My mom diagnosed me with depression today. She’s not a doctor. She’s speaking from personal experience, and sometimes, I think, that holds a greater weight.
It’s not that I’m surprised by her diagnosis, or by her telling me that my symptoms match her initial symptoms. I noticed the similarities years ago. But I figured that as long as she didn’t notice, as long as she didn’t acknowledge it, then I was safe. Surely, even if I felt depressed sometimes, I must be depression-free.
Art and depression go hand in hand, sure, but I thought I would at least have my first book published by now, a movie deal and a house in the country. I thought the only writers who could really be depressed were the famous ones. I guess, somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought that I had to reach a bunch of milestones before I would eventually smash into that wall of laying in bed crying just because my alarm went off and I have to struggle through another day. And even though I had done that in the past, it couldn’t be depression because afterwards, for a time, I was okay again. I was happy. When the sun rose, I forgot that night would come.
And now, here I am again standing at the bottom of the dark pit, watching my friends laugh as they sit in the sunlight around the edge, not noticing how far I’ve fallen or how deep I’m sinking. I can’t remember how I got out before. But I know that I did. And there’s some comfort in that.
It doesn’t help that my last childhood pet just died, it’s the anniversary of my aunt’s death, and—well, nothing really helps, does it?
I bought some mandarin oranges and bananas to keep on my desk, because they were bright, and bright colors make me feel a little bit brighter. I bought myself tea with rose hips, and it smells like springtime and magic and happiness. I’ve been spending time with my favorite authors, primarily Steinbeck, and I’ve been focusing more and more on the thing I love most: writing. I’ve forced myself to make time for the people I love most. And for a few minutes at a time, all of those things do make the emptiness feel less hollow. Nothing makes it go away for good.
The reason I’m writing to you, though, isn’t to remind you of the hurt or the emptiness or the inescapability of depression. There are a lot of people out there who don’t understand because they’ve never felt any of these things. And their lack of understanding doesn’t mean that they’re “normal” or that we’re overreacting or that anybody is wrong for feeling what they do or don’t feel. It only means that they don’t understand. When people don’t understand something, it’s up to the people who do understand it to help them, so that society can reach a sort of equilibrium of compassion and hope and light.
I’m writing to you because writing to somebody else who understands makes me feel less alone, and I wanted you to know, too, that you’re not alone. That none of us are alone in this darkness. The sun will rise again, and the sun will fall again, and when one of our candles goes out, there are thousands of others burning, willing to share their light until dawn comes.
My mom diagnosed me with depression today, and it isn’t right now, but one day, eventually, it’s going to be okay.