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How I Learned to Live With Depression

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When your partner wakes up in the morning alone in bed and thinks you took your own life, it’s time to review things.

They say that depression kills more people than malaria. I always saw myself as a happy person. I had a childhood full of toys, soccer games, Tuesdays with my cousins and many friends from the neighborhood that sometimes were imaginary. My imaginary friend was the one with whom I fought, to whom I showed my anger and hatred for not being able to express what I felt out of fear.

One day I realized it was myself that I couldn’t even see in the mirror. It was very difficult to face the fact that I didn’t feel loved. And I emphasize feeling, because my parents were always there. They did what they could to give me everything and as they told me many times, “you never lacked anything,” which is probably very true. I was missing hugs and expressions of love. As for my brother, who for some reason people always remarked as my “half” brother, I saw him once or twice a year when we traveled abroad together to visit my father. We always had a great time, but when we returned his image along with that of my old man disappeared with the passing of time, like wood that burns in fire.

My other brother, my first cousin, was and always will be my soul mate. There was nothing we didn’t do together. Soccer in the square, the Sacoa arcade, soccer in the park, riding bikes, soccer in the street, the summer camp’s pool, soccer in bed. We would have spent every weekend of the year together if it was up to us. First it was soccer that brought us together, in addition from being the same age. Then we found music as a language to communicate. Now, I think we both continue to have that connection through something more spiritual, but I don’t have him next to me, which is something I miss more than dulce de leche.

I had a privileged education. The school was 20 meters from my front door. Regardless, that didn’t make me arrive on time ever, if anything, I think it made it worse. I always had a hard time adapting to new settings, feeling like I belonged. Groups or crowds are never the best scenario for a shy person, especially when the actor does not know half a line of the script. Over the years I gained my friendships, my close friends and my peers from school, although they never came home. It seems to me I was ashamed that they would enter an empty house and show them my reality when theirs were full of colors and smells of foods that I could not describe. I always felt more comfortable in someone else’s house, and since I never liked goodbyes, I tried to stretch our playdates, meetings or our time together as long as I could. But the void that followed was exponentially proportional to each minute that passed by.

Cats and dogs were my company. Years later I understood that none of them replaced the people I needed by my side, and that is why I never wanted to have an animal again. The emptiness becomes more evident when you don’t have anything to put it inside.

My imaginary friend reappeared one day, but this time in the form of voices and it was no longer me who was yelling at him. I can only describe them as “the pursuers” since when I was in a totally isolated situation, I got a kind of panic attack in which the sensation of my body grew and shrunk randomly to the sound of distant voices that were always coming to attack me. They never came, or so I thought.

High school opened the doors to the outside world, to socialize, to be able to enter a room with people and have words come out of my mouth. Realizing that one is not a bunch of labels is a great challenge in this world. I made peace with doing music, after fighting with the idea of following my dad’s footsteps. But of course, there would be no other way to connect with him and if that brought me closer, even a few steps… To top it all, my brother followed the same path and I wanted to feel identified with those faces that filled me with joy, even if it was only a few minutes a year.

College times came, the great adventure. Paved by my brother, I found myself in a hostile city more than 5,000 miles from home. There was no one to wash your clothes, answer the phone, prepare your food or do the shopping. Fantastic! It was for the first time freedom itself. I didn’t have to be accountable to anyone, but the most important thing was that I could be me. A clean slate, a new beginning in a place where they did not know me, where I did not know myself. And I started to get to know myself. What I was passionate about, what made me smile, what filled that fearful emptiness for the first time. I discovered another part of myself that I never saw again.

I came back home after graduation, and everything went back to the way it was before. Depression kills you little by little; it takes away the desire to do, to be. In my case, I think it started as long as I can remember, but it never manifested itself in such a way. My way of expressing it, or not expressing I would say, was eating away my anguish. Hide to pretend to be strong, to belong. Over time it developed into anger with explosions of rage and self-harm, things that I continue to repeat today. Physical, emotional, disproportionate. A mass that became bigger and bigger at the base of my brain. It turned into a tumor, which took my humor away.

Sometimes I think what would have happened there, in that operating room, if I had never woken up. Life gave me another opportunity to redeem my past, to forgive, to make friends with the idea that I will not have the life I imagined. And that can turn out to be a good thing.

Driven by lost time and the desire to live as if it were the last day, fate (and resiliency) led me to meet the love of my life and end up living in the city of my dreams. It also led me to carry a backpack full of anguish and to learn to live with depression.

Yes, I do what I love the most and I can make a living from that; I have a woman who adores me and with whom I want to spend the rest of my life; I live in a wonderful city where the options never end; I have a family that loves me and supports me; and I can have a life of pleasures and luxuries.

I never thought of suicide because I would end my life without having learned to live it. But I have depression. Depression does not define me, but it is part of me.

Getty image by LUMEZIA

Originally published: September 16, 2021
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