Grasping at Truth: Why I Write My Depression

Because it's the only way to know that what I think is true, is how I felt. 

Content Warning: depression, mental illness

I have written so much about my depression. I’ve written about it for everything from my college newspaper, to this very blog, to online Christian blogs, to seventeen.com.

Some people ask me why I do it. Why would I put so much of myself out there, when being mentally ill is still looked down upon by a huge slice of society. Why would I risk future jobs and future loves and future friends by being so honest about the things that, you’d think, make me weak, make me less-than. Why would I open myself up to people’s judgement and condemnation when I could just keep it all inside, lock it in a box and throw the key away and no one would have to be the wiser.

And there’s an answer to every one of those questions, a good answer: because the only way to eradicate stigma is for someone to fight it, and I can be that person; because being depressed, anxious, bipolar doesn’t make me weak, and if anyone in my potential future thinks it does, that’s on them, and not on me; because keeping my stories locked inside has only ever eaten away at my soul, at my heart.

Those are all good answers, and they’re true answers. But they aren’t the truest answer, they aren’t the deepest answer.

See, the truth is, my depression brain lies to me. It lies to me when I am depressed and tells me how bad I am, as a human, how little I deserve, how much I should let it all go; and it lies to me when I’m not depressed, telling me those things never happened, telling me I merely overreacted, telling me nah girl, you’re crazy!

My brain tells me I’ve lost it; that my feelings and thoughts were mere fabrications, close upon conjectures.

You never felt like that.

You’re making things up for attention.

I can’t believe you would do something like that; this is why nobody likes you.

I can grit my teeth, squeeze my eyes shut and just try to fight it off; I can try to grin and bear it and hope it’ll pass; I can beat my fists against the wall and scream; nothing works, though. The uncertainty remains.

Did I conjure those emotions out of nowhere? Did I really feel that poorly? Is it really all in my head?

And so, I write my depression. I chronicle the swings, trying to catch all of them, the highs and the lows, knowing I’ll miss a few, knowing that regardless I’ll be better off with any of them caught in the feathery arms of my journal, my blog, the Internet.

The Internet is harsh and full of judgment, but it lasts forever, and therefore the next time Depression whispers in my ear that I’m crazy, that there’s nothing where I think there’s Something, I know how to fight back.

"How are you?": Understanding the Mood Swings

"How are you?"

I am sinking into the despair of knowing this is never going to change, that this is my life forevermore, scrabbling to be happy and never reaching my goal.

I am soaring with the knowledge of some good thing - today, the solo travel trip I just booked, tomorrow maybe a cute boy flirting with me - and feeling hope renew, precious, dangerously small, in my chest.

How do I communicate the truth that both of these coexist at once in my soul? How do I say I am both terrible and amazing, and how does anyone understand that as much as I crave death, I ache for a full life even more.

When they ask, they are just being polite, but my problem has always been that I desire so badly to be seen. To be known and understood. I must really show them my pain, I think; then...oh yes, then they will have their answer.

Sometimes all it takes to get me excited is an empty train car, true story.

Sometimes all it takes to get me excited is an empty train car, true story.

“How are you?” 

It is the quick question they toss my way as we pass off shifts at the office, and I grimace then laugh because the truth is I’m both terrible and great and there’s no time to explain that I have never been okay, I never will be okay, but sometimes, for just a moment or two, I am not terrible. 

I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t know if it’s even real, if it even makes sense. My doctor tells me I have Bipolar II and that makes sense but sometimes…

Sometimes it is 11:15 p.m. at work and I am smiling and laughing and I feel like things are okay, I feel powerful, I feel beautiful and like I have finally found my niche, the thing I am good at and the people who believe in me. I blink and it is 11:45 p.m. and my fists are clenched onto the top of my desk and my heart is racing a thousand-miles per minute, I can’t breathe, I can’t think, there are so many emotions in my soul and in my brain and sending tremors through my body.

In the blink of an eye I go from life of the party to party pooper. I am fine until suddenly I am calling the Lifeline for Suicide Prevention, begging them to save me, save me, save me.

“How are you?”

Right now I am good but in 30 minutes I might be crushed by the heaviest of weights on my chest and it’s going to kill me, except…right before the moment it crushes me entirely, it lifts. And I breathe again, freely, completely, unburdened and full of unhindered joy. 

So how am I?

Truly, I haven’t the faintest. It comes, it goes, but the only steady truth is I am chronically mentally unwell, and I am fighting it. Daily.