I Am Not My Depression

Below is a lost blurb (that has now clearly been found) that I previously wrote about depression. Given my prior post discussing the relationship between passion and depression, I felt now would be a good time to let these words out into the world. I hope that this small effort lends even a tiny hand to the greater movement to bring awareness to depression and mental illness in our society. It’s a glimpse into things that happen in my own mind, and perhaps many others who are not comfortable with this level of public vulnerability. I hope to be strong for myself and for everyone else who shares this silent struggle.  

I have been under the veil of depression for as long as I can remember. I often feel burdened by the heaviness of feeling abnormal. I realize that it is impossible for me to really know how anyone else really feels and I should not waste time comparing myself to others, but there is always that lingering “if only …” in my mind.

There is a heaviness in feeling tired all the time when there is no simple, physical solution. No amount of sleep will take away the fatigue. There is much weight in holding back unexplained tears. Even allowing them to flow freely doesn’t put a stop to their nagging. There is an overwhelming burden that comes with being unable to focus. The lack of energy can be immensely discouraging.

I choose not to take medication for this ailment. I have, over the years, tried different drugs — prescription and non — and have chosen to deal with my depression on my own. I have spent years journaling about it, experimenting with things that make me feel better, recognizing what lifts the fog and making lifestyle choices to accommodate these things; recognizing that there is not a cure-all, but that I will spend my life continuing to learn and evolve methods of coping.

I make a lot of lists. And scrap them. Sometimes, but rarely, I complete them. I make more lists. Create reminders. Post sticky notes around my apartment. Rewrite mantras until they stick in my brain. Practice reminding myself what activities make me feel stronger, happier, confident.  I keep reminders of good days everywhere — photos, trinkets, notes. On bad days I find myself living inside my own fantasy world, replaying a happy time until I find that I can smile again. I retreat. I spend time alone, wishing I wasn’t alone, but being afraid to step out into the world, for fear of bringing others down and for fear of being judged. Sometimes I just need to cry for a bit. None of this is logical.

I also worry about being stigmatized.  I worry that people will think I will be a burden and forgo friendship with me if they only knew what a whirlwind my mind was. Let me just say that I know this is completely silly. Maybe its possible that this is true, but I have not found this to be the case. Yet this thought still nags at me. I worry that I bother people. I worry that I am annoying them. I worry that I’m too high maintenance. And yet none of this is true. As a result I realize that I push people away. I have many short-lived friendships, or I keep people I have been close to at arm’s length, even though all I really want is to be close to the people in my life that I care about and that care about me.

I don’t know about anyone else. I don’t know how other people cope; I hope that someone, anyone, might read this and know they are not alone in the fight against feelings that manifest physical symptoms; something that we don’t always feel we have control over.

If I could say anything to those who don’t feel this way and have these experiences, is that I only want to be treated like everyone else. I want to be included; I want people to know how much effort I put into being a part of this world.  That every day I wake up and put on my try-hard hat to leave the house and find joy in everything.  That my only real life goal is to feel happiness.  And that every single moment of happiness that I experience makes each day worth it.

It’s really the little things that bring me so much joy. I know that every moment of joy is a victory over this thing that resides in me and tries to control me, to convince me that I am my depression. I am not my depression. It resides within me, but it does not control me; it does not define me.  I am victorious.

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