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.

A Depressive Morning, And Learning Just to Breathe...

This morning I woke up and burrowed my head in my pillow, pulled the covers up over my body and stayed in bed way later than I should have. I drank coffee and read the paper and stared at my computer screen. Twice I tried to go eat breakfast. Twice I couldn't muster the energy to grab the box of cereal from the cupboard and pour the milk.

"Just open the blinds and it'll be better," I thought. It doesn't take much to pull the shutters open, but after I'd done that I sank back onto bed, exhausted.

I contemplated going back to bed. I started watching YouTube videos (BookTube, aka Book YouTube, is my new favorite Internet corner) and my stomach growled, so accompanied by the voice of a girl talking about her favorite books, I went to the kitchen.

I ate.

And then I sat and thought about life and how tired I was.

"I should go outside," I thought.

I didn't.

Instead, I put on my comfiest sweater and told myself that today I could take a break. I didn't have to write my novel. I didn't have to work on others' books, or do anything that would stress me out. All I had to do, really, was read a little bit.

And after reading, I was a little enthused. So I began to write. And while writing, I became very enthused. So now I'm here, writing this post, still wearing my comfy sweater that I got at Goodwill that my mom grimaces at (it's like three shades of brown and shapeless; to me, that screams "comfort." To her, not so much :), still on the couch, still sure that if I stop moving, stop the momentum, things will collapse, but hey, I made it this far through the day, didn't I?

I think part of the problem is I'm anxious. And when I have anxious thoughts or anxiety rears its head in me, I don't know what to do with it. I don't know how to handle it. So I turn inward and let my mind run down the usual depressive paths it's wrought over many years. And I begin to sink.

I'm anxious about a lot of things. There are two places I want to live: in New York City, or in Trieste. And neither of those look like a possibility right now. New York is too expensive unless and until I get a full-time salaried job, and I need a visa to live in Italy, and I need a job or student-life to get a visa. 

On the one hand, I know I have two more months here, and that's glorious and decadent in how luxurious that length of time is.

On the other hand, I know after that I'll have to figure out what comes next. And my 26th birthday is only a year and a half away, and when it comes I won't have insurance, and I don't have money for insurance, and who knows if I'll ever get a job, and I've been writing seriously since I was in high school and I still don't have any prospects of making good on my novels and I've gotten a lot of rejections lately and everything is hard and I don't know how to do any of this and what if I never make it and —

Stop.

There are countless, infinite "ands" to work through. There will never stop being things to be anxious about.

So breathe. Just breathe. In, and out, and in, and out. Let it go.

I don't have to plan everything now. I just have to read. I just have to write for today. 

I take selfies when I'm not depressed. 

I take selfies when I'm not depressed. 

The future is vast and impossible to see through. So I'm going to do something radical (for me) and stop trying to see through it. 

I'm going to live in this moment, work on this project, read this book, and I'm going to watch BookTube and scroll through Twitter and hang out with children and learn to cook and I'm not going to freak out about things that I can't, at the moment, control.

Because I can't control whether or not someone offers me a job; I can only control how good my application is. I can't control whether or not I get an agent or a book deal; I can only control the books I write. I can't control whether I make it back to New York or Italy; I can only control the fact that I'll try.

And so it is. 

And so I breathe in.

And I let it out. 

And I move to the next task and I ignore the anxiety and the depression that seek to derail me.