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At 28 years old, I’ve learned a lot about myself with depression. I have existed with it every day for the last 14 years. Some days are easy—I’m able to jump out of bed without any fighting with myself—while others are battles. They are uphill battles, battles that I know I’ll lose, but I fight nonetheless. Some days feel like I’m in a pit that’s inescapably dark, but still I try without avail to find a way out. I try so hard, shouting, knowing I won’t be heard. It’s a tiring existence, and a frustrating one. I am not depression and depression is not me, yet it is a big part of who I am. Without it, who would I be? I don’t really dwell on that thought too often, because I’m afraid that I wouldn’t like the “other me” very much. In a way, that sounds crazy, because I used to beg my mind to calm down and be normal. Now, though, I allow it space, and I don’t beat myself up. I’m kind to myself, and understand that mental illness takes time. Like any illness, it takes care.

There was a time when I wouldn’t accept my depression, let alone be kind to myself about it. I wouldn’t talk about it. I cringed constantly when people asked if I was sad, denying it—because I wasn’t actually sad. That’s not what depression is. It was more than simply a feeling, it was a state of being. My brain felt stuck on autopilot. No matter how much I willed myself to be better, to be happier, my brain insisted “Nope, this is your new default. Apathetic”. Realizing this, I was afraid of what it meant about me as a person. It was becoming too much; I was getting tired of pretending that I was “okay” when I wasn’t. Constantly planning out your own death is exhausting. Eventually I admitted to myself that I needed help, but had no idea where to start. When everything I had seen in regards to mental illness, especially depression, was a narrative of sadness and brokenness, I didn’t know what to do. It seemed as if there could be no thriving within it, but that couldn’t be the case…right? I couldn’t be doomed to a lifetime of living in a fog, only half living...

“Without it who would I be? I don’t really dwell on that thought too often. Because I’m afraid that without it, I wouldn’t like the person I am too much…”

I knew that my depression came in waves, which is part of why it took me so long to be open and find help with my depression. When I was on an upswing, I hoped with every part of myself that I would remain in that state. I never did. But I will say that the most beautiful part about leaving a bout with depression is the way everything is so much brighter, the way you seem to see things in a whole new light. I actually consider that to be the blessing of depression. On the one hand, everything is filled with despair, and then on the other, when you are removed from that despair, you realize that you are surrounded by complete and utter wonder.

I knew I wasn’t going to experience this wonder as my constant, but I wanted to learn how to balance the times that I took a dive. Every one of those dives seemed to be deeper than the last. But I could not and cannot do that on my own. I’m strong, but my depression is stronger. For me, help has come from not only my therapist, but also the ability to talk about depression without the stigma that surrounds it.

I remember the first time I posted to social media about it; my inbox was flooded with messages from people who sounded so relieved to know they weren’t alone. I, too, was relieved that I wasn’t standing alone in this. Too often it feels like loneliness mixed with emptiness. It feels far from anything secure or loving. Yet hearing someone say “I get that” or “I’m there with you” works some sort of magic, at least for me. It definitely doesn’t heal me, but when I’m in those really dark moments, when I can’t remember what light looks like, I remember each and every one of the kind souls that navigate the deep caves as well. That brings me some comfort. I hope that at times, my story can bring them a bit of comfort too.

There is power in our standing together. There is magic. There is goodness.