Up until senior year, I was able to maintain some semblance of motivation. I knew that I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know what for. I knew that I wanted to have a future full of opportunities, but I didn’t know what steps to take to get there. I knew that I wanted to get out from under my father’s thumb, but I didn’t know how much lifting it would require, so to speak. All I knew was that my motivation, my reason for even getting out of bed and doing anything worthwhile, was to get the hell out of my situation, to advance, and to conquer.
Depression is funny, though. I had the best intentions in the world, but my brain made it incredibly difficult and even impossible for me to get out of bed and brush my teeth every day.
I tried my best to hide my depression in high school. Its onset was unexpected and the struggle to reach baseline again was long and arduous to say the least. I kept a lot of my feelings as private as possible because I didn’t want to burden others with my baggage. I built a fortress around my emotions and came off very cold as a result. I got into several fights with my parents because they viewed my depressive anhedonia as blatant apathy and a lack of regard for myself, my future, and others.
Halfway into the first semester of my senior year, I decided (or, rather, my depression decided for me) that passing pre-calculus was a hopeless task, as was passing AP environmental science, astronomy, and physics. My first quarter grades had highlighted my less-than-stellar performance, but instead of taking necessary steps to improve my academic standing, I opted to simply “let it ride.” I didn’t see any point in seeking out help to improve things. All those things I had hoped for, like college and independence, were well beyond my reach at that point. Tensions between my parents and me increased exponentially, and my teenage rationale helped me come to the conclusion that if my parents were going to perceive me as a fuck-up, I was going to be the best fuck-up I could be.
Instead of seeking out help to raise my grades in my science and math classes, I threw all of my energy into my English, journalism, and photography classes, as they made me feel, at the very least, apt. I was the editor-in-chief of my high school’s newspaper for a second year in a row. Although I was not as involved as I had been the previous year, I still tried to channel everything I could muster into the production of the school paper.
It was late November and I had stayed after school to put the finishing touches on the December issue. One by one, the staff writers finished their articles, packed up and went home, followed by the content area editors. The other editor-in-chief also went home, her eyes bleary and bloodshot from staring at a computer screen for 4 hours. Finally, after hours of work, I called it a night and packed up as well.
Walking to my car, I had noticed a friend from one of my classes leaning against his car, smoking a cigarette. I called out to him, we said hi, and briefly chatted. We both discretely smoked our cigarettes, looking around to see if school administrators were out to catch us. He informed me that he had stayed after school to help polish a section of the school’s yearbook. We expressed our frustrations about our individual publications for awhile, laughing and commiserating with each other all at once.
As we finished our cigarettes, he paused and asked me if I “smoked.” I looked at the cigarette butt I had just thrown on the ground and then realized that wasn’t what he meant. He was talking about marijuana.
It was the first time I had been asked this question outside of close friends and I was stunned. My drug history at this point in time was sparse. My crush, the guy that came to my birthday party, was straight-edge in high school and I suppose I turned down drugs and alcohol to emulate him. But he was away at college and I was left to make my own decisions. After some hesitation, I admitted to dabbling on occasion. He then fiddled with his cigarette pack, pulled out a joint, and asked me if I would like to share it with him.
Stress. Depression. Family tension. Immediately, I said yes.
We walked to the apartment complex across the street from our school and he assured me that there was a wooded area behind the apartments that provided enough privacy to smoke pot. It was strange to be 17, running off to do drugs before heading home, placing a fair amount of trust in someone I barely knew. It was out of character for me at the time, but there was a thrill to running off to smoke pot well within the school’s “drug free” zone.
I can’t tell you if my defiance of rules that day was a result of caving in to peer pressure or caving in to the apathy brought on by depression. I can’t remember that far back, unfortunately. All I do remember was smoking the joint with my friend in the standard puff-puff-pass fashion, and him kissing me after I had made some joke about a horse or something.
It was the first time I had been kissed in a long time, and I kissed back. He walked me to my car, after we had giggled and fiddled with each other in the woods, and said goodnight.
The drive home that night was different from other drives. Yes, I was high and I probably should not have been driving. Being high, however, afforded me the opportunity to let down the wall I had built up around my emotions. I cried for what seems like hours (when in reality, it was probably only ten minutes) and let go of a lot of the hurt I was holding on to, all from the privacy of my car. There was no one around to judge me or lead me to feel guilty about being depressed. I was myself, purely and totally, for those ten minutes in my car.
It would have been cool if the following day I approached my most difficult classes with renewed spirit and motivation. It would have been cool if the following day my friend approached me in the hallway to ask me out on a date. It would have been cool if the following day I didn’t need to hit the snooze button on the alarm seven times before finally getting out of bed.
Those things didn’t happen. I still skipped my science and math classes. I still felt incredibly depressed and miserable. And I was rejected by my friend in the hallway, after he claimed he kissed me was because he was “too high.”
The moral of the story, my friends, is that smoking pot that day wasn’t an answer any of life’s questions. It didn’t provide me with any startling revelations or insights into myself. It did, however, allow me feel uplifted for a few minutes. Uplifted, risky, bad, and other strong feelings that I had been lacking for a long while.