I’ve wanted to write about depression for quite some time. I wanted to be authentic with my friends and readers, to raise awareness, be relatable to others who struggle, and to help end the stigma associated with mental illness. The problem is, I’ve only ever attempted to write about it when I’m stuck firmly in its grasp. For me, writing during the dark times doesn’t produce anything hopeful, helpful, or worth sharing. This time, however, is different. This time, I’m in the sunshine. I’m awake. I feel alive. I see colors. I feel the good and the happy. This time, it is the right time to share.
I’ve been fighting the ruthless demons of depression since I was 19 years old. The demons come in waves, sometimes just to taunt me and let me know they are still lurking in the shadows, and sometimes they put down roots and relish in watching me drown. Their presence brings a smothering weight and darkness. My daily goals turn towards survival. Get out of bed: check. Survive the day: check. The simplest tasks appear to be overwhelming hurdles. Daily necessities, like showering and preparing basic meals, become obstacles I can barely face. I want to sleep my life away. Regardless of the day, regardless of what is on the agenda, my internal hourglass of dread begins upon waking, counting down the seconds until I can crawl back into bed. My bed is my sanctuary, my security, and yet also my prison.
In my experience, one of the most infuriating things about my depression, is that generally, there is no real reason for sadness. There is no deserving root cause. My life is good. My husband is incredibly sweet and thoughtful. My kids are healthy and thriving. We have all the things we need and many of the things we want. There is no reason to be sad, and yet I am. I am sad because I had to get out of bed. I’m sad about getting dressed. I’m sad about making my kids’ breakfast. I’m sad because I can’t seem to enjoy things that should make me happy. I’m frustrated that I can’t seem to break free from the sadness, and I’m overwhelmed that I’m likely going to be fighting these demons, to some degree, for the rest of my life. That, to me, defines depression. It’s normal to be sad about sad things. It is not, however, normal to feel sad about putting on shoes.
Throughout the course of this great war on depression, I’ve learned a few things about my weapons of choice. I’ve learned that psychologists don’t necessarily have great people skills. I’ve learned that drugs can help you win one battle, and then become Switzerland for the next. I’ve learned that a “Happy Light” is only a helpful tool if you use it. And in my specific war, I’ve learned that the greatest tool at my disposal is exercise. As much as I’ve exercised for vanity or physical health throughout my life, I’ve learned that the single greatest reason I must exercise is that my brain needs it. Those magic little endorphins are like millions of tiny soldiers facing the front lines of my mind to protect their happy homeland.
Currently, my mind is experiencing an era of peace. The demons are at bay, most assuredly plotting their next move, but the mighty endorphins are confidently reigning supreme. The sun is shining and warm, colors are bright and vivid, and I can find happiness and joy in the simplest of daily activities. I must soak up these moments and memorize this feeling, for it is this very feeling I must remember when it’s time to fight again. There is hope. It gets better. The demons don’t win. I won’t let them win. I will always fight back. I will always become whole again.
If you are a warrior fighting your own depression battle, consider this a virtual hug. I’m so, so sorry you’re facing these awful demons. They are sons-of-bitches. The best advice I can give you, is to keep trying different strategies until something works, and give any strategy time to play itself out before you decide it isn’t working. It is the sum of many small choices that lead to feeling better. You don’t lose weight by eating one salad, and you won’t win a battle with depression by taking one pill or walking one mile. Please see a doctor if the sky gets too dark and you need reinforcements. Never go to war alone. It will get better. I believe in you. I believe you are stronger than this. You will feel the warmth of the sun again. You will find joy in the little things. You will feel awake and alive and find happiness again.
Lastly, if you are on the sidelines watching helplessly as someone you love fights this violent battle, you get a virtual hug too. I’ve been on that side of the battle as well, and I’m not sure which role is worse. Please don’t give up on your warrior. They cannot “snap out of it” and no one would choose this war. Listen to them, walk with them, and support them as they fight these ghastly demons. You are an important part of this battle. Your soldier needs you.
Call to Arms:
In honor of those fighting this wretched battle, please consider donating to help fund research that supports mental health. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is one such organization, awarding scientific grants to those working to make discoveries in understanding causes and improving treatments of mental health disorders in children and adults. These grants fund research for disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, autism, and bipolar, attention-deficit hyperactivity, post-traumatic stress, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. They’ve awarded more than $340 million to more than 4,000 carefully selected scientists in the past 25 years.
Support the mission. Charge ahead. Attack the demons. Donate.
With much love,
National Suicide Prevention Helpline
More help and information here.
**I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I’m just a regular girl who has been on the front lines of battle for 13 years.**