The Gap

It’s 6 a.m. I’ve almost been awake for two hours. I have two finals today. I should probably study for them but I don’t really feel like it. Instead I’ve been reading stories online and singing songs in my head. But mostly when I wake up this early, I just think.

I am not like anyone I have ever met. Honestly, I don’t know anyone that thinks like me. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe it just means that I need to get to know more people. But I wake up at 4 a.m. singing Disney songs. I think about people all the time. I’m a people pleaser and people watcher and people analyzer. My best friend was frustrated with another friend of hers, and I told her what was probably going on. She told me later that I had been right. I’ve just spent my entire life learning about people, but I feel like I hardly know anything.

There seems to be a gap between me and the rest of the world. I have a lot of friends. Most are distant or just slightly closer than being an acquaintance, but they are friendly and we talk sometimes. I just feel separated. There seems to be a gap keeping me from becoming better friends with people.

I contemplate suicide a lot. It’s mostly in the quiet moments like this that I think it would be easier to just go, to silently slip out of everyone’s life. In truth, I never really want to die. I just want my situation on the outside to fit my feelings on the inside. I feel so far away from people emotionally that I just want to be that far away from them physically, like on another planet type of distance. Or I feel so torn up on the inside that I just want to be torn up on the outside to match all the things I’m feeling.

I know I’m going to do fairly well on my finals today, mostly because I don’t have to do very well. I have already calculated my grades and my final won’t make much of a difference. There’s something about life that I have never understood- how can it be so hard and so easy at the same time? I don’t think life is really that hard or complicated. You find something you want to do, learn how to do it, do your best at it, and try to make friends and have fun along the way. Yet, there is a dichotomy and a distance between physical life and emotional life. I want to be loved. I want to feel needed and wanted and important. That’s what we all want, right? And I know that I am. I am loved and needed and wanted. But there still seems to be a gap. Does everyone have that gap or is it just a product of my own creation?

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Hidden Depression

I don’t normally talk about hidden depression because I talk so much on this blog about depression that I hardly feel it is hidden from anyone. But today I was hiding my depression. And in reality, most days I hide my depression.

I broke down in church today as we started to sing “O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.” This song has been a soft spot for me over the years. I struggle with the thought of only the “faithful, joyful, and triumphant” being called to come celebrate the birth of Christ. Didn’t Christ come for everyone, including the broken and downtrodden and depressed? It bothered me so much that  I wrote my own version of the song one year. But today as I sang, I choked on the words. I want to come to Christ. I want to feel his presence in my life. But there are times when I just can’t handle it all. But instead of going to someone and telling them how I felt and seeking comfort, I left and stayed in my car until I could be okay again.

The truth is that I wanted to die today. I went to my car and wanted to drive away into nothingness and forget all the pain that I have ever felt. But I went back inside and talked to people and tried to be as friendly as I could. The problem is that I am depressed a lot. I feel lost and alone and hurt. But I don’t feel like I can tell anyone, perhaps especially my friends. I don’t understand why people are friends with me. But would they want to stay friends if they knew how much I struggle?

I convince myself to be strong. I convince myself that I am strong because if I wasn’t strong, I would never survive. I convince myself that I love life and that I am perfectly content with everything as it is because I can’t handle the pain of wanting anything other than what I have.  The truth is that I am depressed. I want to die. My greatest sacrifice is getting up every day and keeping on going.

I have good days and horrible days. But the real truth is that every good day I have is because I make a constant effort to make it a good day. I choose to constantly look towards the light. I choose to avoid the appearance of darkness because I know how easily it pulls me in. Then, something happens that reminds me that everything is not okay with the world. I am reminded that there are cruel people in this world, or I am reminded of my failures, or I am reminded that there are people struggling and suffering, and there is little I can do to change it. That is when I fall. I fall into the depths of depression and have to work to get back to the light.

My hidden depression is not so much hiding it from everyone else as hiding it from myself. I don’t usually show others how depressed I get, but I also don’t show myself how depressed I can be. I put myself in a bubble and protect myself from all the pain I don’t want to feel. I have been doing well, and I know I will feel well again. But I also know that I can only stay well as long as I stay in the light. Each time I fall, it is tempting to stay down. It is tempting to stop trying so hard to be okay. But people need me. I am needed and wanted, so I must become okay again. That is why I keep hiding depression so that it won’t block my light.

 

My Biggest Fear

My biggest fear has always been hurting people. I used to think that my biggest fear was that I would lose my battle with depression, that I would finally succeed in ending my life. I was afraid of anything that could hurt me because I thought about dying so much and so often that I feared I might not be able to stop myself if I had the means to end my life. But I realized that I ultimately feared killing myself because I knew it would hurt people.

My fear has decreased in the last few years, but I used to be terrified of hurting another human being. l was so scared that at one point, I tried to avoid people all together. Memories still haunt me occasionally of times that I unintentionally hurt someone.

