This is what depression feels like.

“What do you have to be depressed about?”

That’s the usual reaction I get when I tell someone I struggle with depression.

Indeed, what do I have to be depressed about? From the outside, everything fits in its right place. I’m a reasonably successful software developer and IT dude. I have managed to keep the weight off after six years. I bought a house I’m fixing up. I have great friends and a supportive family. I’ve found passion in comedy.

Carpe diem, motherfuckers!

I go to therapy. I work out. I try to find emotional maturity and examine myself and my motivations.

If only I could live my life from the outside it would be perfect. But I can’t. I’m stuck in here.

And I can’t outrun myself.

It’s as if I keep rearranging all the puzzle pieces in my life to finally complete the picture, but some of the pieces don’t fit or are mangled from trying too hard to jam it into the wrong place and some of the pieces are missing entirely and there’s nothing I can do.

The puzzle is just broken.

Usually, I can not think about it.

I can wake up, and feed my cat, and shower, and go to work, and write some code, and have a healthy lunch, and go to the gym, and go home, and shower, and maybe even have a nice date and meet a cool person or have drinks with friends.

I’ll keep running down this hamster wheel. And if I keep running and running and running, I can forget, for a minute, an hour, a day. I just have to keep running because if I open my eyes too wide, I’ll see this charade for what it is.

Run away from all those problems little guy!
Source: Wikimedia Commons

It doesn’t matter. The house, the job, the fitness goals. None of it matters. It’s just something to occupy your time until it’s all over.

And sooner or later, I’ll have to lie down next my longest, most loyal friend: depression.

It tells me things I know aren’t true in my better moments.

Nobody likes you.

You aren’t a good person.

No matter what you do, no matter where you go, no matter how you rearrange these deck chairs, you will always be broken. You will always be an empty shell, pretending to be human.

That spark of humanity is just missing in you. And you’ve learned to fake it, but I know. And you know. You don’t deserve to be happy.

(I know that’s not true.)

Therapy has helped me so much. It has helped me learn to like myself. Which has been a lifelong struggle.

I never knew how to like myself growing up. I guess in part because I’m not sure the people who raised me knew how to really like themselves. And it’s hard to teach someone to believe in themselves when you aren’t really sure yourself.

Ouroboros is like… a metaphor for parenting.. man.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

But now, finally, I am learning to find things about me I appreciate. My empathy. My humor. My desire to find authentic human connections.

I like these things about myself. I’ve found a way to respect that. And it’s been eye opening. Because when you like yourself, it’s infectious. People like you, too.

Mental illness is one of those things, like addiction, that you sort of get or you don’t. If you’ve been in there… if you’ve experienced it, you know it forever.

And if you don’t, well. It’s just one of those things. You can read about it. You can study it. You can ask questions. But if you haven’t felt the way it infects the very way you look at yourself, then it’s hard to really grasp.

Sometimes, people ask me if they think I’ll ever be better. If I can ever stop going to therapy. Maybe someday I’ll be “cured.”

I don’t know.

I don’t think it works like that.

I know that’s a huge bummer for some people. They want so much for me to be happy. To just wake up and realize I’m a great person with so much to offer and everything is gonna be okay.

I appreciate that.

But it doesn’t change anything for me. Everything I say or do or think or believe or try is all shaped by this experience. The gentle hum of this machine in the background.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t have suicidal ideation. As much as everything feels pointless and frustrating and lonely… I still want to live. I still want to experience this world.

Northern lights

There is so much in this world I haven’t experienced.

Not everyone is so lucky. Kurt Cobain, Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, and most recently, Chester Bennington. All famous people who had reached the apex of their craft at some point. All took their own lives.

What did they have to be depressed about?

Unfortunately… that’s just not how it works. Not for us. Not for them.

So I am grateful that my own darkness still lets me go on.

It’s okay.

It’s okay to be fucked up. It’s okay to feel broken. It’s okay to miss my Mom and resent everyone who still has their parents which is dumb but whatever I don’t even care.

It’s okay to feel disconnected from the world.┬áIt’s okay to feel like I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. It’s okay to feel insecure and weird and alone.

It’s okay to be depressed. I forgive myself.

Maybe the world can’t accept it. I don’t know. I don’t care, really.

I’ve found a way to manage my disease that tells me I don’t matter. I go to therapy and find a way to love myself. I work out and feel good about feeling good. I meditate to calm my mind and remind myself that these thoughts will pass.

I connect with my friends and family and remember why I love people. I get up on stage and make strangers laugh and nothing feels more real in this world and I’ve given something back.

I can find a way to keep moving forward.

Maybe I’ll always have this disease. Maybe it will always drag me down.

But I’ll keep moving forward. And that’s enough.


We’ve got this, buddy.
Source: Wikimedia Commons