Finding the Stars in My Dark Night With Depression
When I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), I was angry at myself and at the world. Why? Why me? What did I do wrong? What did I do to deserve this?
Where is the good in all of this?
There is no good! It is a curse! I hate it! I want nothing to do with it!
But five years later – five long years of treatment, relapse and recovery – I asked myself that question again.
Where is the good in all of this?
And when I seriously delved into the question through prayer and reflection, I realized my dark night was not starless after all. I looked up, and I saw that I was surrounded by blessings I did not see before. Depression was not a blessing in itself, but from it came things to be grateful for.
I have major depression. It is the most painful struggle I have gone through and continue to go through, but I would never take it back. Because of my depression, my life has changed for the better.
With vulnerability came true friendship.
I had taught myself to hide my emotions and struggles — to put on the mask. If asked how I was, I always responded, “Great!” I was usually lying. Sharing anything other than well-being was unacceptable because I did not want to burden anyone with my feelings. I did not want to be the “Debbie Downer” of the group. When my depression became too much to hide, I finally decided to share my reality with my friends – or all those I thought were my friends. It was not easy. Some people were hurtful, whether intentionally or not. Others flat out ran away and abandoned me. But there were those who were there to stay, through the good and the bad. They were accepting, supportive and compassionate. Because of my depression, I discovered who my true friends were. And as I allowed myself to become vulnerable before them, our friendships grew deeper and stronger.
With courage came connection.
I made the choice to no longer fear the stigma of mental illness. I no longer wanted to cower behind the shame and guilt of my diagnosis. So I took a risk. I spoke up. I started to share with others who I really was. When conversations invited an opportunity to share my perspective, I gave it nonchalantly. It was terrifying at first. My fears had convinced me that doing such a thing would only bring stigmatization and shaming from others. I was not entirely wrong. I did experience the signs of stigma. But something else happened more often; because of my depression, I connected with people in new and miraculous ways. I was the recipient of acceptance and compassion more often than not. I discovered there are many others who were like me, or who knew people like me. I was given the opportunity to educate others and break the silence of stigma.
With self-acceptance came self-discovery.
For so long I held back from being who I wanted to be, from doing what I wanted to do. I was cowering behind others’ expectations. I was enslaved by the fear of change – what would others say? Then my depression hit rock bottom, and I attempted suicide. I believe it was nothing but God’s grace that kept me alive that day. I realized that life is too short to not live it, and I was not living the life I wanted to live. So I let myself be free. I gave myself permission to not meet anyone’s expectations but my own. I adopted a radical acceptance of my diagnosis. My illness did not define me, but I embraced it as a part of who I was. And when I accepted my struggles as part of my identity, I discovered who I really was, that I was created with unconditional love and a unique purpose. I was no longer afraid of being myself. It was as simple as a new haircut and as complex as finding a new purpose in life. Because of my depression, I am finally who I was meant to be.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Unsplash photo via Allef Vinicius