On the other side of fear, though, is a burning desire to help others and make their lives a little better or easier or happier. My entire life has been dedicated to making others happy. It is my favorite thing to do. I cannot stop myself from wanting to do things for others.

Due to experiences growing up, I used to hate myself for my desires to do kind things for others. I believed that I was a flawed person that did not know how to help anyone and that the people I did things for might be offended or inconvenienced by my kind gesture. These thoughts sent me into a spiral of depression and self-destruction every time I did something for someone.

I remember the first time I did something for someone and wasn’t flooded with a wave of guilt afterward. I took a box of little gifts with a note on it to one of my friends and dropped it off on her porch after she had a rough couple of days. I treasure that memory because it was the first time I gave a gift to a friend without hating myself for it.

I absolutely adore Christmas because I get to give to others without feeling out of place or different from the rest of the world. I am grateful for the opportunities to serve and to give that Christmas offers. I am grateful for this time of year that makes my deepest desires seem normal. I wish we all treated each other as though every day was part of the Christmas season, maybe then I would not feel so out of place when I do something kind for another human being.

Grateful for Goodness

I have been struggling today. I watched a show last night that had some teenagers bullying others, and it just broke me. The show was made well and had a good message and everything ended on a good note, but seeing people being mean to someone else was more than I could handle. I haven’t really been okay since then. I am not sure why I am so sensitive to these types of things or why it hits me so hard emotionally, but it takes a long time to get me back to normal after something like this.

It makes me more grateful for all of the goodness in the world though. It makes me grateful for everything that every person everywhere does to try to help someone else. Today is Veteran’s Day in America and I am grateful for the people that have served and are serving our country in the armed forces. There are so many people that sacrifice so much for others. From people in the military to teachers to nurses to parents, and so many more, there are many people in the world working to make this a better place.

On a day like today when I am drowning because of all the bad in the world, I am so grateful that there is so much good to focus on instead. Maybe there will always be bad things that happen. No one is perfect, and there will probably always be people who hurt others intentionally. But there are many more people who are trying to help others. There are many more people who are trying to generate goodness. It may not make everything better, but on a day like today, I can be grateful for the good in the world.

 

Living for the Good and the Bad

I have not wanted to die in about two weeks. This is the longest I have felt well since the two weeks last year between getting out of my worst episode of depression and being involved in a serious car accident. I feel as though I have gone through hell twice over the last two years. I went from being in the most pain I had ever been through emotionally and mentally to being in the most pain I had ever endured physically. There were so many days of wanting to give up, days where the pain was so bad that I would have done anything just to make it stop. But I finally feel like myself again. I feel free from the pain that dominated my life.

It is interesting how you look at things when you get better. I would not trade the last two years for anything. It was the most difficult time of my life, but also a time when I grew exponentially. I am not who I was two years ago. I am not even who I was two months ago. I have grown so much in these difficult circumstances. I found out what I am made of, who I am at my core, and what I am capable of. I have conquered my greatest giants of self-loathing, fear, and doubt. I have learned to trust. I have learned how to be vulnerable. I have learned that I have worth, that I am loved, and that I am strong and kind and giving.

The last two years have been both the best and worst of my life. Sometimes we think that things are all good or all bad. The glass is either half empty or half full. We are either happy or not. But maybe the glass just is. Maybe we just are. And maybe it is enough just to be- to be here, to be alive, to be human. The last two years have taught me that sometimes you have to go through the worst to discover the best that life has to offer. And no matter what happens, there is always good. Even when life is so completely horrible that you do not want to be here one more second, there is good.

I am glad that I stayed for the good… and for the bad. Sometimes we make life seem like only the good is worth living for. That’s not true. The bad is worth living for, too. Not because it is fun or happy or easy, but because it molds us. The bad things in life are the things that make us better. It is through our suffering that we learn compassion, forgiveness, love, endurance, perseverance, patience, strength, and many of the best qualities we can possess. We must choose to live for both the good and the bad, so that when things get hard, we keep going and refuse to give up.

So, here’s to living for everything this world has to offer- the good, the bad, and the mundane. Here’s to constant improvement and progression. Here’s to changing and learning and being. And here’s to better days ahead. 🙂

I Am Loved

I am loved.

I have to remind myself of that often. I feel a little ridiculous in recounting all the things I do to remind myself that I am loved and wanted and important and of worth.

I have sticky notes in my car from friends saying encouraging things. I have pictures on my wall and my dresser and my nightstand. I have notes and letters on my nightstand and sticky notes on bed posts. I keep emails and texts and screenshots of especially meaningful texts and emails and Facebook statuses. I have a box under my bed, filled with every card or note or tiny piece of paper almost anyone has ever given me.

I used to take a particular street to get to my house because it passed a friend’s house and seeing it every day helped me remember that I have a friend. I kept a picture of my best friend from middle school on my dresser for 8 years even though we didn’t really stay friends after middle school because it reminded me that at some point, at some time, someone cared about me enough to give me a picture of them.

