During most of 2017 (so far), I believed I’d never have to write a post about my depression issues ever again. From at least December, until last Friday, I did not experience a single depressive episode. It’s an accomplishment to be proud of, I’m sure. Just like those 5th place Olympic runners should feel proud, because hey, not everyone makes it that far.
What? I’m serious. It’s amazing to just make it to that event. No sarcasm or self-pitying here, I put enough of that on other posts as is.
Some of you might object to my goal. And I’ll object to it too, later on, but first I want to object to those who object wrong. Some of you might say, “What did you expect? Depression is something you live with, not a bad habit to be dropped.” I used to think the same way. My therapist (talked about here) introduced me to a new idea: depression as an illness to be cured, or, more accurately, a repressed part within me to be satisfied. Believe me, when he presented that idea, I rejected that notion harder than you ever could in this moment. If memory serves, I immediately refuted him and low-key implied that he was trying to scam me. I only came around on this issue after years of inward reflection and therapeutic training. ‘Depression as temporary’ is an idea that must ultimately be experienced, not taught. All I’ll say in its favor is… which belief makes your life worth living?
In the first two months of 2017, I believed I had proven my position right. Yet this condition never really “went away” in those blissful months of intensive writing and improved health. So is depression something I’ll have to live with forever? Or will I one day, in a calm moment, in the oncoming years, realize that I haven’t felt depression in years?
I’ll try not to think about either possibility.
When December passed without any crashes, I set a goal: no depressive episodes in 2017. How did that goal end up in my brain? I wish I knew, because then it would be easier to set personal goals like “no lying for a year.” Why just 2017? Maybe that was my weird way of pacing myself. Goals tend to take on a parasitic function in my brain, leeching on my thoughts, my time, and (when it gets out of control) my energy, even when I’m not working on said goal in the moment. Half of my brain devotes itself to managing my projects— work on blog for an hour, walk over to Walgreens to pick up meds, on the way listen to your music so you can catalogue which songs to get rid of, be home in time to take car to physical therapist and listen to news on the way, and so on, forever. When the goals overload me, depression often sets in. Not helping: one of these goals (no depressive episodes in 2017) required me to not do something for a period of time. That’s harder for me than it seems. In essence, this goal required that I stay exactly the same until New Year’s Day, and I would have an easier time with this goal if I lapsed into a coma from the next 9 months.
That is why I failed. I wasn’t thinking, “How can I improve on and appreciate my present?” I was thinking, “What can I do to secure this future I’m imagining?” Out of the many lessons it gave the world, 2016 should have taught us that only a fool predicts the future, and a greater fool takes stock in it.
Let’s be real, fellow depressionites. What’s so bad about depression? We’re not talking about the kind of mental stress that pushes you into self-harm, as I’ve gone through before. Not every episode is like that. Unless someone proves me wrong, I’ll assume that genuine, sincere suicidal thoughts don’t appear with each relapse. Most of the time, you get depressed, you miss a day of work/school, you eat too much, and you bail out on a party with friends. Is your life ruined? Are you a bad person? Of course not! You underwent an illness and took time to care for yourself, even if it means you didn’t update Word Salad Spinner on Friday and Saturday as promised (hey, I did say this day would come!).
Fearing depressive states puts as much anxiety on you as the other stressors in your brain. It’s a belief system that makes your life harder than it needs to be. It certainly made my life harder than it needs to be. So lighten your load a little. Don’t monitor streaks. Don’t run from depression. You don’t need to love your depression, and you certainly should take up good habits to help yourself stay out of it, but the only thing worse than depression is mourning over what depression has taken from you. Use the time you need to be present with your illness, to find out how it evolved this time. Because you’re always evolving, even in your darkest moments, no matter what your dreamed-up future may say about you.