I have a personal enemy. Many people call him Depression, but I know he’s really a terrorist.
I told a friend about my pain and he was surprised. He said that he would never have guessed that I live with depression. He said that outwardly I seem to be so balanced. This is why I am writing about my depression. I want to express how outwardly a person can seem so normal, yet beneath the layers, we live with unspoken torture.
Labelling depression as a terrorist may seem dramatic and harsh. But that is what depression feels like to me. Depression hijacks my attention and it threatens the essence of who I am.
My depression terrorizes me with judgment, accusations and fear. I have built up years of defenses, but he evades them. During these seasons, he sets off explosions of self doubt that send ripples through every area of my life.
Everything that I see and hear seems to reinforce the accusations. They scream in my ears. At times, it is so intense that I want to end the pain. I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live this way either.
It is difficult to explain. When I am low, I desperately want the numbness and pain to end. Nothing helps. All hope is drained. I think this journal entry best explains it:
“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 is 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 am depressed, they will 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.
Having people love you when you feel you are at your lowest point is healing. I wish that it took away all of the pain, but it doesn’t. He may become quiet, but I know that my terrorist will never go away.
Eventually the seasons of depression lift and I go back to my life. I begin to feel strong again and I hope I will feel good forever. I guess I like to live a lie and imagine that my depression is gone for good. But it is not.
Over my lifetime, depression has given me several gifts. I admit that it seems odd to thank something I describe as a terrorist. As a human and spiritual person, one of the gifts that I give to myself is that I choose to learn from my depression.
When I am depressed, I become deeply reflective. I express my pain through drawing, journaling and other art forms. It is 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.
Keep It Real.
Photo credit: James Lumb