An edit of this post was published on The Mighty
Depression was a big part of my teenage and early adult years. There were years where the one thing that seemed certain was that the good days would not last, the next episode of depression would always come. Most of my memories from those times are still fuzzy. But I can’t forget the weight of the darkness and despair. The excruciating pain of trying to get through a day, when it felt like my mind was being tortured. How there was a black hole that opened up inside me and sucked all the colour and happiness out of the world.
Now those years are part of my past rather than my present. Whilst there are good and bad days, mostly my mood is stable. However, I am noticing that as someone who has lived through depression my outlook is different from those who have never experienced it. Depression has changed me.
I can’t deny that my periods of depression have made me who I am today. The parts of my character I love and those I don’t have been moulded by those times. I am the product of all the days that have gone before.
Depression has made me wary of looking to the future. I have learnt to sun bathe with one eye on the horizon, watching for the storm cloud that is surely coming. I find it hard to be entirely present in the moment, because I know how fast the weather can change. One minute all is well and the next you’ve tripped and fallen down the rabbit hole. I struggle to trust happiness, because it has been a fleeting and fickle friend to me.
You also wouldn’t describe me as a positive person. It’s not that the glass is half full or half empty. But more that at times the glass has been jagged and drinking from it has cut my lips. And after that experience it doesn’t seem to matter how much water is in it.
But before you dismiss me as negative please remember that I chose to stay. Chose to keep pushing through and clinging into hope, even on the days where life felt like nothing more than a cruel joke. I chose to keep showing up for each new day, even when I wanted nothing more than to give up. That takes a strength and determination that you cannot fully understand until you’ve faced it yourself.
And it hasn’t been all bad, experiencing depression has deepened my empathy. It has meant I am someone who can sit with another in their pain, without platitudes just the knowledge they are not alone. I know how to keep loving someone even when you can’t fix what has broken inside them. I have seen that sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is your time, walking with them through the darkness.
Depression has made me fiercely passionate about hope. Hope has been the voice that has kept whispering in the darkness, the flickering flame that refused to go out. I will not forget the people who held onto hope for me, on the days when depression was shouting too loud for me to hear it. And surviving those dark nights has given me a wisdom that comes from seeing that all pain passes eventually.
Maybe laughter is sweeter when you’ve been caught in the teeth of despair. And there is a pure beauty in those flowers that bravely turn towards the sun, despite the shadows that surround them. Perhaps it’s not naive to believe that my pain will serve a greater purpose. Or foolish to continue to hope that there are greater things ahead than those I’ve left behind.
I am not the same person I was before depression came along. I cannot turn back time. And whilst I would not wish this journey on anyone, I am proud of the battles I’ve fought and won. I am choosing to believe that it has made me the person I need to be today. That the story I’ve been given is one another heart needs to hear. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know I have the strength and hope to face whatever comes.