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I Am on a Mountain of Depression, and I Have Two Paths to Choose From

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Right now, in this moment, I am standing on a metaphorical mountain peak. I am above the clouds, watching the sun light reflect its golden sheen across the rolling white masses. And there are two well cut paths before me. The one that brought me to the top of the mountain, the one that granted me this awe-inspiring view, is covered in brambles, in false passages, and dizzying cliffs. I look at my soul, and though it is now whole, you can still see the fault lines where it had been broken and smashed. I can see that parts of it are struggling to fit together, like chaos within is building pressure, and it will fall apart, explode, really.

I look back at the path I know, the one that tore my soul into a million pieces. The one that hurt my heart and left me broken. The one that was days of unwashed hair, of laying in bed for a week, of watching life pass me by. The one soaked through time and time again with tears. The one clouded in pain, and hurt, and confusion, and numbness. The thought of going back down that path is panic-inducing, but it is also familiar. I know what depression feels like. It is a dark, shadowy friend, who welcomes me back into my room, into my bed where I can fall asleep and ignore the rest of the world. My depression was my only friend, who encouraged me to listen to romanticized songs about self-harm, who convinced me I would be stuck with him forever, so I better get comfortable. So, when I look at that path, I know exactly what to expect.

I know t my depression isn’t a real friend. But it is so familiar, so engrained, so me, I can feel myself edging back toward that path. Skipping classes, spending more time daydreaming than being a part of reality, shying away from feelings, and shoving them back into a closet in my heart because it is too hard to contain them.

But I am going to take a step back, really quick. I am going to remember the last 100 steps of the climb. When I thought I couldn’t go one more step, that I was going to die on that mountain side, I was strong enough to ask for help. I went to therapy, weekly, to group therapy, weekly for two years. I started to grow. I started to fit all of my broken pieces together. I felt like Voldemort would have if he had felt remorse and stitched his souls back together. I was in constant pain. I often couldn’t hold my emotions inside. But I was getting better. I could feel it. I was still a human mask, emulating a happy go-luck lover of life, but I was starting to get back on my feet. I was starting to solidify who I was. Instead of a wispy ghost of a human, I was becoming an individual. I talked about my abuse, my pain, my fear. I didn’t know how strong I was then: when I believed weakness was my biggest character trait, how could I be brave and strong? But I was. I got myself out of bed when I could. I never let go of my hope so entirely that I gave up, even though I had no proof my life was going to get better (that I could see; there is proof, but when you have your depression goggles on, you just can’t see it). I have had the best six months of my life. I have experienced a normal range of emotion, with good days and bad days. I have been “depression-free,” like a remission with no evidence that it will come back. I have been able to work at a prestigious lab at a university, I am training to run a half marathon, I hang out with friends and go on dates.

And now yesterday, I woke up, and I was immediately plunged into horror. It was like someone punched me in the stomach, and it was my old friend depression. I felt like coughing up blood. My body was so tired. My eyes wouldn’t stop crying. Rationale started flickering through all of the bad things that has happened in late to see if any of those things triggered it (little did rationale know, but it looked like a powerpoint of devastation), and my heart just started wailing. What do you do in this situation?

That’s how I got to this conundrum on this mountain peak. I know one of the paths is depression. But how can I be sure, as I continue on my journey, that the new path, though I am certain it will be beautiful, won’t also hold depression for me? How can I be sure that even though it is lined with beautiful pine trees and flowers right now, that around the nearest bend it won’t turn into a lifeless crater? I just want to stay still and watch life from the top of the mountain, but that would be stagnant and wouldn’t offer me more growth. I think I will take the new path… But I am scared. Excited too, but really scared.

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Thinkstock image by naruedom

Originally published: November 20, 2016
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