When I was considering a fear for this article, I realized that I have a myriad of fears such as feeling unqualified, unprepared; afraid of being out of control of my life, to try new things, of being unfulfilled. But, in all honesty, these are symptoms of the fear that keeps me up at night: falling back into depression.
I’ve struggled with some form of depression for most of my life, even in youth when I didn’t have an exact name for it. I saw family members and friends fight with it in forms of anger and devastation, and I felt it grow within as a little voice in the back of my mind that would break into a roar. The earliest I knew what I was dealing with was my freshman year of high school, when I was over-involved in projects, clubs, and school itself. I had been experiencing feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, low self-esteem, apathy, and exhaustion. My school counselor brought me to her office, tucked way back in a hallway of closed doors, and brought to my attention that many of my teachers were worried about me. “This is very common for young teenagers to experience in high school.” She said, as if trying to soften the blow. “Depression often hits freshmen most fiercely.” I laughed out loud. I laughed because I had two thoughts appear successively in my mind: 1) What the hell? I don’t have depression, I’ve felt this way the past 8 years; it’s who I am. AND THEN 2) Holy fuck. This fucking thing is depression.
Depression may reside well inside the psyche, often undetected. It is one of the most powerfully complicated mental illnesses: manifesting and seeping into a plethora of spheres in a human’s life, while often perpetuating other problems. With depression, one may experience burdens such as significant changes in sleep, appetite, self-value, or emotional stability (DSM-IV-TR 2000). It is one of the most profound and vast illnesses, drastically ranging in severity and complexity, and affects the trifecta of mind, spirit, and body. When you have depression (again, depending on severity), it is a miracle to get out of bed, to get the body moving, to brush your teeth and take a shower. The little things that once brought you joy, bring you agony as your world fills with gray.
Often times, I look back and feel as if I was an active participant of my depression, how I egged it on, teetering on the edge of a cliff. I would see it in the distance and test it: work myself to the bone, over-schedule, drive myself into a panic-induced frenzy. And ultimately, the feelings of hopelessness and uselessness would wash over me, drowning me in sludge.
My depression caused me to lose myself in a bottle of wine, end valuable relationships, feel worthless, and deafen my voice–nearly swallowing me whole. Every day was like watching myself from a distance, unable to stop myself from doing harm. It made me feel numb and too much pain all at the same time. I became isolated while hungering for someone to drag me out of the despair. No one could though — the only one who could carry me through depression was myself and the escape had to come at the right moment. For me, it was when I remembered myself, when I heard my voice in the distance…that glimmer of truth saved me. I saw that I was not my depression. I am not my depression.
Though finding the right steps to heal has taken time and energy, the liberation from depression has been blissful. My life is incredible now — it’s not perfect, but I appreciate the shit out of it. I show up for myself, my family, my partner, and my friends; I nourish, love, and cherish each moment of freedom. When I think of all the beauty I missed when I was suffering under a gray cloud, there is fear. This fear resides because I know it could all be over with an inopportune visit from an old foe. I can feel it lurking, readying to pounce and reclaim its’ authority over my life. And as I become smarter and more proactive in evading my depression, I can’t help but worry that it is evolving right along with me…Just waiting for the perfect time to strike.
I always have to remind myself that it was my past, but it is not the truth of my future. Each day that I get out of bed and head to work is a day that I say “Fuck you” to my depression.