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When Depression Feels Like Parts of Your Identity Are Dying

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I think, out of all of my symptoms of depression, I am most afraid of the emptiness. Whether it is the hollow feeling in my chest when I feel numb or the lack of interest in activities I used to enjoy, this has been one of the most heartbreaking aspects of my illness.

I feel like things keep slipping through my fingers. I feel like there is nothing here for me. I feel like everything good has a time limit, because that’s what my depression does to things. My depression takes any good things away from me and won’t give them back. I feel like I am stuck in a loop of just waiting for things to run their course — relationships, hobbies, work. There is always an internal clock, ticking down and down and down, but I can’t read it. Maybe that’s the scariest part. I have no idea when the current thing will end; all I know is that it will.

I used to be a musician. I used to be a painter. I used to be a student, a learner, a girlfriend, a curious child. Now I spend much of my time mourning the loss of the people I used to be. I feel like I have lost so much.

I feel guilty. I have not experienced the death of a loved one. I have not suffered. So why do I feel so broken? Why do I feel such a huge sense of loss? I feel like I have laid down parts of myself and I will never get them back. But the guitar is still sitting there. The brushes are still in the same place. They aren’t six feet under. So why do those parts of myself feel like they are dead and gone, in my past, a reason to grieve?

Writing has been consistent for me. But now that I have realized this, the clock has started ticking in the back of my brain. Who am I to have something consistent to hold on to? Isn’t it just the way it goes to have to bury a part of myself every few months? It makes me want to stop writing, because if it turns into a recognized hobby, and then an art form for me, I know it will slip like sand through my fingers. Everything I have ever taken on as a part of my identity has been taken away.

Will I ever have something sustainable? Will I find something that will carry through my life without the ticking in my brain? It feels impossible right now. Then again, I am writing. I am experiencing words flowing through me from a source unknown, as I have countless times before. Maybe there is something for me. Maybe there is something solid that I can hold on to.

So much of my depression has consisted of mourning parts of my old self. There seems to be a constant death and loss throughout this illness, and I know others feel it, too. But I’m still here, whatever that means for me, whether as an artist, a writer, an anything. I’m still here and I still mourn my losses, but I know that I have lived. No matter how long those phases of my life lasted, they did exist in me before. Things have come and gone, but most importantly, they have been experienced. In a world as big as this one, there will always be something else. There has to be.

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Photo by Grace Madeline on Unsplash

Originally published: April 3, 2018
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