I first met you five years ago. It was a time in my life when my parents’ marriage and my world simultaneously fell apart.
It was incredibly hard to feel so lost at a time when you’re meant to be getting your life together. I’d just graduated from University. I owned my first pair of $800 Louboutin shoes. I was going places. The world was meant to be my oyster. Instead, I took my first step away from University, towards my future, and ended up becoming confined inside a cage of anger. You’ll forgive anger for being the reason we did not meet sooner. I had to wait for the anger to diminish to realize it was you, Depression, that I was really fighting. And fight I did. I hit back at you kicking and screaming, also attacking those innocent bystanders around me who were trying to reach out a hand and pluck me from the despair into which I had fallen. It suffocated me until it was all I could do to breathe. And yet I kept on, day in day out, losing these pieces of myself as time went on until I stood looking in the mirror and I no longer recognized the girl looking back at me.
And still I defied the notion that I was depressed. Even when you made me feel every single emotion that defines depression, I was still defiant in my belief that it was just a difficult time, nothing more. When I thought of you, I thought of Fiona Brewer. For anyone that has never met Fiona, you’ve obviously never watched About A Boy. She’s happy one moment, crying into her bowl of cereal the next, and then trying to commit suicide when her son is out killing ducks (explained further when you go watch About A Boy). She’s erratic, she wears the most hideous clothing and she is weird. Fiona Brewer is weird.
So when I thought of depression, my mind conjured up images of her. After all, that’s what depression is, isn’t it? Unstable people who are always crying and are just that little bit, well . . . mental. I had it all wrong, but I didn’t know that, and so for that moment, you made me feel as though I was Fiona Brewer, and that terrified me. I started to feign happiness. I threw myself into overtime at work so that I didn’t have the time to think about how the walls of my world were crumbling in around me. But that’s the thing about you, Depression, you always find a way to make yourself known. And so, even when I was at my most busy, burdening myself with the most mundane of tasks, I was still battling you. And nobody knew except me.
This went on for a month or two before I finally conceded to the fact that I was suffering, and that you were clinging to every aspect of my life. You disrupted my sleep so that I was in a perpetual state of lethargy. You played mind games with me, making me believe that my own family didn’t love me. But I think the worst thing you did was actually what you took from me. You stole a lot. You started off with my smile. And then you squirreled away at my enthusiasm until I had none. Then went my ambition. I no longer had the desire to get out and make my mark on the world. You took all of the things that I loved to do and that made me feel like me, and it was like you dulled them down gradually until I no longer cared for them. You never managed to steal my humor though. That was my one saving grace. Humor is my ride or die. It was also the reason why some people never realized that I was waging a battle every single day. Humor gave me a shield and I used it.
So there you were, with me through the next five years, gradually pulling me further and further into the depths of you. There were days when you would disappear and I would tell myself that I was winning my battle. That I wasn’t happy but at least I wasn’t sad. But it became a wicked game. Luring me out of my cocoon of sadness only to ridicule me in the harsh light of day before shoving me right back inside.
I became a recluse. I didn’t want to leave the house. You took away my ability to love and see good in the world, and instead you filled me with self-loathing, self-hatred, and above all else, a desire to no longer live. It was with me each and every day. I started to look at things as an opportunity to act on this. And I came close a few times. So close that I would try and decipher how many tablets it would take to end it all, how long I would be lying there until someone found me, or how quickly I could cut open my wrists before someone knocked at the door and interrupted me. And in the end it came down to a bathtub and a desire to get into it and never get back out. Something happened to prevent that from happening and I still believe that if you’d wanted to take my life from me, you would have. That is when I started to see that all along I hadn’t been fighting you. I’d been allowing you to consume me. Allowing you to take from me. That’s when I sat up and realized that if I wanted to claw back at happiness then I had to get rid of you.
It took a year for me to find the strength, but I eventually found it. A chain of events gave me a glimpse of that supposed light at the end of the tunnel that they always talk about. I saw it glowing, and it lit up the world around me and I ran like hell towards it. Now here I am, five years on after first meeting you, and I want to acknowledge you as opposed to hating you. Our relationship was tremulous, and there were times when I wanted to reach out and tear chunks from you. I blamed you for taking my life into the palms of your hands and crushing it, obliterating it into pieces that felt too small and broken to piece back together. But I never stopped to think that, perhaps, you weren’t the enemy.
