Warning: f-bombs below!
“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.” ~ W.B. Yeats
Sometimes, we meet the one person who changes our life.
I was fortunate to meet a few people like that, and I would like to thank them through this post. Without their presence in my life, I might not be here to write this. They did a pretty good job at helping me stay alive when all I wanted to do was die.
Recently, I started some personal work with a fabulous woman and she said one sentence that really spoke to my core and shifted something. She said: “Wow, you’re brave. You’re so strong to have made it this far with what you’re carrying. You should be proud of yourself!“
Thinking back to that moment, my first reaction was probably, “What? Strong? Proud? I don’t understand…“ I most certainly brushed off the compliment and recognition, as it felt awkward to me.
Overcoming depression, years of chronic anxiety and suicidal thoughts is not something we are congratulated for—not something we are made to feel proud of. No one will throw us a party to say “Congrats you made it through the darkness!” like they would when we nail that new job, have a baby, or buy a house.
I can kind of understand why: Depression and darkness are not all that fun, and we weren’t supposed to be in the darkness in the first place.
There is no recognition for the determination and courage it takes to pull through such difficult times. We could and should congratulate a person that has overcome depression and anxiety the same way we would congratulate an athlete who just won the marathon.
Honestly, I can’t think of something more difficult continuing to live when you feel dead. You know why? When there is no hope, there is no life.
Can you imagine having to go through 24 hours of each day forcing yourself to be alive?
No one is waiting for us at the finish line, cheering, clapping and giving us a medal, so we ourselves don’t realize how fucking brave and strong we are. We don’t realize we have overcome so much to just be alive, be in the moment, be content, be grateful and just be!
Instead, most times we feel shame; worse, we feel weak—like we can’t move, like this defines us, like there is no getting out, no light at the end of the tunnel. This thought, sometimes unbearable, can be fatal to many and destructive for others. It takes a long, long time to even start feeling alive again.
I have walked in a tunnel with no light. It was dark, scary and long. Back then, I couldn’t see any light, but it was there at my fingertips.
The people around us don’t really know how to react; there is no manual to handle these things. Generally, it’s easy to sense that other people feel sorry for us. They see us as this little, broken bird without wings. The way they see us affects how we see ourselves. Everything makes us feel like we’re abnormal, weak, too sensitive, too this or that.
For me, just having these thoughts and going through depression was a testament to my weakness and inability to be fully engaged in this life. There was shame in it—fear and resentment as well. Why was I experiencing all these things? Why me?
Not once did I feel like I was a fucking warrior for getting up every morning and puking my guts out, my body trembling for hours with that massive ball of fear in my belly.
Not once did I believe that living through most of my life with chronic anxiety meant I was a badass! Not once did i believe that going to bed at night with the fear of nightmares and the dark was an accomplishment—an act of bravery.
My battles—my little moments of victory—were internal, personal, hidden. Like that one time I was able to eat and find pleasure in it. I could not be proud of those little moments because I wasn’t supposed to be anxious and depressed in the first place.
Most people see depressed people as a tar—people who are lazy and make up excuses to just sit around. Some call it “rich kid syndrome,” or “first world issues.” I say call it what makes you feel comfortable, but like everything in life, until we’ve experienced it first-hand, we have no idea what the heck we’re talking about.
All I ask of people is to pause the judgmental mind and just be there with an open heart.
There were days I would tell my partner I just wanted to die and cry my eyes out. It’s hard to explain how one can want to die when life has been fairly kind in all aspects. On paper, there is nothing to cause this despair. But, it’s like sitting in front of the most beautiful landscape, unable to see. You’re about to have the most delicious meal, and it’s bland. You’re about to dance, but your legs don’t move. You are alive but lifeless.
I spent the last 8 plus years living with anxiety and depression, and whether I like it or not, it changes people.
Sometimes when I see where I am compared to my friends, I don’t feel proud. There is no recognition for where I am—for what I have overcome. There is no cheering for just being alive. I see them win awards, create businesses and live their dreams, and sometimes I feel angry—like I’ve been robbed of my youth, like I’m so far behind, like I don’t have the life I thought I would. Then, I remember all the things I have accomplished in the past 8 years despite having a massive handicap, and I learn to accept my journey.
We live in a world where having depression and anxiety is shameful. No one wants to talk about it; people want to pretend everything is okay. And I get it. It’s fucking scary!
There is very little recognition and love for the people who suffer. We shine the light on the conquerers, the perfects and the stars, but we don’t shine the light on the person who has slayed demons to stay alive. We don’t shine light on darkness; it’s dangerous. It’s difficult to remember everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about when we pretend our lives are perfect. It’s dangerous for us to live this way, because we play make believe and leave no room for authenticity.
The day I started talking about what I was going through, so many people began sharing their darkness and fears. Together, we were able to help each other feel less alone. There are times when anxiety can make us feel crazy—borderline schizophrenic. In fact, if we speak to people—genuinely connect with them—we realize every person has experienced depression and anxiety to some extent.
We all have fears, egos and ideals. We are all human.
Maybe no one will ever realize what we’ve been through to just be alive. We won’t get a prize for it; we won’t be congratulated, but we should congratulate ourselves. No one will ever realize how many battles we’ve had to fight just to be here with them, because all of it takes place inside of us.
Some days we feel like badasses and others like we’re not enough. But we’re alive. After everything, we’re still here—breathing, creating, moving. We should be proud of that. We should be made to feel proud of that.
To all the people out there who feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but are still alive and hanging in there, I want to say:
You are fucking brave; you deserve a medal! You are not alone. Talk about what is going on. Don’t feel shame. People will love and support you. Never forget that darkness and light are two sides of the same coin.
Author: Lilya Sabatier
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Author’s Own