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Let’s talk about depression

Posted Feb 13 2011 1:38pm

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It’s the middle of February and the day before Valentine’s Day, the skies are gray and spring isn’t getting here damn near fast enough. Which means, in other words, that it’s a great time to talk about Depression.

Looking out from the middle of what might be my most prolonged period of joy and self-confidence in a lifetime’s worth of memory, I feel like I’m finally at the point where I can write this post. And I don’t feel like it’s too self-indulgent or embarrassing either, because this is the time of year when saying these things out loud is most important. It’s about me, yes, but not really.

So, a little back story: I’ve battled depression on and off (and more on than off) for basically my whole life. I remember entire days spent crying for absolutely no reason at age five, nine, eleven, fourteen and in between, stuffing my face in narcotic distraction (I was a morbidly overweight kid, but that’s another story for another time), clawing at my palms until they were studded in red crescents. I would shut myself into my parents’ coat closet for entire Saturday afternoons; at school, I hid under tables with knees hugged to chest, rocking myself to the rhythm of my breath. Leapfrogging from one distraction to the next in high school; my entire fourth year of university willing myself to keep from stepping oh-so-casually into oncoming traffic (there were a few near-misses, urgent phone calls made to anyone who might talk me out of it). I don’t feel it these days, but I know it will come back. That’s how it works, like a cancer that refuses to declare remission.

This thing, this depression, is a blood legacy. It’s a great-great-uncle hanging from the beam of his brother’s farmhouse closet and a family that’s half drunks, half worriers. And I know I haven’t seen the last of it, even though this winter has been happy—a combination of words I never thought would ring true for me, ever, in my whole pathetic lifetime.

But it’s not pathetic. And that’s just the kicker: if you make peace with it, if you realize that it’s a part of you like everything else that makes who you are but doesn’t define it, then you will realize it is a gift. You will realize that you are more compassionate, more funny, more quirky and focused, than your non-defective comrades, because the unbroken parts of your brain have become stronger by necessity. You will realize that you are far fiercer than you knew possible, than you even imagined.

And you might even be–dare I say–a little impressed with yourself, even almost thankful for all that darkness.

In other words: hang on until Springtime. It will get better.


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