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A Letter to Those Affected By My Depression

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I’m sorry.

I know those two words seem so small, and they are. They are nothing more than seven simple letters, but I don’t know where else to start. So I’ll start with: I’m sorry.

There are things I’m not sorry for, things I can’t be sorry for. I’m not sorry for my illness. It’s something beyond my control; it’s a physical disorder as much as it is a mental one. But I am sorry for the years I’ve wasted feeling sorry for myself. I’m sorry for the years I’ve tried to hide my illness, to keep it a secret.

You see, that secrecy has been our undoing. I’ve pushed you away, though you never knew why. You may not have even realized I was doing it, but there were cancelled plans, birthday parties I failed to attend and social gatherings I forced myself to go to, resentfully and begrudgingly. It wasn’t your fault. I was too broken to hold myself together, but because I was also too scared to tell you the truth I would just sit there, forcing an awkward smile and some stale conversation about the weather or work. I would excuse myself from games and other events and, while I wouldn’t leave, I would withdraw to a corner and watch while you laughed and played.

You thought I was a buzzkill (and I was), but what hurts me the most — what I’m most sorry for — is that you thought I was too good for you, too good for “child-like” games. But that was never the case. The truth is I want to be happy. I want nothing more than to laugh beside you and enjoy myself the way you do, but there’s a disconnect somewhere and I can’t. Sure, there are moments of happiness and joy, but most of my life is about just getting by. So instead of pretending I pulled away — from you and from life.

I focused on little things, like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. It seems strange to even mention these “accomplishments,” but when you don’t want to get out of bed, when you’ve lost the will to live, the simplest of things can be the hardest to do. It’s because they are mundane. That is all your life is in the midst of depression: the banal, the routine and the mundane.

I’m sorry for not being present, for not celebrating in your successes and joys. Please know I wanted to but sometimes the pain held me back — the pain of seeing everything I wanted but would never have, could never have. It’s selfish, I know, but I didn’t know how to handle it.

I’m sorry for the times my temper has been short, and you’ve been the recipient of my rage. Anger has been the most unexpected symptom of my sickness. When I was a teenager, and even well into my 20s, my depression was marked by melancholy. But as the years passed, the symptoms shifted. While sadness still permeates most days, it’s the anger I cannot ignore. It’s the anger that scares me. My volatile words cut you and my blind and unforgiving rage injures you.

And I’m sorry.

It’s embarrassing and scary to admit you need help, to admit you are not OK. You know once you let your secret out you’ll have no choice but to follow through with therapy. You’ll have to talk to friends and family about your illness, even when you don’t want to. You know you can’t close the curtains and hide anymore, and that thought is terrifying.

Sometimes we “find the light” and make it out. I have before; in fact, I’m currently on an upswing, but that doesn’t mean I am better. In fact, I know better than to believe I’m better. Depression is a lifelong disease, and my depression will return. There is nothing I can do to stop it. The only thing I can control is how I handle it when it does. And for me, handling it means not hiding from it; handling it means drawing back the shades and letting everyone in.

So to everyone entangled in this mess with me, I’m sorry. I never wanted to hurt you or drag you through this two-decade-long nightmare. I love you for standing by me, and hope you still can, but I also understand if you need to step back — if you need to walk away. Know I will love you all the same.

Follow this journey on Sunshine Spoils Milk.

Related: The Most Important Thing I’d Tell Every Person With Depression

Originally published: September 25, 2015
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