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I Battle Depression. I Am a Warrior.
I wake up in a moonlit room. Even though I am only covered in a down comforter, I feel the weight of bricks heavy on my arms and legs.
My alarm is screaming at me, reminding me that the sun will be up soon, and my weekly department meeting starts promptly at 8:00 a.m., yet I cannot force myself to move. I would give everything I have, except maybe my bed, just to stay there, alone, under the gravity of nothingness.
I am a warrior. I battle depression. I am one of many warriors fighting this secret war while continuing to function in the bustling world around me.
Maybe your scenario looks similar to mine or maybe your depression keeps you pacing the oak floors into the early morning hours. Maybe your depression is a painted smile across your face as you walk in and out of the office or classroom. Maybe your depression is binge-watching Netflix and eating comfort foods to self-medicate the emptiness you feel.
Most days I win the battle. I take a maintenance medication that helps me overcome my feelings of wanting to hibernate all day in my blanket burrito in order to face my daily responsibilities of being a mother and an elementary school teacher. I get up. I take a shower. I feed Freckles and Catalina, my two cats. I tell myself, “I can do hard things,” and I head out the door…
If it is a good day, no one will ever see the darker side of my reality.
For those of us who fight depression, we know that it is not sadness. Depression is not merely feeling down for an extended period of time. Depression is a swirling sea of emptiness, of numbness, of feeling trapped in quicksand but not yet possessing the strength, energy, or desire to be able to climb our way out.
Oftentimes, those who care for us think that we are merely unhappy or lonely or just plain down and need a pick-me-up. How many of us have heard, “You just need to get out of the house for a while,” or “Why don’t you try reading a book or going for a walk? That always helps me.” But that’s not the point.
Depression traps us in lockdown. Most of us know what we should do. We know we should go for a walk, attend a yoga class, read that book that’s been staring at us from the coffee table for two months now. Still, we can’t. We feel paralyzed. We are unable to physically and mentally open the door to walk outside or pick up that book. We are glued in place.
That’s why we are warriors. We fight the beast. We face our depression every day.
Some people, like me, manage depression with medication. Some people find daily exercise helps to boost their mood. Yet others find great benefit in regular therapy, learning and adopting coping strategies, journaling, and/or meditating. There is no one right answer and there is no universal cure because treatments for depression are as varied as how depression itself manifests in each of us.
As in all battles, we must stand and fight. That’s why we are warriors. Our human brains and our inner will are capable of overpowering the depth of the pit into which depression can throw us. But we have to be willing to rise above its lies and say, “I can do hard things.” We have to commit to taking that tiny step forward.
That’s why we are warriors. When depression comes to visit, we must lean in. We must fearlessly sink down into the quiet of our minds and listen. We must hear the whispers of our body and honor its requests.
What is inviting the beast in this time? Changes at work? Stress at home? Who or what is opening the door?
We must not settle into the darkness and hide. We must show up. We can reach out and talk with someone who loves and supports us without condition. We can reach out to a therapist or counselor for practical help. We can talk to our doctor and explore medication if that is the next right step for us. Regardless, we show up because we are warriors. And warriors don’t give up.
How then can others help us in the war against depression? What can they do to break through the grayness of our thoughts and give us the springboard we need to take that first step?
Continue to love us. Continue to show us that you care. Practice patience knowing that we cannot see the world through your eyes at this moment. Sit with us in the dark and listen to us without judgment. Do not minimize or dismiss our feelings even when they do not make sense to you.
Do not tell us how blessed we are or how we should look at the brighter side of life. We already know that we should be grateful for all we have. We are, but being reminded of our many blessings when we can’t escape the heaviness around us often only adds layer upon layer of guilt to our shoulders.
You and I were placed here, on this earth, at this moment for a purpose—a sacred purpose.
“I can do hard things.”
You can do hard things. We can do hard things because we are never alone in the battle against depression. We fight for ourselves, for our lives. We fight to lead future warriors with our story of strength and courage and perseverance.
We are warriors.
Doyle, Glennon. Untamed. Penguin Random House LLC, The Dial Press, New York, 2020