Depression is life in a dense fog. Colors become muted, our skin no longer absorbs the warmth of the sun. We no longer recognize or enjoy the aroma of our morning cup of coffee. In fact, simply making it has become a burden. We drive to work and collect every last ounce of energy in order to apply the mask that says we are okay. The smile that says “I am happy, too.” Maybe if we fake it for long enough, we will believe it. But it is hard to believe anything anymore.
Depression is a silent pain. If it speaks, we fear judgment, stigma, isolation, loss. So we surrender. Our bed becomes our safe haven and the time away is spent lifelessly representing that person the world still thinks we are. The world sees the breathing, functioning shell, and that is good enough. But the shell is empty. The spark that once fueled our joy is dimmed. Our heart hasn’t grown cold, it has run dry. The comforting insulation of love and laughter has become something existing only in movies. Tomorrow is no longer a new day, but an extension of our suffering.
Depression becomes our worst enemy while also acting as our biggest comfort. We become complacent in our misery, accepting the false belief that our life will never be better than it is today. We accept depression as our only reality because it is the only voice we hear. It is the only power influencing us how to think, how to feel, how to act. On our worst days, we cling to the memories of our brighter days. We believe that we have felt all there is to feel. At the beginning of life, we were granted so many good days, and we have used them all up. We long for the days when our smiles were real and we met each sunrise with clarity and rejuvenation. We long for hope while simultaneously handing it over. On our best days, we just don’t care. The only reprieve is sleep, the only time that depression rests. When we are asleep, no one can ask if we are okay. No one can see that we aren’t. No one can tell us “you will get through this” or “your life is worth so much.” No one can shove our blessings down our throat and make us chew on the guilt of seeming ungrateful.
Despite the heavy weight and vicious toxicity of depression, the human spirit is incredible. Our darkest days relentlessly ask us why we are here, and then at some point- days, weeks, or even years later, we will discover the answer. And then just like a muscle-days, weeks, years of pain, suffering and deterioration will allow us the opportunity to rebuild on a foundation that can only support something stronger than what was once there. The challenge is waiting for that day to come. The bigger challenge is believing that it will.
The resiliency of the human spirit is often underestimated, discredited, and wasted. Resiliency allows us the ability to use our struggles as building blocks rather than the wrecking ball that finishes us. Then, not suddenly, not dramatically, not with bells and whistles and lightbulbs all igniting at once, we feel okay. We feel better. And gradually, subtly, we will find happiness again. We might find it in the kind words of a friend. We might find it in the unstained enthusiasm of a child. We might find it when we notice for the first time in years how beautiful the sunset is. We might find it when we smell our morning coffee again. When or where we find it makes no difference. What matters is in that moment we remember what it means to feel. More profoundly, we acknowledge that we are capable of feeling. We have found the colors to paint over even the darkest shades of blue.
These moments might be few and far between. We might look for them in every corner and often times come up empty-handed. But as our hearts thaw from the catatonia of depression, we will find them more and more. We will treasure the act of rejoicing because we know the aches of despair. We will hold onto our happiness tighter and longer because we know the darkness of its void. We will be able to see the sadness and pain in the eyes of a stranger. We will be able to recognize when the smiles of our loved ones only serve as a costume. We will be able to look at the darkest, emptiest, most trying days of our lives as nothing more than stop signs in our rear view mirror. We will serve as pillars of hope for those who are tapping their breaks. We will drive the cars of our lives knowing that we navigated the twists and turns in the road. And just as such, we can pick up those who are struggling to find the way on their own.