Let me tell you about a time I went crazy in a not-fun way (unlike the Prince song, which is going crazy in a fun, funky way).
A friend recently posted online about wrestling with their depression and casually noted that some days are better than others. That reminded me of the U2 song “Some Days Are Better Than Others” and that brought back memories of the first major depressive episode I remember going through, during my last year in college.
The thing is, I didn’t recognize it as a depressive episode at the time. In retrospect, it’s seems blindingly obvious that it was. I would lay on my bed, listening to the bleakest of bleak Cure songs and crying (“Hopelessly fighting the devil/Futility/Feeling the monster/Climb deeper inside of me/Feeling him gnawing my heart away/Hungrily/I’ll never lose this pain/Never dream of you again”). My social anxiety was so bad, I couldn’t get myself to walk into stores and restaurants that I’d never been in before. Sometimes I couldn’t even get myself to leave my bedroom when my housemates had friends over. I had suicidal ideation–I didn’t make any suicide attempts, but I came close a couple of times.
One thing I remember clearly is listening to U2’s Zooropa album over and over and over. My favorite U2 albums are the ones they did with Brian Eno, but for some reason, my depressed brain really latched onto Zooropa, the song “Some Things Are Better Than Others” in particular. (That’s not an official video, so it may not play in every region and may not last on YouTube.) I loved the way the lyrics went back and forth playfully between positive and negative imagery, but the lines “Some days you hear a voice/Taking you to another place” really resonated with me. Like Bono’s voice would take me to another place, a world where I didn’t feel so sad, so lonely, so afraid, so unlovable, so ugly, so empty inside. But it was even more than that. I became more and more convinced that the album as a whole was ripe with hidden meanings that I needed to decode. If I could figure out the secret meanings, I would have a way to open a door to another reality. I’d sit on a bus going through my college campus, listening to Zooropa on my Discman, gazing out the bus window, and if a flock of birds suddenly flew across my view, I was sure it meant something, I just wasn’t sure what. Signs and portents were everywhere, their messages just out of conscious reach. I didn’t talk to anyone about this at the time. It’s not that I thought I was crazy because I didn’t, I just assumed no one would understand or be able to help me figure out what the album and the world around me was secretly saying.
Like I said, I can look back now and see what I was going through as something that could have, should have been treated with medication and therapy. Instead, I rode it out, somehow managing to pass all of my classes, go to work, go on dates, go to parties with friends, and otherwise function like a mostly-normal person. But it wasn’t fun. Luckily, I haven’t had a depressive episode since that lasted as long and got as bad. Some days are better than others, and those days were definitely not my better days.