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When Depression Is a Terrorist

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I have a personal enemy. Many people call him Depression, but I know he’s really a terrorist.

Labeling depression as a terrorist may seem dramatic and harsh, but that’s what it feels like to me. It hijacks my attention and threatens the essence of who I am. It terrorizes me with judgment, accusations and fear. I’ve built up years of defenses, but he evades them all. During these seasons, he sets off explosions of self-doubt that send ripples through every area of my life.

Everything I see and hear seems to reinforce the accusations. They scream in my ears. At times, it’s so intense I want to end the pain. I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live this way either.

It’s difficult to explain. When I’m low, I desperately want the numbness and pain to end. Nothing helps. All hope is drained. I think this journal entry explains it best:

I feel low. Slept 8.5 hours and I could stay in bed. My thinking is slow, like my brain is full of glue. It’s as if I have sunk beneath the basement and I have no idea how to get out.

A few weeks ago, I talked with some of my coworkers about my experience. When I said the words, “I suffer from depression,” in my mind I heard screams of self-hate. My terrorist threatened me. He told me that if I said any more, he would take away my friends, my career, my professionalism and my dignity.

I live with the fear that if I tell people I’m depressed, they’ll somehow think less of me. Yet in my experience, the more I isolate, the more powerful the depression becomes. Confronting my fear and defying the threats are the only way to lift the depression. No matter how hard it feels, living life one day, one moment at a time, is the best therapy, even though part of me feels dead inside.

When the moods hit, being alone can become a WMD: A Weapon of My Depression.

Eventually the seasons of depression lift and I go back to my life. I begin to feel strong again — I hope I will feel good forever. I guess I like to live a lie and imagine my depression is gone for good. But it’s not. He may become quiet, but I know that my terrorist will never truly go away.

Despite this, depression has given me several gifts, although I admit it seems odd to thank something I describe as a terrorist. As a human and spiritual person, one of the gifts I try to give myself is learning from my depression.

When I’m depressed, I become deeply reflective. I express my pain through drawing, journaling and other art forms. It’s as if the experience of depression causes me to mine the depths, searching for veins of experience, grasping for anything that will make value out of this. Sometimes this can be too much. I can become self-critical and I can take things too personally.

Depression tears away at your layers, making you more raw and more vulnerable. Yet you become more available, more real. Sometimes I move too fast through life. Depression has a way of stopping me and forcing me to become real again. I wish it were easier, but for me this is how life is.

My hope in sharing this is to encourage someone suffering to give words to their pain. Healing may come slow, but it will come. If you are suffering, tell a friend or a family member who you trust. And please, get professional help. It may just give you your life back.

A version of this post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

  The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: February 3, 2016
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