There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle of who I am.
I am ambitious, organized, and persistent. I’m social and somewhat artistic and I’m open, I think, to adventures. I am entirely too candid with other people. I am ready to love and reluctant to trust. I forget everything and I’m absolutely incapable of math.
While we’re talking about who I am – I’m also clinically depressed.
No, like for real. I have a psychiatrist. And every night before I go to bed, I swallow a tiny blue tablet that’s supposed to smooth out all the parts of my brain that are tangled and bent.
It’s a fact I’ve kept under wraps for most of my life. Only recently, I’ve realized that there’s no reason to do that – there’s no reason I can’t talk about it.
I want to tell you what it’s like.
Depression is simple in its sameness and complex in its intricacy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life, because it is completely outside experience as we know it. Good days don’t make it better. Bad days don’t make it worse.
Depression is being tired. It’s losing your motivation – even your basic ability – to work and move and do. It’s waking up in the morning and not even wanting to move your hands. It’s not the loss of good things, it’s the loss of the understanding that good things exist. Depression is not failure – it’s losing the ability to even try.
Depression is being sad – being miserable, being regretful, being inconsolable. Sometimes it’s just dwelling on the low side of your usual spectrum; sometimes it’s absolutely drowning in emotions you can’t control. It’s being sad for yourself, for everything, for nothing at all. It’s being overcome with emotion until one day, there are no emotions at all. Because depression is also dry – it twists your mind and your emotions, and sometimes it parches them. Sometimes it takes your feelings away altogether.
Depression is need. It is over-relying on everyone in your life, draining their resources, exhausting their good intentions. Depression is a canyon in the middle of your chest that you can’t fill up no matter how hard you try. And sometimes, antithetically, depression is the need to be detached. It’s turning off your phone for a full 24 hours. It’s the complete inability to use your mouth to form words that make sense. It’s knowing that no matter how much anyone loves you, they can’t fix you.
Depression is the lack of control. Because you can do your best to take care of yourself and move through it, but once depression settles on you, you can’t make it go away any more than my dad can wake up and decide to stop having thyroid disease. And that total lack of autonomy in your own life can be more terrifying than anything else. Sometimes depression is a stalker, a thief that takes chase: you never know when it’s going to catch up with you and what it’s going to take.
And in the strangest way, depression is also hope. It’s the knowledge that you are human and that means something, that you are stronger than you’ve ever imagined, that you are capable of fighting. And something inside you always knows that if you can just fight, if you can make it through this day and the next and the next, if you can just keep breathing…eventually, you’ll make it through to the other side.
There are also things depression emphatically is not. It’s not an enigma and it’s not inherently interesting. It doesn’t imbue you with some Sylvia Plath-style mystery that makes your life more creative or meaningful. It’s also not a weakness or a character flaw or a contagion; it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a drain on other people. Far from it, sometimes.
It’s just being sick. Just as my dad struggles with his thyroid and my mom struggles with what will eventually be diabetes, I struggle with my mind.
This is a battle I’ll fight my whole life, and that has infuriated me for years, and it always will.
But I’m not ashamed to share my struggle anymore, because when I do that – when I put endless effort and energy into hiding the fact that I’m depressed – I allow that very fact to control and define me.
I’m not okay with that. I refuse to let depression, and its very real presence in my life, consume my identity. But I don’t care to hide it either, to give undue significance to this one part of my personality by guarding it as a secret.
My sadness does not wipe me away. It does not cancel me out.