How I Fight Depression One Day at a Time
I have struggled with depression my whole life and I hate it. I hate that I let it control me and hate that I feel helpless to do anything about it sometimes. I hate what it makes me say and I hate what it makes me do.
Depression makes no sense. It's completely ridiculous and pointless and yet it won't just go away no matter what you tell yourself. It's such a conflict between mind and heart, between thinking and feeling. The battle is exhausting and seemingly never-ending. It's a bitter cycle. And it's a messy and convoluted experience. It feels different to each person but perhaps you can see yourself or someone you know in the following paragraphs.
You feel isolated, left out, so alone. So heartbroken without reason. Your thoughts are dark and hopeless. It feels like there is no way out of this maze in your mind. You don't particularly like your maze but it's also a comfort of sorts. You want to stay safe but you're also trapped.
And your friends and family do not understand how to help you. They do not want to see you sad. Well-meaning and kind, they love you and want to fix you. They want you to be happy. They say nice things and give you hugs. They hold your hand and try to help you be a real person; to do what they do, help other people, stay busy with work and art and good things. They tell you to keep your mind on the good things. Focus on the good things in life and the sad will go away. Talk to a doctor. Maybe even take some medicine to fix chemical imbalances. There must be a fix for it. People who are loved should not be depressed.
They do not understand that their beautiful kindnesses hurt. Tiny pin pricks all over your heart. You don't want to disappoint them and so you say you will take their advice, thank them for their love and support. You smile more because looking happy will maybe make you feel happy, right? It makes them happy. That should count.
You do it for a while and think maybe you really are happy after all. What does it feel like to be happy? This must be it. The smiling, the joking, the happy things coming out of your mouth. This is what happy people do. This is what happy people sound like.
You think, I have done it! I am now happy! This is what I have always wanted. I have achieved supreme happiness and no one will be disappointed in me ever again. And I will love myself and find contentment. All is right with the world.
This is not truth. This is an illusion. Your heart secretly knows it's not truth but succeeds in fooling itself, for a little while anyways.
It's easy to fool hearts. They are wild, but soft and malleable. Hearts want to believe in things, especially unbelievable things. So you give them things to believe in and they carry you past your thoughts and reason. It's almost like they're built to fool themselves.
But when hearts discover they've been fooled, they don't know what to do. And so they break, either slowly or all at once; shattered into so many pieces that you don't know if they can ever be made whole again. Some pieces might even die.
And so you take your broken heart and retreat back to your maze, like a hurt dog licking its wounds. You vow never to leave your maze again. Never let anyone convince you to try again.
You cut off your family and friends from your true self. That part hurts beyond belief. You're convinced it's for your own good, and theirs. I mean, why would anyone want to willingly deal on a regular basis with someone who is depressed? I certainly don't. How tiresome. This will make things easier for everyone.
You still talk to your friends and family about what you ate for lunch or how you loved that one actor in that one movie, but you keep no one close enough to talk to about the things that matter. Like about all the different colors and smells and sounds you experienced today, or how it felt to lie down on soft grass, or about a tiny ladybug that you saw in the park that no one else will ever notice. You keep those things to yourself. You imagine telling other people those things but then decide that this would be a mistake. It will make your heart vulnerable again. Hurt heart equals more depression. Keep the heart hidden and all will continue functioning.
You forget that you aren't depressed because of your heart or for any legitimate reason. But it's easier to blame your heart or other people since you can't see depression. There is no physical thing you can point at and say, Aha! I found the depression! Now I will isolate it and cut it out and it will never bother me again.
You have become a machine, going through the motions. Living life but not living life. You decide that it's easier living without a heart. Machines don't need hearts.
Eventually your friends and family assume you have gotten over your sadness or moved on or something because you don't talk about it with them and you don't seem to want any of their help. You give off the impression of balance and emotional stability. They cannot fathom that you are merely stifling all of your true emotions. What reasonable person would do that?
This goes on for a while but one day, you realize that you're tired of being by yourself. You're tired of running blindly around your maze. You don't want to hide anymore.
You wonder, How do I get out? You don't know how to ask anyone for help. Would anyone even want to help you at this point?
Your mind is always ready to answer: no. YOU pushed them away. YOU cut them off. They do not care. You were so busy with your own hurt that you didn't realize that you hurt them too. They've changed their feelings towards you and even avoid you. They do not care. When was the last time they said hi or asked you how you were? I mean really asked you?
THEY DO NOT CARE.
But the thing about minds is that they are notorious liars. Especially depressed minds. They lie about everything to save your heart. Repeatedly. Minds always think they know what's best for you. They can be wrong but do not like to admit it.
If only minds and hearts would work together! The world would be a much more real place. You wouldn't need an escape. You wouldn't WANT to escape. You could say something to someone else and truly mean it. And they would not question it. They would believe you and believe in you.
And so you make a decision. It's time to push yourself to leave your maze on your own. Tentatively at first. It's been so long that you are hesitant. You take lots of baby steps. What to do first? You say hello to your friends and family instead of waiting for them to say hello first. You ask them how they are, do they still like chocolate cake, how many dogs do they have now, what's their latest favorite song. You push yourself to talk about what they want to talk about. The things that will open them up and show that you care. Because that's the point.
YOU HAVE TO CARE.
You cannot leave it up to everyone else. You cannot be a machine. You cannot ignore your heart. You cannot listen to your depressed mind.
You just hope that your family and friends recognize that you're trying to reach out. Trying to connect and find your way back to friendship. Trying.
Will they respond? They may or may not. You may have to tell them that you're sorry that you haven't been yourself and that you were hurt and scared. Will they believe you? Will they understand? They may or may not. And that's ok. Because you were brave and you took a big chance. YOU showed that you care. This will help you to take more big chances. Like making new friends and trying new things. Making new plans for the future instead of just going through the motions.
The future is beautiful if you want it to be, with all of the good things and the bad. Because depression is not just going to go away. This battle continues for you always and it's a hard road to travel. You did not ask for depression but that does not mean you have to let it control your life.
And so I have to repeat these things to myself each and every day: Care about people. Care about yourself. Care enough to really live.
I have to believe those things. I will not let depression win.
Even if you have never struggled with depression, you know someone who is currently dealing with it. You know me now.