My depression comes and goes in waves.
On a really good day, it feels like I have turned a corner. Like my old monster depression has been left behind, and I am rapidly bounding on to bigger and better things. I feel confident in myself and my choices. I hold my head high, and I smile and laugh and live. I live my life without fear. I can wipe my brow and feel the relief roll over me.
I did it! I am depression free! A new woman! I can finally get on to living out my dreams!
Except that is not how it works.
On my worst days…
It feels like I’m sinking.
The waves are too high to see over. The sky is dark. The water is cold. I’m floating in the deep, dark ocean. My head bobbing over the waves. Salt water stinging my eyes, mouth, throat. I’m fighting for my life. Screaming for help, but no one can hear. My arms and legs are kicking as hard as they can.
I’m looking for a lighthouse. There has to be a lighthouse, right? There has to be someone out there looking for me, right? Calling me to safety. There has to be a ship close. A human to throw out a life raft. How much longer can I keep my head above the water? How much fight do I have left in me?
This is when the panic sets in.
I’m sinking. I’m sinking. I’m sinking.
My legs and arms aren’t kicking as hard. It’s too exhausting to stay above the surface and when I can my lungs take quick, sputtering breaths.
My eyes search the sky for a sign of daybreak. All I need is a sign. A sign that morning is coming. That the dawn will bring a renewed hope to keep kicking. But there is no sunlight. Only night.
Only me, my dark ocean, and the sinking feeling of depression claiming me.
It is in the these terrible moments of depression that I wish I was more prepared. Everytime I survive this, I have the misleading thought of: I survived, and now I never have to go through that again. But, that is not how it really works. I haven’t turned a corner. This is still my reality.
I am still a woman living with depression and coping as best I can.
But can you blame a girl for dreaming that maybe one day her monster would leave and never come back? That I might be able to live out my days in a peaceful, safe happiness that we all deserve. Of course not.
When my depression sets in, it’s like my life stops becoming livable. Like I am not really the being in my body controlling my actions. I am just watching myself play out my life before my own eyes.
For me, depression can be staggering. It’s not like a video game where I can hit the pause button, “deal” with my depression, and then unpause like everything is the way it was before. No, it doesn’t work like that. My depression pushes me back. It makes me live in the past and tries to keep me there with thoughts of never being good enough at anything. Never doing something to be truly proud of. Never living up to these silly expectations I set for myself as a child.
Growing up, I was always the “smart kid.” The overachiever. The teacher’s pet. The whatever. And maybe that had a hand in molding this depression around me. This hand that feels like it’s tight around my throat. My depression grabs my head and holds my childhood memories to my face. It forces me to look to compare child me to adult me. My monster screams in my face, “Remember when you used to be smart and had such big hopes and dreams for yourself? And now here you are. You are nothing.” But that isn’t true, I know
There comes a time in my life where I have to make a stand for myself.
I have decided to be less disappointed in myself when I am depressed.
I’ve decided to take a new approach. A softer one. An acceptance that my depression will come and go, but I will remain. Me. When the storm clears, there I will be. The same me I’ve always been. Maybe a little more used and stretched but still me, and that is what matters. To nurture me. To accept that regardless of my good or bad days, I deserve the same love and care for myself.
I am not a failure for having depression.
I will sail through the rising and falling waves of my live. And while I continue to celebrate myself, and the things I have overcome, I will also remember to be kinder. Not just to myself but to all. We all deserve kindness.