My depression and anxiety have been with me for a very long time. They used to be everyday companions. Now, I am lucky enough that my depression is only an occasional visitor.
It started when I was in middle school. At first, it was just an itch that said nasty things in the back of my mind. I didn’t pay much attention to the itch at first. It was just something that I knew I had but I barely noticed it. It was like allergies. It was a persisting cough that I couldn’t quite get rid of.
It stayed like that for a long while, causing mild discomfort but not cause for alarm. Then before I knew it, the itch I felt turned into an open wound that I couldn’t close.My First Long Winter
My first year of high school my depression and anxiety hit me in full force. I had what I would later find out is Seasonal Affective Disorder. As the weather got colder and the days got shorter my wounds became deeper. I started having constant anxiety. I woke up worried and I went to sleep worried. I worried about what I looked like. I worried about what I wore. Most of all, I worried about what other people thought of me.
I had what many people would consider normal worries for a normal high schooler. The problem was that these worries kicked my anxiety and my fear into overdrive. I was constantly terrified of being judged and made fun of that I made up excuses not to go to school or even out in public.
I was afraid. I was afraid of being judged and that caused me to “know” things. I knew that I was a terrible person. I knew that nobody liked me. I knew that I would amount to nothing. I knew these things like I knew that gravity kept me tethered to the earth.
These things, of course, were not true at all. The problem was that my depression had convinced me that they were. The winter became long and I only got worse. I wouldn’t go out in public. I cried when I woke up and I cried myself to sleep.
Physical Manifestations of Mental Wounds
At this point, I had fallen deep into despair, but I didn’t really know how to get help. I felt as if everyone was against me, so it was hard to trust. I trusted my close friends in confidence, but they were not the therapists that I needed. They could only do so much.
In my despair, I became angry. I was angry at myself. I was angry at God. I was angry at the people who wanted to help me. Most of all, I was angry at the world for being so cruel to me. I started lashing out with bursts of outrage at things that would have normally only mildly annoyed me. I punched pillows. I screamed and yelled. I felt like cursing at the sky. I don’t know why I did it the first time but that is when I began self-harming.
At first, I was doing it to punish myself. In my depression and my grief, I felt as though I deserved it. It began as one little red line on my arm. Then one little red line turned into twenty angry slashes. At some point, I stopped doing it to punish myself and it turned into a habit. It made me feel something. It made me feel something other than sadness, if only for a moment or two.
After I ran out of space on my arm, I stopped for a time and finally looked for help. This was about a year since the first time I harmed myself. I was still angry. I thought the world owed me something. I was seeking help for angry, spiteful reasons. All the same, it was lucky that I found help anyway.
I began to see a therapist once a week to talk about my problems. It took a long time but I finally started to heal. I stopped self-harming and I began to search for myself. Depression can take a toll on a person’s self-identity. Healing can feel like recreating oneself all over again.
I think of it as the Phoenix in a way. Part of you may die, but a whole new part of yourself that you didn’t know before is born from the ashes. Throughout high school, I still went through bouts of depression and anxiety. I still do. The difference was that I began to learn. I learned that my anger towards myself and others was unjust. I learned this by getting to know myself once again.
What I know- Years Later
I am now 21 years old and in college. A lot has changed since then, but that’s a story for another article perhaps. I have become much wiser through my still ongoing recovery and healing. What I know is that my depression and anxiety has made me a better person. I am no longer angry. There is no reason to be.
I came to discover that the world doesn’t owe me a single thing. Things don’t just “happen for a reason.” I refuse to believe that I became depressed and miserable for a reason. I refuse to believe that awful things happen to good people for a reason. We just have to deal with the cards that we are dealt. Forget everything else about recovering from something as awful as depression is.
There is one thing that matters. You get to choose happiness. You choose the way you live your life to what you want it to be. Forget fate. Forget your friends. Forget God. Forget your therapist. You are the only one that can create a life worth living. Only you can create happiness for yourself. Other things help, but you have to be the initiator. Other people can’t do it for you. I am not advocating that you go it alone, but it helps to choose your own path.
Personally, depression helped me find my purpose. I love to help people. It’s not grand gestures, but the little things in life. I try to be kind and good to people because I know what they could be going through. There are many people like me who have been through hell and back. Even doing something as simple as giving a compliment can brighten someone’s day. There isn’t enough kindness in the world anymore.
My depression, to me, was a gift. It helped me see other people’s pain and forget my own. Without pain, we cannot see any sadness we could be inflicting. I use my pain to put goodness back in the world. I believe at their core, most people are good. It’s this world that makes them wicked, angry, and anxious. I do my best to make sure I put kindness out into the world.
My reason is simple. I don’t want anyone to ever feel the way that I have felt. I don’t want anyone to cry as I have cried. I don’t want anyone to bleed as I have bled. No one should have to feel worthless like I once did. My depression has allowed me to see others pain, or at least see the possibility of it. I have used this to become what I believe to be a better human being.
I use my pain and my depression to hold myself to a standard of kindness. I don’t always succeed, but I’ll be damned if I stand by and let someone suffer if there is something I can do about it. Every other person that stands with me in this belief can make the world a better place too. It only takes an open door or a kind word to make the world a better place.
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