I struggle with depression.
Yeah, really. I do.
Admitting this fact to myself has been perhaps one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. (Not the hardest, but it ranks up there.) Not only was I afraid of making the implicit admission of personal brokenness, I was also afraid of the implicit admission that I’m not strong enough to help others effectively. Because if I’m so broken that I can’t help myself, then I’m definitely too broken to help others to my fullest potential, right?
I was also afraid that by being broken, I would start hurting others I cared for. That was, perhaps, the worst part of my situation. I was so afraid of hurting people that I wouldn’t admit to myself that I was in a position to do so.
So what changed things?
As much as I’d like to say that there was a sudden moment of realization and understanding, I can’t. It was more of an extended process, a string of moments of clarification bursting through like light through cracks in a crumbling brick wall.
The first sign that I was more broken than I thought was the slow decline in both physical and psychological health I suffered over 2014. I completely overworked myself–multiple classes in each semester and two year-long jobs, one of which became full-time over the summer. Despite continually telling myself I was doing fine, I slowly fell farther and farther behind in energy levels, and even now have yet to really recover. In fact, if I have developed a condition called hypoadrenia, it may take me years to return to full health. As the year wore on, I found it harder and harder to ignore the symptoms of tiredness, exhaustion, growing insomnia, and increasingly frequent mood swings, until I finally had to admit that I’d gone well down the path of breaking myself physically, if not mentally (I still can’t think as quickly as I could at the start of 2014).
The second sign that I was more broken than I thought was a growing feeling of a loss of purpose and direction that I had all of last year, and which peaked during December. This feeling had a twofold cause: first, I lost a powerful source of personal motivation when another friend was suddenly healed of depression. And second, I came to realize that many of the other motivators that had given me most of my drive to do anything did not originate from within me. In short, I lost sight of who I was as a person, and that played havoc with my mind and spirit.
The third sign that I was more broken than I thought was an episode that showed me just how hurt and in need I was. During a week of intense stress, I misinterpreted humorous comments from close friends as essentially insults and expressions of dislike. The main result of this misunderstanding was that, feeling deeply hurt, I became stolidly unforgiving and decided to cut off all contact with those friends. It was not until I was reading much later through an unrelated, but relevant, IM conversation with another friend that I realized just how wrong I had been, and how disproportionately I had reacted toward my friends. Once this epiphany sank in, I finally started to realize just how far I’d fallen.
These were the signs that told me I wasn’t okay the way that I thought I was. But they weren’t the ones that told me that it was okay for me to admit it.
What really made the difference (or, I should say, who really made the difference) was my best friend finally managing to hammer it into my head that he wanted to help me get out of whatever hole I’d dug myself into. Not because he felt some kind of obligation to do so, but because I was his friend.
And that was what helped me see the truth. That no matter how much I might be falling apart, it’s okay to be broken. That just because I’m blowing up doesn’t automatically mean that I need to hold my crap together to keep it from putting others through a lot of pain. And that if I do hurt my friends while trying to find my way back to the light, that they are more than happy to take that damage for me.
Because that’s what friends do for friends. And because no person is not worth enduring the pain for a while in hope of sharing in the joy at the end.
And I’m okay with that.
Is this year going to be easy?
No. The fact remains that I do and will continue to deal with depression, with compromised health, and with deep-rooted self-esteem issues.
But at least I don’t have to be afraid of dealing with them.
And I think that’s the important thing for right now. Being able to face what hurts me without having to fear it hurting others. And knowing that not only do I have people who care about me and are willing to stand up for and with me to help me get through, but also with their help I can continue to care about others and to help them in their difficulties.
Okay. I can do that.
And so can you. Whether you’re the one who needs help, or whether you’re the one who can help someone else . . . just look around. You are not alone. You might not recognize it at first, or be willing to accept it initially, but help is there ready for you. And there are plenty of people out there who need help. Just be aware and keep your eyes and heart open . . . and someday you’ll see the hurts that need the healing you can help bring.