This post originally appeared in Hannah’s Monday Morning Email series, which you can subscribe to by visiting her website.
Depression is a liar. I wish there was a sweeter way to say that. Instead, I’ll say it again: depression is a liar. Depression is a smooth talker who likes to pull all-nighters if it means you two are going to have a slumber party. It likes to whisper lies in the thick of night.
Depression will do anything and everything imaginable to keep you standing in one place. It doesn’t want to see you progress or move out from underneath the fog.
Depression will tell you you’re not depressed. It will tell you that you’ll never rejoin the party and you’ll always be alone. Depression will spend its breath telling you that all you have to do is “get stronger” and “stay in control.” Of course, those lies will make you feel weaker and less in control.
I wish it was a matter of getting stronger or staying in control. It’s not. I wish I had a box full of answers that I could seal with packing tape and mail to your doorstep but I don’t. The only solutions I’ve found for depression, and the way it sweeps through a human body, almost seem too basic: stay surrounded and stay accountable.
When I dealt with my depression last year, it felt like I was trapped in this very tiny room with no windows or doors. I needed air. I needed light. I could not escape from this small prison in my mind that was holding me hostage during waking hours.
Apart from seeking medical help, I was bogged down by this feeling of wanting to be alone. I wanted to stay by myself. I wanted to throw my dark thoughts a party and feed them donuts. That’s what depression does; it tries to get you alone so it can back you in a corner and read you dead-end story books.
Call someone. When the dark thoughts are overcoming. When you’d rather be alone. When you are thinking about watching Netflix instead of seeking social interaction. Let someone into your darkness. Depression is going to hate that you are hosting guests instead of him.
Ask people questions. When you meet them for coffee or have them over for dinner, it is easier to just wallow in your fears and doubts. It is so much easier to talk about what the depression is telling you than to step outside and ask someone, “How are you doing? What are you struggling with right now? How can I help you?”
The more you circle around your own thoughts, trying to wedge puzzle pieces into places that don’t fit, the more you will forget to engage with other people’s fears, doubts, and insecurities. Depression is a liar because it wants to be selfish and claim you’re the only one hurting. Your hurt is valid. Your pain is seen. But you have to remember that there are other people outside the walls of depression who are fighting to be seen by you.
Like I said, they’re simple questions: How are you doing? What are you facing? What is frustrating for you right now?
Asking them might seem insignificant, but it’s nearly impossible to be distracted by your own dark thoughts when you are listening to the person sitting across from you.
People want to help you. They need to be let in though. Letting people into my mess, and asking them to keep me accountable, was nearly impossible for me at first. I didn’t want to be seen as weak. I didn’t want to need help.
I remember sitting on the couch of a close friend, three months into my depression, and hearing her tell me she would not let me sit there and cry any longer.
“You’re going to start writing down every little thing you do,” she told me. “You are going to write down when you shower, when you write a letter, when you open a book to read, all of it.”
I didn’t know at the time that she was training me in baby steps. She was trying to reach out, grab my shoulders, and tell me, “the only way you can walk out of the woods is if you start walking.”
Depression has this really cunning plan to keep you lost in the woods. It wants to make you so comfortable with the towering trees and dark pathways that you sink into the mindset that you are never coming out. Don’t let depression have the honor of writing your narrative.
I hated staying accountable to those baby steps. They felt minuscule for a go-getter like me. But then they began to stack. The lists began to gain length. I started to see the places where I was getting stronger, gaining traction, and finally starting to walk again.
I would tell myself on repeat, with each silly action step, “You are coming out of the woods. Do you hear me, girl? You are coming out of the woods.”
I have completely walked out of the woods. I have that victory, and I keep it on display like a trophy from little league. But two things haven’t changed since I walked out: I haven’t stopped being surrounded, and I haven’t stopped being accountable to my baby steps.
You’re going to need people, and you are going to need a new appreciation for baby steps to fight this battle and win. You’ll need to be surrounded and capable.
Depression wants to win. Some days it wins a battle or two, but it has not won the war. Your fight is not over yet. Believe there will be a clearing in the trees. You are coming out of the woods. Do you hear me? You are coming out of the woods.