^^^ This is the face of someone happy, at a friend's house for Fourth of July brunch, celebrating.
It’s also the face of someone who spent that evening on a rooftop in Jersey using a rusty screw to scratch rivets in her arms, who was hospitalized five days later.
It's the face of someone who is conflicted, constantly. Someone who is on a never-ending rollercoaster that takes her to the most heady of highs and the most scream-inducing descents.
It's kind of the perfect example of what depression is like, because it's misleading. Looking at this picture, especially after I posted it on Facebook and acted like all was well, you might be convinced that, indeed, all was well.
Spoiler alert: all was not well. I was not happy. I was depressed.
Spoiler alert: I'm still not happy. Or at least, I'm not happy with any kind of lasting joy. I come in and out of my happiness like a swimmer occasionally coming up for air. But the happiness is as fleeting as each breath. It comes, it goes, lasting just long enough for me to survive the next underwater stint.
But surviving, it's all I'm doing these days. I've stopped thriving.
When I left the hospital in October 2015, I wrote about how important it was not just to survive depression, but to thrive despite it. I wonder if I wasn't incredibly naive at the time. Because, how can you thrive when your mind is a prison, a dark and dank prism through which the world is empty of color and life, hope and expectation?
I've made hope-giving my mission; I've said this whole depression journey is worth it all because at least, at the very least, I can share my story and offer hope to others.
But I'm out of hope for myself. I don't know how to carry on. [Caveat: this is not me saying I have suicidal thoughts. I'm not there yet. I'm just...at a loss.]
This morning I took this picture. I put on makeup and did my hair and went to church. And then I left church an hour early, because my head felt like it was going to explode and I was in the bathroom dry-heaving and I couldn't think, couldn't think straight, couldn't think past the rotating thoughts going round and round and round in my head.
I was so excited to be at church; it's the one I went to as a child growing up in Trieste, and I thought, "This is good. This is my home church. It is good that I am here."
And then the downward descent began and I rushed to the bathroom and clutched my stomach and my head and my eyes watered and I had to leave. I had to leave.
I always, always, always have to leave.
I don't know how many parties I've missed because I'm stuck in my own head, depressed and distraught, unable to leave my bed. Or how much fun I've either avoided or straight-up ruined because I can't get unstuck.
This year, it's been hard. So freaking, stinking hard.
And I don't foresee things getting any better. I am stuck in my own head.
I just finished reading TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN, John Green's latest novel, and if there's any book that describes mental illness in a tangible, real way, it's that one.
I don't have OCD, but I related to Aza Holmes' thought spirals, the way her brain would latch onto one concept, one thought and take it down and down and down and down, into the ends of the earth where she could no longer see anything, no longer breathe, no longer exist.
I related to that. That is what it's like in my brain when the depression sets in. It's like — I cannot fathom a world in which I stayed at church, because I cannot fathom a world in which things didn't just keep on getting worse, keep on disintegrating.
Ahh, you guys. This life I'm living, this life with depression and pain and mental agony? It's hard. It's so very, very hard. Waking up is hard, and breathing is hard, and doing anything, anything at all, is viciously difficult.
I know I'm not the only one living this way. That doesn't comfort me. But I want to say to those who are also living this hard, hard life, that I see you. I recognize your pain and the difficulty of your walk. I applaud you for days when you do well, and I mourn with you on days when you cannot, cannot, cannot persevere. I rejoice with you in the triumphs, be they as big as a new job or as small as eating breakfast. And I have compassion upon what you might think of as failures, because y'all — I'm a failure, too.
How have I failed?
Oh, man. I count it my greatest failure that I never finished my MA in journalism from NYU. I am distraught every time the thought resurfaces in my mind. Second to that is my failure to be able to continue to live in New York. There's my failure to read as much as I should, to write as well as I should, to film a new video every week and grow my YouTube audience. I fail to love people as well as I should, I fail to be as self-sacrificing as I should, I fail to think about anything but myself most of the time.
I fail. Epically and constantly.
So yeah, I get it. I'm with you.
And maybe that's where we find thriving. Maybe that's where we find the strength to carry on. Maybe, it's because we're all in this together (cue Zac Efron crooning and dancing). We hold each other up; we should hold each other up, because it is impossible and unrealistic and frankly a vast misunderstanding of humanity to assume that anyone can do it on their own (yes, doctor from the hospital who dissed me for asking my friends to help me, I am looking at you).
We're all in this together.
I remind myself, as much as I don't want to, that God is in this with me, too. I believe in the Creator God, the one who was before time and created time and poured his love into me and you and them. I believe He is here, because without that belief?
Without that belief, I don't even survive.
Oh, this is a long post. I kept typing and typing and waiting for the end to come (much like I felt while watching The Last Jedi this weekend, which, let's be real, is epic). And it's finally here. And I'll leave you with this: we're in this together. I'm here with you. Surviving is hard, thriving even harder, but we can do it. Through community, and faith, and holding hands, we can do it.
On that note, I beg of you: come hold my hand. Help me walk through this darkness. Please. <3