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When I Realized Fighting Depression Wasn't About a Single Battle

I’ve struggled with depression for more than half my life. It’s always been there, sometimes bad and sometimes not so bad, but always lingering. For most of that time, there’s been a stigma attached to it. Recently, that stigma has lessened somewhat, but still, it is not enough.

Something I’ve dealt with, as part of this stigma, is the sense that it isn’t OK to struggle with depression. I think to myself, “Most other folks don’t struggle with it, so I definitely shouldn’t.” It’s easy to feel bad about feeling bad, which makes it so much worse.

Of course, there’s pressure to get better. People have pushed me to find a “cure,” to feel better and to stop feeling depressed. With each passing year, I feel worse that I’m not better. I tell myself, “I should be better by now. Surely, I’ve struggled long and hard. It should be over.” But it’s not.

I’ve come to a realization recently. It’s made it easier to cop, and it’s made me feel better. I realized I will probably struggle with depression for the rest of my life. Maybe that sounds hopeless, but it’s not. It isn’t a resignation, but it’s an acceptance.

I now know there isn’t a cure and that takes the pressure off me to find one. Depression is an enemy, make no mistake about that. I’m not fighting a battle though. I’m fighting a war made up of thousands of little battles. I will not win a single battle and be finished with it, but I can push it back with little victories.

Each time I get out of bed and take a shower, I win a battle. Each time I manage a smile, even a fake one, I win a battle. Each time I laugh, do something I enjoy, work hard at my job or go for a walk, I win. I can take comfort in these victories, even though I’m still struggling.

I still lose sometimes. I still have days when I can’t get myself out of bed and days when it’s impossible to fake a smile. It’s OK because the war isn’t over. I may have lost a battle, but it’s just one battle. Tomorrow is a new battle, and a new chance at victory.