I am a 20-something who is living with depression.
Today, my depression is making a low growl—quiet enough for others not to notice, but just audible enough for me to know it’s there. I’m hoping perhaps I can quell it before it turns into something bigger.
Outside is gray and cold—rainy and windy. My Christmas tree and the History Channel on my television are the only light sources illuminating the living room. I am content under my blanket, coffee in one hand and gratitude for life in the other.
But every now and again, I welcome my depression. Maybe it’s a part of my own recovery. Maybe I’ve grown comfortable with my old friend’s familiar touch. Maybe I’m completely insane.
Or maybe, I am on to something…
So I guess the question is “Why?” Why can I sit face-to-face with my depression without flinching at its sight? Why do I welcome it with open arms every time it knocks on my door? And why did I start encouraging others to embrace their own mental illnesses?
I wanted to feel better by showing my depression that I’m a fighter.
My psychiatrist told me that Prozac was only part of the equation to feel better. He said the only way all of the therapy and medications would work is if I committed to taking care of myself—spiritually, physically and emotionally. These, for me, make up the Holy Trinity of our well-being—and if one is neglected, then the other two feel it as well.
From talk therapy, to anti-depressants, to meditation, to running and yoga—lifestyle changes are necessary. Depression is not a common cold that we’re sick with for a few days and then recover from. It’s more complex than popping a pill or drinking green tea.
It’s an everyday choice to wake up and want to be our best. It’s listening to what our head and body are telling us, in order to give ourselves what we truly need.
And it takes time to figure it out. The important thing is to never stop shutting out the voices silently urging you to slow down and take a breather or to call up a good friend and catch up over coffee.
I have learned more about self-love, empathy and patience through battling depression, than through any other experience.
Throughout my depression, I grapple with loving myself, accepting who I am and being patient on the days when I think there is no end in sight to this disease.
It is a process, I tell myself, and it will take time.
The flip side of this process is manifesting an immense amount of compassion and patience for others as I listen to their stories and go beyond the scope of my reality in order to better comprehend how depression works differently in everyone.
Depression has made me a listener, an advocate and a person with insecurities, who still allows herself to love the person she is and congratulate her on making it through another day.
The more we share our own stories, the more find we are not alone.
I can’t tell you how liberating it felt to talk about my depression. It’s a part of who I am, but it does not make up my entire existence. When I started my blog, I wanted to convey it in as real a way as possible. I wanted to highlight the good days, as well as the bad days. I wanted others to know that even though depression feels debilitating, it is not unbeatable.
I never realized the impact my blog would have on other readers—I was writing for myself, an outlet to document the roller-coaster we know as mental illness. But the more I put myself out there, the stronger of a response I got from friends, family members—even complete strangers.
When we do our best to shove things under the table, we are doing a disservice to our well-being and the relationships we share with others. We can pretend it doesn’t exist—or we can make a point of talking about this taboo topic and sharing our stories with others, spreading awareness on mental illness and breaking stigmas connected to it.
More importantly, it lets others know they aren’t alone in their struggle.
I stopped forcing the smile and allowed myself to have “off” days—if I wake up feeling a little off, I’ve learned to accept it. It’s a hard obstacle to overcome without using depression as an excuse, but I try maximizing productivity when I know my depression is at a lull.
I felt guilty at first, like I was a slacker or wasn’t tough enough to make it through 24 hours—but the truth is, sometimes getting through one hour demands so much energy. Still, I worried I appeared lazy if I took a day for my own sanity.
By talking to others in similar situations and sharing how we felt, I discovered those days of doing nothing were actually necessary. So when those mornings of melancholy arrive—and trust me when I say they do—I surrender to my depression, letting it stick around for a while, with no apologies required.
Author: Brianna Lombardo
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/Bailey Weaver