A few months ago I dipped lower for a lot longer than I usually do. “Dipping low” is what I refer to the periods of depression I feel, it feels like a safe and easy way to explain to my family and friends what I am experiencing. In a world that can seem overwhelmingly full of suffering and injustice my mind can play a cruel trick on me. I convince myself that I am ungrateful and selfish because why else in my privileged life would I feel depressed? Of course, I know that these thoughts are ridiculous, today anyway. This is how depression works. It exploits your fears and insecurities.
I have a bad habit of removing myself from a lot of the things that bring me joy when I am depressed. Part of the reason is that my depression sets in after an intense period of anxiety. I was driving to school one day after about of week of slipping lower. I began crying and breathing so rapidly I became lightheaded. Needless to say, I did not make it to school that day. Depression and anxiety are the toxic best friends that live in my mind. They support one another, creating an environment that nurtures intrusive thoughts and the decline of my self-worth.
Being in a low can be incredibly isolating. Depression makes everything more difficult and spending time with the people you love can feel selfish. I had a friend who use to complain about her roommates behaviour while she was depressed. She was irritable and “hard to be around.” It took me years to block out her words when I thought about opening up to people. If you have ever dealt with depression, please do not let anyone else make you feel like a burden. You are not a burden and a sad version of you is just as worthy as love as the best version of yourself. If you do not deal with depression but are a human being (making it inevitable that you will encounter someone with depression), be gentle and thoughtful with them. No matter how hard it can be to be around someone who is depressed, trust me when I say it is harder for them.
I came to a breaking point last semester when I had to seriously consider going on academic leave. When discussing my options a doctor asked “Emma, how long are you going to let depression run your life?” and urged me to open up to those around me about how bad it had gotten. I confided to a few friends who I knew would be more compassionate with me than I was capable of being with myself at the time. It is incredible how much this seemingly simple act helped me. It gave me the courage to open up to a couple of my professors and a woman in the Office of Student Life. These conversations made me feel vulnerable and raw but they also helped me realize that I was never as alone as I had felt.
The kindness and empathy I received brought so much light and optimism back into my life. This support coupled with the question “does depression run my life?” made me realize that instead of avoiding people when I am low I need to embrace them. So many of us live with depression, we are not alone and we can learn from each other. I have accepted that depression will likely always be a part of my life, and that’s okay; but I am not going to let it stop me from reaching my full potential anymore. With this acceptance and the comfort I found in others I decided to learn from other people who are thriving despite their mental health challenges. I hope you let me introduce you to the people teaching me how to live with my anxiety and depression. Charlamagne tha God, Elena Brower and, Ellen Forney are among those whose wisdom is helping me stay in control. Thanks for reading and stay tuned…