Depression, man. You’d think after spending all this time in close confines with it, I’d have developed a fondness for it. Like we’d be friends, or frenemies maybe. Buddies who sort of hate each other but have learned how to get along.
You’d be half-right.
Depression sucks. It really does. It sucks because it is, by its nature, a sucky thing, and it sucks because the longer it pulls on you the more you come to rely on it, to depend upon its presence in your life. Who would I be if I weren’t depressed? How light would my heart be, how different would the landscape of my past look? I’m scared to look. I both hope for healing and plead with God not to release me. And I hate depression for even making me think for a second that I would be less than what I am if not for it.
But there it is. Depression is such an integral part of my story. It’s woven into most of my memories starting halfway through middle school. It’s the foundation of tons of poems and random prose pieces I’ve written — I’ve got a series called “when the times are hard,” where I just sit down and write what I’m feeling when depression hits.
Then I roll over to go back to sleep and wonder if anyone would care if I didn’t get up at all. Is it possible for me to pull the covers over my head and sink back into the serene black of dreamless sleep or the psychedelic rainbow of my dreams? Is it possible for me to stay in my warm cocoon, where nothing can hurt me and no one can reach me, until my bones deteriorate and my skin withers? Is it possible to run out of tears so I can spend the rest of my life in blissful numbness under my comforter?
I just re-read the entire three pages that section comes from and I wanted to hide from my computer, so the violence of my depression wouldn’t consume me through the screen. That section is tame compared to the rest, and as I read it I felt the feelings again, and I hated it. But I also loved it because this is who I am, this is me.
And the truth hits me: I don’t know who I am if I’m not depressed.
I don’t recognize a smiling girl who doesn’t get mad-anxious at parties. I don’t recognize the person who doesn’t have to rely on medication for sanity. I don’t recognize the girl who’s run by joy instead of sadness.
Who would I be today if I’d never been infiltrated in the first place?
I don’t know what stories I would tell, I don’t know if I would have the depth of feeling I have, I don’t know if happiness would be as sweet if I hadn’t also experienced despair.
I don’t know if happiness would be as sweet if I hadn’t also experienced despair.
That’s what scares me the most.
The one good thing about depression is how much it makes me cherish the good moments. Happiness is twice as joyful, dancing and singing and laughing and loving are all so much better when I’m feeling them after feeling depressed.
I start to believe the lie that I wouldn’t be happy, not for real, if I didn’t know what real sadness was. And I start to believe that I wouldn’t have a story to tell if this weren’t it.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my depression and how I’ve been saved from it, and it’s brought me to a place of acceptance of my suffering. The danger is that there’s a fine line between acceptance and allowance. There’s a difference between accepting that I live with this illness and allowing it to become my friend, my buddy.
The more I talk about what I go through, the more people reach out to me saying my words have helped them come to terms with their own illness. And that’s a great feeling — knowing that I’ve done something, however small, that has helped someone else.
There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m not going to stop writing about depression. I just have to remember that I am not my illness.
Depression does not define me. It does not make me good, and it does not make me bad. It makes me ill, and that is all. I am more than my depression.
There’s a difference between accepting that I live with this illness and allowing it to become my friend, my buddy.
I am a writer, an American, a “third-culture kid” raised in Italy, a jokester, a laugher, a dreamer, a romantic, an idealist, a pessimist, a fighter, a crier. I am these things and more. These are the things that define me, not the state of my mind or the depression that clouds my judgment.
That’s something I struggle to remember, but the older I get the more important it is that I do remember it. My journey with depression will always be a huge part of my life and of my story. It’s not something I ever want to forget, because if I forget how God has helped me through the darkness I’ll lose my faith in the light.
But I also need to remember that I am so much more than that. I am not just depressed; I am also saved. And that is so important.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m most likely not going to be healed of my depression. And I’ve found a certain solace in that.
I need to realize that even if I am cured, if I wake up some morning and don’t need to take my medication, don’t feel the pressure of depression, my story will still be worthwhile. I won’t lose who I am because I’m better.
Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of self-harm, there is hope. You can call 1-800-273-TALK to chat with someone about it. For a list of other resources, visit the website of To Write Love on Her Arms here.