If you’ve ever been hit by an ocean wave that knocks you under or if you’ve ever run a race so hard that you feel as though you’re going to collapse—then you understand a little part of what depression feels like for me. And that moment of relief you feel when your head breaks through the surface of the water or when you pause to catch your breath? Well, that’s kinda like the relief I feel when emerging from an episode of depression.
Depression is a consuming illness. It encroaches on every single aspect of life while at the same time trying to convince me it’s not even real or there. When I am in the midst of depression, it is the only thing I can think about, the sole focus of every ounce of my energy. For me, depression manifests in a few ways but two symptoms that have accompanied every episode have been a loss of energy and motivation and thoughts (and often actions) of self-harm. Coming out of depression’s depths takes time, lots and lots of time—so I often struggle to see the progress I am making and have a hard time believing the people around me when they acknowledge my progress or remind me to be patient.
Unfortunately, I usually won’t notice or accept that I am doing better until I start to really come out of a depressive episode. It makes itself known in the little moments, the faint breaths of relief that slowly build into more:
A night out with friends where I’m able to be present and enjoy myself and not fall apart after.
A little spell of goofing off with my best friend where my happiness feels authentic.
The first morning I wake up not thinking about self-harm within five minutes of greeting a new day.
The first day I don’t cry and the first day I don’t want to.
The process of resurfacing from a depressive episode involves recognizing who I am beyond depression. It’s learning not to characterize myself only by my weaknesses, only by my scars.
Depression strips me of my identity. Recovery helps me find it again.
And even as I climb out of an episode, I find myself fearful of falling back into another one.
I’m not an expert on depression nor am I a mental health professional; I am just someone who knows what it is like to have depression and struggle to come up for air. So as I sit here and write, I don’t know if I even have the courage to share this with anyone. I hope I do. I want to share my story because depression tells you that you are alone and that no one will understand, that no one cares—but I want to prove that those things are false. You are not alone and someone out there can understand and will listen to your story when you are ready to tell it.
Depression has a way of making us feel incredibly isolated. We’re here to remind you of the truth that you are not alone. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].