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When Depression Means You're Alive, but Not Living

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I wish it wasn’t true. I wish the battle in my head was just a matter of will power and positive thinking. But it’s not. It never was. The battle in my head is quite literally unwinnable — because it’s a battle for understanding, the kind of understanding that will never be full or complete.

I live with depression. Depression is the battle, but it’s not a matter of being “happy.” I still have depression when I’m “happy.” I always have depression. The battle is to understand who I am with depression, and who I can be.

I don’t fully understand my depression, and I never will. That’s OK — it has to be OK. I have to accept I will never fully understand the battle I’m fighting. Every lifestyle change, every diet plan and exercise routine, it’s all part of this unrelenting war raging in my head. The thing is, you would never know it was going on.

To all the world I look like a happy, smiling person. A person you can turn to. A person who lives in the light. But the truth is, I live in unending darkness. I just smile through it so no one can see the truth. That battle in my head, it rages. It’s a battle to live, a battle to stay alive. Some days I’m winning — some days I smile more easily and laugh more authentically. Some days are not so great. I force a smile, a laugh, a charming persona. But in my head, that battle rages.

I know depression has one goal — to kill me. It’s simple, yet complicated. The goal seems like it would be a easy victory — just stay alive and you’re winning, right? Not exactly. Being alive is not the same as living. You can be alive, you can smile, you can laugh — but on the inside it is darkness. On the inside, you’re just clinging to life — but you’re not living. You’re breathing, your heart is beating, you’re alive — physically. But psychologically you are gone. Your body lives on as your mind fades to darkness.

No one knows that battle in your head is raging, because you hide it so well.

But what would happen if we all stopped hiding our battle? What would happen if we all started giving an honest answer to the question, “How are you?” Would we change the stigma, the assumptions, the world as we know it? Maybe. But we’ll never know until we try.

So next time someone asks how you are doing, tell them the truth — tell them you’re alive.

I have depression. Some days I am living, some days I’m just alive. But being alive is the first step to living. So at least I’m on the right path.

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

Originally published: August 29, 2019
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