All too often people talk about you as something they have overcome without paying you any sort of credit. I understand why. Some people don’t win their battle. They get so broken down that there’s no coming back and choices like suicide feel like the one and only option. People think of the actions of those who end their life as selfish but to them the world around them is in grey. No dark, no light, just a perpetual, endless tunnel of numbness. You don’t get recognized due to your destructive tendencies, but along the pathway of depression I found who I really was, and even though you took five years from me, I no longer feel resentful. I have to credit you for placing upon me the hardest fight of my life. From the ashes of my broken soul, I feel as though I stood up and became who I was truly meant to become.
With my depression came knowledge. The first thing I learned about you is that you’re not prejudice. You care not about race, gender or age. You are a personification of everyone who suffers. You are a father. A dentist. Someone’s neighbor. You’re a friend that seems the happiest. You are the people that seem like they have it together, but who fall apart when they’re alone. You are the laughter and smiles to hide the battle that someone is facing internally. You are the person they least suspect.
The second thing I learned about you is that the stigma of you is almost as hard as dealing with you. There is no worse feeling than waking up one day and having everything you’ve known until that point change, just like that, and having absolutely no one around you understand the helplessness you feel.
With my depression came compassion. I always considered myself to be compassionate. I’m a giver in life; I like to take care of those that I love. And if I had just $1 left in my pocket and I met someone who really needed it, I would let them have it. But you opened up my eyes to the suffering of others, especially animals. For the first time I took sufferance and saw it through the eyes of those without a voice. I’m on the road towards veganism, and I feel enlightened. To know that, while you may not be changing the world with your actions, you are one less person contributing to mass murder and pain, that’s a great feeling to hold.
With my depression came a greater sense of reality. You taught me what truly matters. Relationships and friendships don’t always heal you. They can eat away at you, much like you did with me. You taught me to let that shit go. You showed me that there’s no place for part-time people in my life. It’s much better to have a smaller circle of people that you hold dear than a greater circle full of people who, when you were barely surviving, were nowhere to be seen. You taught me to be cautiously selective for self-preservation.
With my depression came an awareness for those around me. Working in retail for almost ten years I was met with my fair share of miserable people. People that couldn’t look me in the eye when I was scanning their shopping, people who could barely place their money into my hand and would instead throw it onto the counter between us. Before you, I would become riled up inside and sometimes meet them with a cold, hard glare. Now, after you, I meet them with kindness. They could just lack basic manners but they could also be waging a war inside of them that no one knows about. While my kindness may bounce off of them and have no impact on their day, it does impact mine. I no longer leave a situation reeling. I’m calm. I’m happy. I feel peace.
With my depression came a shift in priorities. Before, I always thought the point of life was to have nice things. Those $800 shoes that I’d worn just a handful of times and worse, they were joined by another pair that cost me $1,000 that have been worn just once. I started to view these items, sitting collecting dust in my bedroom, and I began to resent them. I started to imagine all of the useful things I could have put this hard-earned money toward and it I could feel the shift as if it was palpable.
With my depression came love. I’m not claiming that I was never loved before you; I was surrounded by love every single day of my life up until meeting you. But when the mist of you that blinded me began to ease, I saw that my family was standing there willing to fight you just as much as I was. My brother, who has never dealt with you himself, was there to understand that every small step I took after battling you was a big deal. He made my journey feel like a triumph, and that made me want to fight harder. My mother, my very best friend in life, has so much compassion inside of her that she’s a weapon. She’s fierce. She fired shots at you until you fell to your knees and stopped pursuing me. You see, you made me feel as though I wasn’t loved for such a long period of time, that when I finally saw through the murky film of paranoia you’d placed me in, I saw that my family bled love. They will always love me. I’ll never forget that again.
With my depression came happiness. There’s something to be said for when you can look at yourself in the mirror and feel like you know who you are. I thought that I knew who I was before you, but since you, I have learned that I didn’t really know myself at all. I was lost. But you’ve grounded me. I know who I really am as a person. I know my beliefs. I know what I love. And I wake up every single day and I feel light. I was carrying around a heaviness long before you that I didn’t know I had, and in meeting you, I learned to let that go.
So, to you, I would like to say these two words: thank you.
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