Zooming through the Japanese countryside my phone’s music player shuffles to an Our Lady Peace song, “Innocent.”
“I remember all the feelings and the day they stopped.”
This line had resonated with me the most in the early 2000’s when I was having a hard time being okay with who I was, who I thought I would become and everything in between.
I turned 24 this last August, and I think there are a few things I would like to say to 16 year old me.
First of all, those feelings will never stop completely.
I know hearing that sounds depressing and defeating, but trust me when I say that it happens to be part of the beauty of life. Remember that thing mom said about your experiences making you who you are, let’s just say she was right (again).
Growing up you’ve felt trapped, attacked, and often times beaten down by the things you think and feel. There were and are going to be mornings, nights and sometimes entire days(even weeks) when you can’t get out of bed. There will be days when you lie to stay home from school, days you hide in bathroom stalls, days you think that there is no way in the entire world you can pick yourself up off the floor and stop crying long enough to make it to the bed. There will be days when you can’t see beyond how empty life makes you feel.
Those times when you cried, screamed and said horrible things to the people who love you the most, or those times you hurt yourself (mentally and physically) because you felt like there was something terribly wrong with you and no one could help you figure out what it was or what it was doing to you. And that has got to be the most frustrating thing ever (because it still is at times.)
For a while you are going to feel sick. Not always sick in the nauseated sense, but in a way that makes you feel like there is a parasite living in your brain, in your heart and your lungs. One that steals your memories, eats away at your desire to live and cuts your breath short time and time again when you feel like you are drowning and all you really need is time to breathe.
It is going to take you days, months and even years (don’t worry, you’ve got time), to begin to figure out what it really is. Even though you’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression, it doesn’t mean anything to you. Because everyone says that being depressed is normal, it’s something everyone goes through and you just have to grin and bare it.
Well let me say this, you don’t ever have to grin and bare something that makes you wish away your life. You don’t ever have to feel like everyone experiences this so it’s normal and you can’t complain and try to get help because someone, somewhere else in the world, always has it worse.
You’ll realize that what you’re experiencing is not normal. It’s scary and horrific and sometimes people aren’t able to fight back, they aren’t able to pick themselves back up and keep going, because depression isn’t just something that people have. Depression isn’t the common cold of mental illnesses. When people try to force you to sit and behave, you tell them that depression can be a god damn life sentence. It can tear your life apart and make you into someone you no longer recognize. It has taken too many amazing people from this world (earlier than they should have ever left us), and making it seem like the person had a choice in the matter is unacceptable. They did not take their own life, it was taken from them.
So you stand tall and keep your chin up. You experience those days, you have those feelings, you can cry, scream and sometimes even think that it is all too much and carrying on isn’t even possible.
Remember that what you’re experiencing isn’t normal or acceptable because you’re unwell. You have to push harder and fight longer to just be okay sometimes. Those feelings will never fully disappear. They still creep and crawl in the dead of night, or appear suddenly when you’re on a sunny beach with close friends. Even though you feel burdened and isolated by a diagnosis that seems to do more harm than help, remember that you never have to be ashamed of things beyond your control.
Just remember, you made it. You make it each and every single day when you get up and put your socks on. When you wake up and aren’t able to drag yourself to work, or finish that paper due in a few hours, remember to take a deep breath and realize that you are fighting back against a disease that attempts to destroy every part of your beautiful, brilliant mind. Yet you are still able to wake every morning, regardless of how far you make it from your bed, and constantly fight back against those thoughts and desires to just give up.
I won’t tell you that you aren’t alone in this pursuit, because depression tends to stick you alone in your own dark corner while you blindly wander, hoping that you’ll find your way out of this maze. I won’t tell you that everything will be okay, because sometimes it is going to be dreadful. Things are going to happen that make you question everything, that make your inner being so deeply saddened that there are no words to express how you feel.
But I ensure you that it is all going to be worth it. It will be an uphill journey with the best freaking view ever, because you’ll never stop fighting and moving. It doesn’t matter if you have to stop and catch your breath from time to time, but depression will not be your beginning or your end. It does not get to decide anything anymore (and if it does, you can always change your mind.)
“One day you’ll have to let it go. One day you’ll stand up on your own.”