Lately I have been in a bad place, mentally. I’ve struggled with depression for as long as I can remember. I can remember feeling like this as a very young child, with the inability to even begin to express what I was feeling. Perhaps that’s why words are so important to me. I remember feeling something so large and consuming inside me, and being unable to explain to anyone else around me what kind of storm I felt. I spent so much time learning new words just so I would be able to reach out the next time something like that happened.
I’m still learning. Learning new words to explain what I feel. Learning to reach out.
I’ve been on medication for a long time to treat my illness. Most of the time I keep an even keel. Not happy or well, per se, but I get by. But I have moments. Moments that sometimes stretch out into days or even months, where I get sucked back inside myself and into the storm I’ve been trying to understand since the day I was born.
This last week has been one of the worst I’ve had in a very long time. Everything I have touched has turned to ash and ruin. Every breath has felt harder than the one before it. I’ve been here before. I’ll come here again. It’s the nature of the beast.
I don’t know if being a naturally creative person courts mental illness, or if mental illness is a side effect of having a brain that works a little bit differently than others. I’m not even really sure if it matters all that much. I do know a lot of creative people seem to struggle with depression.
I’m not really sure what sent me spiraling this time, whether my medication was messed up or if it was brought on by something external. (The weather? Hormones? Goddamn gremlins? Who knows.) All I know is that this time it was the worst it’s been in years. This time it scared me, and it takes a lot for my depression to surprise me these days.
Naturally, my ability to create suffers during these bouts. I think that’s the cruelest part of my depression. I am what I create. It’s my purpose to being alive. And being the horrible monster that it is, depression cuts me off from my own ability to produce, making the ordeal even more miserable than it already is. It’s not enough that I can barely get myself out of bed some days. It also takes away my reason for doing so in the first place. There is no greater enemy than your own brain. It knows all your secrets, all your weaknesses. Depression is waging a war against yourself. Sometimes you don’t win. Sometimes you just hunker down, dig your fingers in, and wait for the worst of it to blow over. Then you get up, brush off the debris, and try to put things back together. Sometimes all the pieces are there, sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes those pieces are broken and warped and won’t fit back together the way they should, so you have to cobble them together to make them function. So you can be ready for the next time this happens. Because it will. Depression is a chronic illness and so far there is no cure for it. One can only endure.
But I think the worst of it is over for the moment. I can feel myself rising out of the storm again, where the air is calmer and I can breathe again without struggling for every single panic-tightened breath.
I’m still having trouble getting back into the groove of writing. I was knocked completely askew this time, and I still feel raw and overwhelmed by the time that slipped out of my hands and all the work I’ve gotten behind. But instead of focusing on what I’ve lost, I’m going to make a deal with myself.
Just 100 words, every evening before bed. Anything more than that is gravy, and certainly welcome, but my goal is this very simple, small amount. Just to say I’ve put something on paper, and show myself that my love for writing has not abandoned me. Sometimes depression tricks me into believing that I’ve run out of things to say, that the gift is gone and it’s never coming back. It’s wrong, of course, and I can always see that from the other side. But mired in the middle of it, the only thing I can see is the great swath of nothing laying before and behind me. So 100 words, until I’m comfortable and feel safer in my own skin again.
That’s one of the hardest things to remember for people who suffer from depression. To be kind to yourself. To ease up, to be okay with just being. Accepting that sometimes you can’t do everything. That sometimes, you can’t do anything. You have to be gentle with yourself, because your skin is still raw and your body and mind are still battered because you have fought a war within yourself.
So 100 words. It’s going to be my mantra for now. A simple exercise to build up muscle until I get to the point where I can do the heavy lifting again.
So next time I will be ready when I see the storm rolling in.
So I can endure.