These last few weeks have been eventful in both pleasant and unpleasant ways:
- My roommate and one of my best friends moved out of Florida and back to New York.
- I adopted a puppy. His name is Bucky Barnes (after Captain America’s best friend).
- I was able to travel home for the month of May and be with family.
- I’m pretty certain my depression has come back.
You probably weren’t expecting that last one, I wasn’t either—even though I think I’ve been fending it off since the start of the new year, if I’m being honest. Something has just been off. I cry a lot more. I’m overcome with loneliness even when surrounded by people who I know damn well care. My level of irritability is sky-high. And there’s this nagging hopelessness that sucks the joy out of most things.
When I first suffered with depression at the tail-end of high school, I gave in relatively easy and let it have its way for years. My binge eating and low self-esteem gave way to purging. I slept a ton. I called into work and missed school for days at a time. At one point, I just accepted that that was who I was: an unreliable, lethargic, and never-going-to-live-up-to-their-potential person.
But even on the most glum days, I somehow found myself still trying. There never was an aha moment, never a point where all was resolved, but there were small glimpses of the cheeriful, easily excitable Becky most have come to know. And slowly, with lots of hiccups, counseling sessions (I saw four different professionals), medication trial and errors (I tried three different kinds), and self-reflection (journal entries, letters to my deceased dad, songwriting), I found a way out.
So to now admit that I may be back there, that I might be ill again, is gut-wrenching. To think that what plagued me those four or five horrid years could be making a comeback is all kinds of terrifying. What if I’m not strong enough this time? What if the shroud of gloom and doom lasts for even longer? What if I lose all that I’ve worked so hard to build and protect since the last battle?
But what if this time is different? What if I know how to fight back? What if I go into battle knowing I can beat this thing again?
There’s a difference this time around, and I’m seeing it in flashes. Yes, I’m hurting. Yes, I’m tired and want to throw in the towel. But I’m stronger and wiser than before (maturity and all that). I’m aware that this isn’t me, that this seemingly all-encompassing sadness is more of a leaching villain than the toxic-yet-comforting friend I initially saw it as. And if you know me, then you know how much I love a good superhero story.
Good versus Evil.
Light versus Dark.
Captain America versus Red Skull.
Me versus Depression.
Our stories are complex and layered, but maybe this chapter of my existence can be that simple: I am good. I am light. Basically, I’m Captain America (I tried to type that without laughing but failed miserably). And then, on the opposite side of the spectrum, you can find Depression: the villain, the darkness with a strictly evil agenda. No redeeming qualities, no tragic backstory that causes the audience to feel even a shred of sympathy for its chaotic and destructive behavior.
If that’s the case, then I’m the hero of this story. I may very well still be the underdog, but this time I have a plan and a “superpower.”
Just as Captain America possess exceptional strength, healing, and agility, my superpower comes in the form of knowledge and self-awareness. Sure, it isn’t flashy or nearly as cool, but when you really think about it, knowing who you are and what brings you joy is powerful. It’s what we do with that knowledge that is most essential to our survival. It’s what gives us the courage to move and stand and fight that really throws the villain for a loop.
Thus far, I’ve fought back by going for hikes with Bucky Barnes, seeing movies (I’ve seen Avengers: Infinity War four times and counting—bet you didn’t see that coming), checking in with friends about where my head is at, scheduling sessions with a counselor, going to the bookstore and getting lost in a new comic book, and, well, writing.
I didn’t do any of that the last time around. I didn’t know what to do to feel like myself—I’m not sure I really even knew myself back then. But I do now.
All of these parallels to fictional people and make-believe worlds may seem childish, but if it’s what keeps me alive then who has the right to criticize my character arc? It’s my battle, and I think I deserve a metaphorical shield or cape just for showing up. Because anyone who chooses to defy a soul-sucker like mental illness is a total superhero in my book.
So I will do just that. I will push myself to get out of bed even though I’d rather stay asleep. I will talk to a friend or my counselor even though it makes me feel vulnerable. I will write and read and perhaps even explore a new hobby if it keeps me from turning back to bad habits. I will pretend I’m a goddamn super soldier with the determination to fight for the good inside of me that deserves to see the light no matter how exhausted I am.