“I always get really worried when I get too happy because what follows is I get really sad after that,” I was 12 when I said this to my little sister.
“Well just choose to stay happy,” she replied. She was 11.
I didn’t realize then what I was describing was depression that would go undiagnosed for the next ten years.
I sat in an office on campus.
“This is what we’re dealing with,” I said to my counselor. “I don’t need some lesson in what depression is I just need to know how to live with it.”
We spent the next year working together.
The thing about depression is, it’s not like something that consumes your life every day. It comes and goes. I can describe it only as a dark cloud that lingers. On your best day, it’s the tap on your shoulder reminding you it’s close by. On your worst day it takes your hand and pulls you even deeper into this darkness can’t explain to people. On those days, you don’t look like yourself. You don’t sound like yourself. The version of you on a depressing day is the version that scares you as well as everyone who cares about you.
“What does it feel like,” my mom asked me as I told her it was getting bad again.
“I feel nothing. I feel numb. I wake up and I want to go back to sleep. I wake up and there’s nothing in my day I’m looking forward to. I contemplate calling out of work because I just don’t care. I’m not hungry even when I can’t remember the last time I ate. My weight drops. I don’t want to get ready. I don’t want to shower. I just want to lay there.”
Tears well up behind my eyes because I’m overcome with two feelings when I try to explain it to her. First is sadness because even finding the words to try and describe what a bad day might look like doesn’t do justice to how I feel and the horrible places I take myself. Then I’m overcome with guilt because I know she worries.
Everyone has bad days. But depression is a series of really bad days where you just want to completely break down and cry because you didn’t ask for this. And when depression wraps its arms around you, the only way to get out of it is to feel through these really deep and dark and ugly emotions you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy.
But that’s the thing that makes people with depression kind of special. Since they know what it’s like to be their own worst enemy since they know what it’s like to fight back since they’ve seen and felt all these heavy things their response to it is to not project those emotions out into the world. But rather the opposite.
People who suffer from depression are the kindest ones you’ll ever meet. They look at the world not through negative lenses and how bad it is, they already know that. But they look at the world and every individual in it with compassion and understanding that few know.
Depression isn’t that stereotype we grew up thinking about. It isn’t the loner. It isn’t the person who is mean or the bully. It isn’t the person wearing all black.
The most depressed person in the room is a lot of time are the one who appears the happiest and the kindest. It’s the person who watches you closely and notices when you aren’t acting the way you usually are. It’s the person who pulls you aside and asks if you want to talk about it. Knowing depression makes you want to be the light in other people’s lives even when you can’t figure out how to the light in your own life.
Depression is that effort you have to make to be positive and being jealous of those people it comes naturally to.
Depression is the one telling jokes and making everyone laugh because you know what real unhappiness is so you choose something different.
Depression is the hardest working person in the entire room because that job, whatever it is gives them purpose. That job gives them a reason to keep going.
Depression is the best, hardest working, caring teammate, you’ll ever have because that sport is their outlet and when they are in the game and focusing on winning that’s the closest they will ever come to knowing what it’s like to live without depression.
Depression is a strength you don’t see and battles you don’t know someone is fighting. What you don’t see is the pep talk they gave themselves to get up that day. What you do don’t see is how there are some nights they are crying themselves to sleep and they don’t even know why.
Depression is hanging on to those blissful moments with the people you care most about and you look around taking it all in, appreciating everything. Because it’s those people and moments you’ll think of on a bad day.
Depression is feeling lonely, as you stare at your phone because in that filtered life everyone is projecting it seems like they have it figured out and they aren’t struggling. You want to be as happy as everyone seems to be even though you know they might be pretending to.
But more than anything depression is fighting back against every force that is trying really hard to take you down. You don’t let it.
You replace negativity with being the most positive person people know.
You replace the lies you tell yourself with being honest with everyone.
You replace that mean voice inside your head with being the nicest person people know even if you haven’t figured out how to channel that into yourself.
You replace the bad relationship you have with yourself with really knowing what it takes to have a good one with others.
You replace judgment with compassion.
You replace feeling sorry for yourself and crying with the gratitude and appreciation for others.
You replace moments of hate within yourself with the love you feel deeply for everyone else.
Depression strives in turning everyone and everything black in its path but those who fight through depression replaces that darkness with a light that touches everyone they come in contact with.