Depression is probably different for everyone, but for me it’s always been like standing on a sandy beach on the most beautiful of days. You can see everyone around you enjoying the sunshine, looking amazing and tan, perfect white smiles on every one of their faces beneath the most fashionable of sunglasses. It’s almost as if they’re all celebrities just waiting for the paparazzi to take a picture and they want to be sure every picture is amazing.
I watch them, and while my feet sink lazily into the slightly cooled sand, I begin to smile and feel that I, too, am among the happy citizens of the beach.
Then, I see it. The waves are coming in. They’ve been building on the horizon for a while and here they come. The water bombards me and soon my feet are consumed. Even the sand beneath them has been swept away. Before long, I am deep within the water and being pulled away by the undertow. My stomach falls into my knees and my once happy contentment is gone and I fight against giving in and wanting to float away.
After the fury of the fight, I am left disheveled on the sand, tired and abandoned, once more to wipe off the sand and stand again, waiting to feel the fleeting joy of the sun before the next inevitable burst of waves.
You might ask why I don’t simply move back? It’s simple, really. A person like me can’t move back. Depression is a part of who I am. As much as I don’t want to feel depressed, I don’t know a life without it lurking somewhere in there. It may now be self-fulfilling prophecy, but it’s all I’ve known. Things always go bad. Things always are ruined. My life is terrible. It’s how it has always been and how it will always be. Somehow I’m not worth more.
It’s this feeling of inadequacy that swells up inside of me like the waves that sends me into a flurry of feelings that cascade between fighting and giving up. I look at my children and want to fight so I can be everything for them, but then I look at my bed and all I want to do is climb in it and waste away because everything feels futile.
Why work? I’ll never retire.
Why volunteer? No one cares.
What is happening? Whatever it is, it had been happening for as long as I can remember.
At the cusp of adulthood, my parents took me to doctors who had me try Prozac. It left me an emotional zombie. I felt no depression, but I felt nothing else either. By my mid twenties, I’d tried a host of other pill remedies, only to find that they were temporary fixes that caused other side-effect maladies that I couldn’t tolerate.
I couldn’t stand talking to counselors either. For some reason they only made me more angry and more miserable. Regardless of their approach, I couldn’t seem to find the answer I wanted. I wanted something quick, easy. Something anyone would want I suppose.
After giving birth to my first child, and suffering from postpartum depression, I made myself seek counseling. I was furious at the world. I wanted to stop living – not the kind where you commit suicide, but the kind where you just stop the world from spinning so fast around you. For once, I found a therapist who gave me something that worked for me and it wasn’t medication. It was a perspective instead. HE said to me, “Why are you investing in toxic people?”
It was true. I had invested time, energy, and love in people throughout my life who would and could only bring me pain. I remained loyal to them out of a sense of obligation and duty. I had been raised it was the right thing to do – that it was somehow wrong to abandon a friend or family member regardless of how he or she might treat you, but with this one question I felt a burden had been lifted. I had a way out.
There I sat, thinking about all the people in my life who I endured, but who openly hated me. My mother-in-law, for example, desperately wanted my husband to divorce me. She called him often to tell him so. I thought about all the attempts I made to make people like these happy even though I knew it would never change a thing. I thought about all the time I wasted going to events revolving around these people because I thought it would be rude to not attend. I stopped. It was the first time in my life I gave myself permission to stop. To not worry about what looked bad or what someone said. I gave myself permission to protect myself from some of my sadness.
It did not cure my depression, but these days I do not seek medication. I know that I can trim enough of the toxins from my life to endure the days the waves get too strong. I know I can say no to people and things who don’t deserve a place in my life. Finally, I realize that the moments in the sand can be longer than the moments under the water because I really do have the power to step back a little.