At the end of last year, a beloved high school principal within our city took her life. The news made headlines, and we all wondered how someone so happy could have been in that much pain. The news of her death stayed with me for weeks. Not because I wondered why… but because of the fear that one day that could be the fate of someone I know – someone like me.
Few people know this about me: I have depression. When I was 15 I was officially diagnosed, but the effects of it started long before. I was in denial for quite a while, and I can’t really say when it began, or what brought it on. However, I can say depression has been a passenger on my journey for well over a decade now, and it still rides back seat as of today. I would go on to have many sleepless nights, lose many days from my life, and drive a wedge between myself and anyone who cared for me. And during those moments, I can’t say that I cared. Depression has a funny (or very unfunny) way of distorting reality. I would often convince myself that my absence would go unnoticed, or worse, improve my loved ones lives. I would feel extreme guilt for not being able to pull myself out of it. And then I would feel infinite sadness watching my partners face as she realized this illness would take another day of ours together. More guilt ensues as you wonder how or why someone would ever choose to love a person that can go that far down… But she does. And many people do. Just as many people love you. More than any of us could ever realize.
You, my friend, are worth being loved. And to get you started, here are 3 things that I would like to share with those who are also suffering:
1. You may always have depression. This isn’t something you need to change.
Growing up, when I would overcome a depressive episode I would exclaim that I was healed. I was finally free. Then another one would come sometime later, and it would feel worse than before. I felt extreme guilt, I failed. I failed at being happy. But know this… You did not fail! You, my friend, managed to find your way out of the darkness for even just a little, and you will find your way out again. Accepting the high’s and low’s can be comforting. You know it’ll pass. Just as your happiness will pass. I have found that accepting depression as part of my makeup has made it easier to identify and cope during darker periods. Suddenly, in the midst of those moments they don’t seem so monumental.
2. Seek help while you’re happy. Or at the very least, not depressed.
Many people love you. They’re (understandably) worried. And when they see just how much you’re hurting it’s easy for them to internally panic. They become quick to offer solutions, most which seem to be “talk to someone” or “find help”. They mean well, and they aren’t “wrong” to suggest these things. However, for me seeking help during an episode is entirely futile. I have zero energy and it takes everything in me to not be self-destructive. Seeking help requires clarity and stamina – and in these moments, you are on life support. During a depressive episode, I view it as “my job” to keep myself comfortable. To find a reason not to go further down. And if I do go further down, to wait until I have it in me to come back up. I will treat the burn as soon as I put the fire out. Please don’t feel bad if you have to do the same.
3. Depression is a gift for the resilient.
Not long ago I read the following quote:
“Grief never ends… but it changes. It’s a passage. Not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness. Nor a lack of faith… it is the price of love.” Let that sink in. Grief… your grief is the price of love. Your sadness has a purpose. Whether it is to allow for beautiful art or in connecting with another human being hurting as much as you are – your suffering is not in vain. Your pain has the opportunity to be a catalyst for something bigger.
I know it hurts… your pain is valid. But, if nothing else please know this; you hurt as deeply as you do because you love equally as deeply. Your depression is a gift because you brave soul, are resilient.
All of my love,
– Steph Jael