Things are different now. I am more loved than ever and feel it more than I ever have before. And yet… I still need to remind myself of it every day. And sometimes, I need others to remind me of it because my reminders are just not enough.

Is it ridiculous that after feeling like I didn’t really have friends for over a third of my life, that I still can’t believe it on most days? Is it ridiculous that I constantly need to be reminded that I am loved and wanted and people enjoy my company?

I still wonder why anyone would want to be around me. I still wonder why people even try to talk to me. I still feel like a stranger that will never fit in or belong in this world.

Does everyone’s past bother them this much? I feel like I have overcome a lot of my past. I have worked through a lot of stuff. I have healed and recovered and gotten better. Yet, there are times when I wonder if I’ve made any progress at all. Is it possible to stop doubting my worth? Is it possible to believe that I have friends that want to be my friend and that I’ll always have friends? Is it possible to believe in a reality that doesn’t seem real?

Do you ever wonder if you are loved? If you have worth? If you have friends? What do you do to remind yourself?

Depression and Happiness

Happiness has about as much to do with depression as hygiene has to do with being healthy.

Happiness definitely influences depression, and it is an important thing to learn in overcoming and living with depression, but there is so much more to treating depression than learning to be happy.

Depression is like a blanket that covers you from everything around you. It makes it hard to see the light. It makes you feel like there is nothing else in the world but how you feel right now. But as bad as it is, it makes you feel safe somehow. It makes you feel like if you stay in that state, if you isolate, if you don’t do anything but stay in bed and cry, you won’t have to deal with all the worse things in the world. Because while others around you see a world filled with light and hope, and they wonder why you are staying under a blanket when you “don’t have to,” you see the dark shadows of the world. 

You see the demons that hide inside of you and everyone else. You have nightmares that wake you up or make it hard to sleep. You feel the pain of the world- the hurt and neglect, the children that are abused or starving, the wars and violence and men and women that show no respect for others, that take advantage of people and tear people down and take away another person’s ability to feel human. You hear the screams that no one else seems to notice. You see the pain in the eyes of someone that has been hurt. 

In the depths of depression, depression can feel like a safe place because depression shows you everything wrong with the world and tells you that it is hopeless to fight against the dark and the only way to find peace is to get out. Depression tells you that getting out of depression will only make you have to face a broken world with no filter, with nothing between you and the hurt. Depression is your shield in an uncertain world because depression is very dependable.

Depression is there at the end of the day when the world is quiet and there is nothing left in you. Depression is there when you wake up in the morning. It is there when you eat your cereal and get ready for your day. And it is there anytime you need it. If something hurts you during the day, depression is there to surround you with grief and tell you it’s okay to cry. Depression is there because sometimes people are not.

People can tell you to stop crying, to suck it up, to get over it, that things aren’t that bad, that you’re exaggerating, that you have no reason to be sad or upset, that you just need to try harder or think happy thoughts or pull yourself out of it. When people are not understanding, depression is there to turn to. When you feel isolated and alone, depression is there to stay with you. 

Depression is comforting. It doesn’t expect you to fix yourself or make yourself happy or get better. In fact, depression is perfectly content if you never improve. And that in itself is comforting. It is comforting to not have any expectation of change or progress because those things are hard, and depression doesn’t expect you to ever improve.

Depression has little to do with happiness because depression is everything. It is an entire world, an entire being, and an entire state of mind. Depression is not about being happy. It is about learning to cope in a world with unhappiness. Depression is about living in a world that is broken, that is imperfect, that is difficult and sometimes impossible.

The most surprising fact about depression, for people who don’t understand it, is that you can be happy and still be depressed. You can be amazingly happy, incredibly happy, ridiculously happy. You can be laugh out loud and dancing in the rain kind of happy, but just outside of that happiness or underneath that happiness or coexisting with that happiness is a depth of discouragement and hopelessness. Depression does not steal your happiness. Depression masks your happiness. And sometimes happiness masks your depression.

I see depression as the absolute acknowledgement that something is wrong with the world. It is a whole body, whole mind, whole heart perception that nothing is okay. Can you still be happy in a broken world? Yes, but that doesn’t make the world stop being broken. That is the key to depression. 

The difference between someone who is depressed and someone who is not is that freedom. Not having depression gives you the freedom to believe that things will change. It gives you the freedom to believe that what you do makes a difference. It allows you to go into the world with purpose because the world is there for you to put light into. For someone without depression, the world is changeable, able to become better or different or whatever you make of it. The world is yours.

Depression is hardly ever a one lane road. You have glimpses of the other side. You have moments when you feel like you’re making a difference and that you have purpose. The trick is getting those moments to stick. That is what I try to do when I am depressed. I try to give myself reminders that there is purpose, there is change, there is reason to believe that things can get better. This world isn’t that bad, but you have to see the good. You have to expose yourself to the good. And when you are depressed, you have to remind yourself of that good. Because otherwise, you will stay under that safety blanket of depression until you pass away or the world passes away because without the good, there is no real reason to come out.