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The 3 Words That Remind Me It's OK If I'll Always Have to Fight Anxiety and Depression

One of the things that has been the most upsetting for me about anxiety and depression is that it’s never really gone. It may fade in noticeability for a time, but it always savagely returns to me. For a long time I was preoccupied with hoping for a day when it would recede entirely and be over.

2014 was the year intense depression and anxiety began. When it ended, I categorized it as the “The Year From Hell.” I had a lot of upcoming changes in my life, and I kept thinking, “2015 will be my year.” I expected the anxiety and depression to be a horrible phase in my life, a concluded fragment of the general picture.

A lot of really good things did happen in 2015. But the depression and anxiety did not disappear. In a lot of ways they worsened. And at the end of the year I found myself disappointedly thinking, “Well that was ‘Year From Hell Part 2.’”

I began to reflect on the previous two years. I knew no matter what, I did not want this story to become a trilogy. I started accepting the hard things in my life weren’t going to simply disappear or necessarily get easier.

A few weeks later I was immersed in the beautiful world of online shopping when I found a shirt covered in anchors. On the back was a simple phrase:

“Refuse to Sink.” 

That resonated with me. 

I began to think about the word “refuse.” To refuse something is to actively fight against or stay away from it. And as I ruminated on this I realized although I did not have the choice of whether or not anxiety and depression left, I did have the ability to actively fight against them. I could spend my time passively waiting for my struggles to disappear. But I’d probably be setting myself up for perpetual disappointment and despair the rest of my life.

The other option was to work to find joy despite the internal typhoons. I knew this would require effort. Plenty of experience had taught me I would have to work really, really hard to rise above the mental depths of darkness.

And difficult work it is. It’s not a one-time commitment. It’s not even a daily commitment. It’s an hour-by- hour, minute-by- minute, second-by- second commitment where you have to relentlessly work to fill your boat with tools that allow you to stay afloat. It’s focusing on the fleeting lights of love instead of the impending shades of fear. It’s choosing to venture outside when all you want to do is shrink away inside. It’s breathing in the seconds of laughter rather than marinating in the hours of sorrow. It’s learning to be OK with the fact that sometimes you’ll dip below the waters. You won’t always be able to immediately rise above the struggles. Sometimes you feel sad. There are times where you feel hurt. Days come that aren’t that great.

That has perhaps been the most difficult challenge of it all. I’m still trying to accept it’s OK if I’m not happy every second of every day. If there are days where I don’t get anything on my to-do list done because it’s too overwhelming, it doesn’t mean I’ve failed. If there are times where I feel despondent, it doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful for all of the blessings in my life. And if there are moments where the depression and anxiety seem to have won, I don’t have to feel discouraged — and neither do you.

Because whatever our challenges may be — we can actively work to overcome them — we can refuse to sink.

Image via Thinkstock.