Buzzfeed recently published a wonderfully insightful piece called This is What Depression Looks Like. I will offer my own contribution to this list:
This picture of Oxford during a sunny burst of rain acts as good metaphor for the confusion and paradox of living with depression. I also took this picture in the midst of my own battle.
I haven’t shared this with many people, but I was deeply depressed during much of that trip. Nothing about it made sense. There I was in the city that most inspires me living in a Harry-Potter like castle with so many wonderful friends and fellow English teachers, studying my favorite period of British literature. And yet, there were days when I used to mark the setting of the sun as a victory because it meant I had made it through another day. Despair in a situation like that leads to crippling guilt. You’re in Oxford. Living life with amazing people. Be thankful. Wake up and enjoy it. Over time my inner monologue softened into a kinder gentler tone. Good job. You took a step. Take another step. Breathe.
To this day, I’m not sure what happened. The content of the novel I was writing at the time forced me to relive and work through some issues of my brother’s death and the subsequent grieving process. (Or lack thereof) That may have been part of it. I remember some of the darkest days when diving into writing seemed the bright spot in the day, and then I remember the thrilling joy upon finishing a project of that magnitude. I finished the novel at 3:30 AM and lay awake until 5:30 AM watching the sun rise out my window, because I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. Of course finishing a novel surrounded by all English grad students and many fellow writers is the perfect place to celebrate.
More than anything I remember the reemergence of hope into those days. While finishing the novel wasn’t necessarily the solution, depression’s grip began to slowly loosen around that time. Once depression lifted, I saw others around me with new, and more compassionate eyes. Truly, we can never know the inner battles people are waging on a day-to-day basis. Every day that I see the world with eyes cleared from depression is a day to be thankful. Living with depression is not a mark of weakness, but a mark of strength. If two people run a 5k, but one person is wearing a 50 lb weight, which one is stronger? The race may be harder for one, but only because the burden is heavier. So to all those living under the cloud of depression, take a breath and take another step. You’re doing a great job.