UPDATE: Some studies suggest teenagers shouldn't take SSRIs. I stand by my observation that depressed people conflate their disorder with their identity.

Hey, you! Yes, you: depressed kid! Have you at least tried drugs? It might make a huge difference.

It's unfortunate that the word "depression" is used to describe a complex of mood disorders. Severe depression is unlike dysthymia and both are different from bi-polar disorder. With so many different and conflicting symptoms, I never suspected that I was "depressed". But I was.

Before drugs, that is, for the first 40 years of my life, I did not feel "sad", except occaisionally, just like most people. I did, however, constantly feel angry and irritable. I always figured it was just my personality. I am surly, mean, irritable, a grumpy person. That's just me. Like it or lump it. That was my impression of myself: to others it was a little more clear that I was depressed.

Then in 1999 I decided to quit smoking, and used St. John's Wort to help. Not only did I manage to quit smoking without killing anyone, but I felt better. It was like a buzzing sound in my head, which I had just ignored, was suddenly turned off. Upon consulting with my doctor I switched to Prozac, which is a lot easier (one dose daily instead of four) and somewhat more effective.

Now, when I hear the phrase, "whenever I feel depressed" (followed by some idiotic advice like: why don't you go out and get some exercise?) it sounds absurd to me. Before Prozac I always felt irritable. Always, every day, all day. I could run for miles and I would still feel bad. I could drink and still feel bad. I could snort crank and feel better for a little while, then ten times worse after I crashed. Though the severity of the symptoms did vary somewhat through the seasons, and got particularly bad in the depths of winter, it would be like comparing shadows at night. The difference between before drugs and after drugs is like night and day.

It amazes me when purportedly depressed young people assert they don't want to take drugs. First I think: they can't be suffering from the same illness I do. How can you not want this to stop? Another part of it, though, must be lack of well-established identity. Kids think: that bad feeling is "me", that's my personality. On drugs I would be (or I am afraid I would be) "someone else". For me that sounds ridiculous. Taking Prozac is like taking ibuprofen for sore muscles: you are still "you", just not hurting. Perhaps, though, that's because I have a lifetime of habits and a very well-formed personality and sense of identity. I know who I am. I am not my disorder.

If that's not your experience then maybe you don't suffer from the same chemical imbalance in the brain that I do. Perhaps you have an atypical kind of depression which does not respond well to the usual drugs. Perhaps your problem is your personality. Sucks to be you, I guess.