive, though, and Todd helped me a ton. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have graduated from college without him.
During this time, I would think about Natalie Wood. Like when I really wasn’t up to dealing with my roommates, as supportive as they were. Or when I just didn’t think it was possible for me to do some homework or write a paper. I would look at my computer screen and really think there was no possible way I would be able to do what I needed to do. I couldn’t visualize it happening. I would think of Natalie, and wish that I could go to a mental hospital, too. It sounds kind of sad to say that, but I wasn’t wanting to hurt myself or others, I just wanted to go somewhere where nothing was expected of me except to wear white clothes and paint pretty pictures.
I eventually graduated from counseling and college, but I continued to take my depression medication. I lowered the dosage a couple of times, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be taking some form of depression medication for the rest of my life. I’m even more sure of that now, since I lowered my dosage a couple of months ago. I was feeling fine until a few days ago. I was sad, on the verge of tears, hating what I was in the middle of doing, and feeling really unsure that I was ever going to be able to do what was expected of me. I thought about how nice it would be to just walk away, but I realized I couldn’t really do that unless I had a good excuse, like a mental breakdown. And then I thought of Natalie Wood again. I hadn’t thought of her in years. And I realized that what I was feeling wasn’t a bad day or a tired day, that it was depression. I thought back to the previous week and realized that I’d gradually started to feel more and more depressed, but I hadn’t realized that was what it was. So I’m going to call my doctor and go back up to my previous dosage.
And here’s the point of this post: Some of you may have symptoms of depression, but maybe you don’t know it. When I go through down periods I think I’m being immature, or maybe I’m just tired, or maybe the situation I’m in is just really bad. And those things can be true and can exacerbate depression, but depression feels different than just being sad. I’ve been on medication now for nearly 10 years, and I can tell you that I still feel happy and sad and angry and excited, the medication doesn’t dull those feelings. But it does take away the feeling of depression, which I can’t find words to describe, but I can tell you it’s different. So if the commercials for depression medications are starting to make sense to you, or you’ve felt down for a long time and can’t quite figure out why, I’d recommend you see a doctor or therapist. It’s possible you’re not just tired, or unable to handle your feelings like you think you should, or in a job you don’t like. We all go through ups and downs, valleys and peaks, but you don’t have to feel depressed. It’s different, and you don’t have to go through it.
To finish, I’d like to say that I know every person with depression goes about treating it in different ways, and I’m definitely not trying to tell you how you should treat yours. But if you think there’s a possibility you have depression, I think you should talk to someone who knows what they’re doing and figure out ways to feel better.
*Don’t know if this is necessary for a 50-year-old movie, but I don’t want any of you mad at me.