Valley Girl With a Brain

Questioning, like, everything

Growing up gets me down

Why I'm depressed, and why psychology says it's good for me.

I've been in Chicago for almost five months. The weather is warming up and the city is beautiful. Everyone wears Cubs gear, it seems, and I finally know how to navigate my way around without staring at a map for two hours on the train.

Wonderful, right?


Not exactly.

Even as I write this, I find myself trying to think of a way to leave this place. Don't get me wrong. Chicago is an incredible city. I fell in love with it before I even got here, but I had these high expectations that it would transform my life in this remarkable way. Like I would be a completely new person-- smarter, cooler, different...

I am doing new responsible things: I now subscribe to the Wall Street Journal; I write stories about revenue and profit (I even know the difference!); I wake up at 6:30 a.m. for an 8 a.m. class; I take vitamins and drink this terrible tasting green health drink daily; I attend spin class regularly.

These are things that I never ever thought I would be able to do. I never considered myself much of a business savvy kind of gal. Spending money and doing my taxes have been the extent of my financial abilities. The last time I took vitamins were of the Flintstone variety, and I refused to consume anything but the orange ones. And spinning? I used to watch the spin class while I was on the elliptical and feel sorry for those poor saps, who would sweat and cycle their brains out, only to go nowhere.

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I've changed my schedule, my habits, and my lifestyle. But has it changed me?

Not really.

I think the problem is I don't feel at home here. Another problem is I don't feel at home anywhere.

The last five years for me have been an emotional whirlwind of travel. I spent a year in Japan, then came back to L.A., took trips to Peru and Nepal, and then four months in New York. Now, at least a year, in the Midwest.

Before I left to go somewhere, I always felt the same intense anxiety. I know it sounds crazy, but I had this irrational fear that I would die my first night alone in a strange new place. Once I got through that first night, though, I was pretty much fine and was able to enjoy the rest of my trip.

I think it was because I knew that I could always go home. I have always loved the notion of home-a safe haven where everything is familiar and comfortable.

But now, I feel as if I have lost that sense of security that I usually associate with my house in L.A. Last time I visited, everything looked the same, but I didn't feel completely comfortable. I spent my first night there, nervous, anxious, worried I wouldn't be alive the next morning.

Since then, I've found myself wondering, what the hell happened? Why did my feelings suddenly change?

Is this what growing up feels like? Because, if it is, it's awful.

So, yea, this is kind of depressing. Sorry.

But you know me. I seek an explanation to everything. It turns out, that even depression might be a good thing.

(I'm convinced that I can find a psychologist to corroborate any theory in the world.)

According to scientists, depression encourages victims to become stronger, better able to cope with challenges, and achieve more.

Apparently, Abe Lincoln, Sir Issac Newton and Beethoven were among some of history's most successful sufferers of depression. According to this, even Micky Dolenz was a sad monkey.

"Studies suggest sadness could have a protection function. For example, an ape that doesn't obviously slink off after it loses status may be seen as continuing to challenge the dominant ape - and that could be fatal."

Paul Keedwell, a Cardiff University psychiatrist, suggests that this pensive reflection can help us understand ourselves better:

"Depression may bring about a ‘rebirth' because it removes self-delusion. There is some evidence from scientific studies to show that depressed people are rather more realistic in their thinking than "healthy" individuals - the phenomenon of ‘depressive realism'."

As much as I wish depression made me happy, I still have my doubts.

You know who else was depressed?

Kurt Cobain, Alexander McQueen. Seung-Hui Cho.


I wonder if these individuals truly reaped these benefits of depression.

I'm sure the above psychologists really meant, a little depression wont kill you. Still, have you ever really been able to negotiate with sadness? Like, hey sadness, I'll give you $20 if you last only until Tuesday. I think one of the potent things about depression is its powerful ability to take over your mind. Suddenly, a helpless, weak, and overall annoying version of you wields control-- oftentimes, in a way that feels like it's going to last "forever."

Moreover, it turns out, the most depressed people aren't necessarily the most likely to take their lives.

According to Dr. Stephen Younker, the people most at risk of suicide are not the most severely depressed. They don't have the energy for it.

He says that the severely to moderately depressed people are the most likely candidates.

As REM once wisely sang, everybody hurts, sometimes.

Is there a cure? Should there be a cure? Is it called Xanax?

I don't think there's a right answer. But here is a bit of wisdom from my mom, courtesy of our Korean ancestry:

Even if the sky falls on you, there is a hole that you can escape from.

 

Follow me on Twitter! (I'll follow you too!) ThisJenKim

Jen Kim is a former Psychology Today intern and a graduate of Northwestern University.

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