According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Although the data is a bit outdated, the NIHM estimated that over 16 million people, which is roughly 6.9 percent of the population, had a depressive episode in 2012, and as always, we can expect that number to be higher since not everyone reports having a mental illness.
I am part of that 6.9 percent, and I recently went through a difficult depressive episode following a healing crisis brought on by a liver and gallbladder flush (that's quite a mouthful, huh?). And unfortunately, as I've gotten older my depression is sometimes more severe because the ups and downs of adulthood can have more serious implications than what I went through as a teenager.
After over a decade of going through the same rigmarole of being depressed, wallowing in self pity, wanting to disappear off the face of the planet, and then feeling extreme embarrassment and remorse once I bounced back, I thought I'd do it up a bit different this time. I took a little break from social media to collect my thoughts. I decided to be more patient with myself and give myself permission to be sad. I didn't push myself to achieve everything on my checklist if it wasn't necessary.
And now, I'd like to address my depression through letter format as a way to personalize and humanize it, which I know will be therapeutic for me, and I hope it will be helpful for you.
A Letter to My Depression
We have known each other a long time now - going on 16 years - and this is the first time I've addressed you directly, and publicly, no less. For years, you have told me that I'm not enough of this (e.g., smart, pretty, talented) or I'm too much of that (e.g., emotional, loud, opinionated), and for as long as I can remember, I've believed you.
I've taken your words (or thoughts, really), internalized them, and held them to be true. I've spent days, weeks, and months feeling apathetic and like a loser, stifling my voice and stomping out my inner light. In turn, I've looked to others as being the enemy or the ones who want to put me down, causing me to take out my frustrations on the ones I love and negatively affecting my relationships.
I recognize now that it's been me, and you, all along getting in the way of my happiness and ability to move through life without feeling like a failure. As a result, I've struggled to figure out who my authentic self is, let alone present that version of me to the outside world, which is no way to live.
But I'm hoping that we can have a less harmful relationship moving forward.
I understand why you show up on my doorstep and make your way into my body, soul, and mind, albeit it's taken me nearly two decades to get to this place. I get that I'm genetically predisposed to being depressed. As an empath and a highly sensitive person, I am pretty reactive to what directly affects me and the energy other people put out into the Universe. I struggle with sensory overload and over stimulation and sometimes have to shut down and hide. I've fully come to accept that as a person with chronic illnesses that the symptoms of said illnesses and major inflammation going on in my body and brain will lead to depression.
But what I can't accept any longer is letting you drag me down to the darkest and hopeless of depths where my apathy becomes terrifying. I won't accept negative self-talk that's so ridiculous to the point that if I ever said the same thing about others I would feel ashamed and horrible for the rest of my days. I won't accept being my own worst enemy because of what you bring out in me.
Yet, I do want to thank you for being a presence in my life. Sometimes, you help me realize that I need to take things slow and that I'm putting myself in harms way by going full-throttle toward every goal and health aspiration I have. Sometimes it takes me awhile to pick up on the cues, but they're there, and they're essential to my survival.
You've also provided me with the ability to be compassionate toward others who are also dealing with depression. Someday, I hope to work in a capacity where I can help people live more harmoniously with their depression, if not overcome it. I wouldn't trade having empathy for others for the world, so again, I thank you.
Through my battles with you, even though you have kicked my ass in every direction imaginable for years on end, I have been forced to learn and do a lot in order to survive: mindfulness, gratitude, patience, self-love, meditation, yoga... the list goes on. I can't picture myself seeking out these beneficial practices and techniques without your presence in my life, so thank you for forcing me to arm myself with tools that will serve me well for the rest of my life.
And moving forward, I want to switch things up:
I hope you'll hear me out. I know I've said I'm going to change before, but that was coming from a place of anger and shame. Now, I'm coming to you with open arms from a place of curiosity and self-love. So what say you, depression? I know, I know. As always, the ball is in my court.