Unearthing depression: discovering strength through weakness

I have what I refer to as a sadness. It manifests itself in many ways: mostly in depression and its many variants – anger, lethargy, uncontrollable crying. My main trigger is anxiety, which I usually get when I feel overwhelmed or that my life is out of my control. Life tends to do its own thing, which means most things are often out of my control. So I get anxious, I lash out, I get depressed. Rinse and repeat.

Recently my depression cycle has been more aggressive. My lows are the lowest they’ve been in a long time. What’s making this happen? Well, like many of my generation, where we were told to going to college would end up in a good job, most of us are finding that reality is different to the hopes and dreams fed to us in high school and college. Although last summer I wrote about being happily unemployed, a year later I’m still (sort of) unemployed, but I’m not longer happy about it.

To know what you’re capable of but not given the chance to show it is, well, depressing. To know what your passion is and not given the chance to thrive is even worse. I feel like I’m drowning in mud. My mama brought me up to endure, and endure I shall. As she always says, “work hard, and things will happen.” I just wish things would happen now. Needless to say, I’m also learning patience.

Although the current economic climate is in and of itself depression inducing, my sadness is something I’ve carried with me for a long, long time. The odd thing? I consider myself to be a happy person. Most people who know me would say the same. Most people, though, haven’t seen me at my lowest. That’s because I hide it well.

For so long, I’ve believed that showing any form of vulnerability was a weakness. I’ve had to be strong my whole life – I feared that any sign of wavering would cause my entire foundation to crumble. When I was studying acting, I secretly envied those who were able to completely let themselves go and release themselves into vulnerability. I longed to be vulnerable, but only if I could channel it through a character. But you can’t simply channel vulnerability. You have to open yourself up completely for that. To lose yourself. I’m a control freak so I’ve always stopped myself from completely opening myself up.

Control. There’s so much I wish I could control. My emotions for one. Sometimes, my sadness takes over and I cry and cry as if my tears could fuel my happiness. As if I could purge this sadness out of me. It works for a while, but my battle with this sadness still rages on.

Although I’m getting better about recognizing and waiving aside my triggers, there’s no way I could ever handle depression alone. I’m constantly reminded how blessed my life is – I was brought up in and am surrounded by love. Only two people have actually experienced me at my lowest – my mother (when I was a teenager) and my boyfriend who never lets me run away, who holds me as I cry, and who refuses to let go
until long after those tears have dried. A few others have received tear-induced phone calls or desperately needed hugs. Love and compassion are what keep me above ground.

So why am I sharing this all now? Because I have finally realised that being vulnerable is not a weakness, it is strength and courage embodied. As for my sadness, I’m learning to channel it in healthier ways. I’ve realised that it’s a part of me – it is the foundation of my compassion, empathy and understanding. I do cry a lot, and often for no reason. But maybe those tears do actually fuel my happiness – maybe they cleanse my soul. Perhaps my sadness keeps me grounded, perhaps it keeps me in check.

I’m also sharing this because I know I’m not alone. So many others have depression – and much worse than me. If I can be open, honest, and vocal about it, maybe others can open up about it too. And I must reiterate the importance of my wonderful support system. There have been times when an unexpected text or phone call have pulled me back from the brink. Although I’m not great at keeping in touch, perhaps I can heed my own advice. If a friend or loved one crosses your mind, send them a message immediately. Depression or no, we all need reminding that we are loved and cared about.

Depression affects people differently, for me I often get stuck in a perpetual whirlpool of loneliness and despair. The crazy whispers in my ear that I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, happy enough, friendly enough – that I’ll never be enough. My instincts are both fight and flight. I like to lash out then run away, don’t let me.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m being slowly pressed into the earth, not like quicksand but more like clay. As if I were being pressed down into clay for preservation. To one day be unearthed and studied – “what was wrong with her?” my discoverers will ask. “Why did she sink into the earth?”

Most of the time, I’m not sinking.

I’m not as strong as I’d like to be, and admitting that does not make me weak.

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