Does being depressed give you a free pass to be an arsehole?

The short answer: no.

The long answer:

Heading into my third month of taking meds, my mood has been wonderfully stable of late. My most recent holiday was the best I’ve had since I started varsity, and I didn’t even do much. Note the word, “stable”: I am not dancing in the rain or running through meadows pretending to fly. I just feel “normal”. And normal has never felt sweeter.

What constitutes being an arsehole? Maybe you were already one before you were depressed, or maybe your idea of rudeness involves dirty looks or forgetting to say, “thank you”. Whatever the case, your mood drops (and fluctuates) when you are depressed, so you’re bound to act differently – whether you’re aware of it or not.

During the holiday, I spent a great deal of time at home, with my family. It was so much easier to chat with them, and one day my sister pointed out how much better I was doing. She recalled the previous holiday, when I’d returned home from varsity, moody and unresponsive. “I couldn’t talk to you,” she told me. I thought back on my behaviour; in my mind, I had just been feeling a little low, but I soon remembered the sulks, the snarky remarks, the days spent locked in my room. I was rude to my family for next to no reason, I didn’t want to do anything, go anywhere, I left the dinner table while everyone was still eating. I was an arsehole, and I didn’t even know it.

Now, I’m not saying that you should feel bad for having a mental illness and becoming moody and unresponsive. When I think of home now, I feel lighter and warmer, instead of that uncanny sense of dread and gloom. My family forgave me without a second thought. They were just happy that I was myself again, and that I had finally come to terms with the fact that I was not well. Antidepressants are not always the solution – I know some people who cannot stand them. But for me, they make me calmer, more in control, more Guinevere than I have felt in a long time.

I feel guilty for having been an incessant arsehole back then. My family did not deserve it. Is there ever a valid excuse for being horrible to other people, including towards yourself? But they understood, and I’m sorting it out now, with their support. And looking back, I appreciate what I learnt from that period, and how much I’ve progressed.

You don’t have to resent yourself for struggling with a mental illness. You deserve to get better, to feel better, and you have to endure the mucky stuff to realise that you deserve help. Your mental illness might have given you a temporary character change. But you’re still you, and the ones who love you will remember that.

Header image by design queen and fellow journ student, Catherine Roland.

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