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Having Depression Has Shown Me There Is Always Hope

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I have depression. I take antidepressants every day because my brain is sick and they help me to feel well. When I first became poorly, depression crept into my life gradually. It started with feeling tired more easily, lacking in motivation and needing to cry often. I thought it was temporary. I believed that it would soon pass and I would be “myself” again.

It quickly became clear that depression was here to stay. It had claimed a space in my mind, draining me of all hope and joy, leaving me empty and devoid of emotion. When you have depression, it can be hard to see possibilities for the future. Life feels hopeless and your efforts to anchor yourself from drowning become an invisible battle, a silent war in your mind. Living with depression is hard, it’s messy and at times it’s intolerable. You’re stuck between wanting to be open with where you are at and how you feel, but at the same time, feel completely terrified of doing so — terrified of being vulnerable in the moments when you feel the most fragile and unsteady.

I think that’s why depression is such a vicious cycle because when you fall, you fall hard. Depression is the sick feeling in your stomach when you’re gasping for air and the lump in your throat tightens, closing in. Depression is not wanting to eat and lying awake all night. It’s a lonely, isolating illness. It makes you withdraw from friends and family because it convinces you that you are a burden and you can’t risk letting anyone see the tears streaming down your cheeks for the fifth time that day. It isn’t that you want to be alone, but depression reassures you that it is easier on everyone you love and care deeply for. At least then you’re not “tainting” them with your sadness.

Guilt is an emotion that I’ve been dealing with frequently since my diagnosis. When I first saw the doctor and explained how awful I had been feeling, I felt a rush of relief when I realized there was a name for what I was experiencing — that this wasn’t an integral flaw of my character that had fiercely and suddenly overpowered me, but instead something very real that could be eased with treatment. I feel guilty when I think of how much I have to be thankful for but can’t experience the joy it warrants. I feel guilty when I don’t share in my friends’ excitement because our lives are worlds apart and I become aware of the gap that depression has created between us. I feel guilty when I see the worry on the faces of those I love most after I peel back my social veneer and reveal my hurting heart.

With depression, it’s easy to give up, to let the darkness overwhelm you and stop trying. After all, why would you keep on trying when nothing makes you happy anyway?

Depression is the loud voice at 3 a.m. convincing you that you are a burden, that you have no purpose. Depression is attempting to cry quietly when you’re crouched on the bathroom floor in a ball praying to a God that seems to have deserted you.

I have often been told through the 20 years of my life that I am very expressive. I know this to be true because I feel deeply. I have a thin emotional skin and I love completely, with every little part that I am. I’ve dealt with depression for so many years now that in my hardest times, I question whether I will ever live a life completely free from it. I want to be liberated and genuinely happy, the girl I was before — the girl that didn’t know loss and trauma. However, I know that my experiences have carved me into a kinder and gentler individual.

Having depression has shown me that there is always hope. I am living with depression, but like many who walk this same journey, I’m living it with strength and courage. Whatever storm you may be facing, please know you are stronger than what is breaking you inside. Believe that there are people who love you and will hold you close if you let them. Trust that you have value. Other people will find healing in your story when you set the truth on fire with your blazing courage.

You are not your illness. You are not what has happened to you. You are you — beautiful, loved and forever strong.

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Originally published: February 20, 2017
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