I woke up this morning. I didn’t sleep too well, but got up with the sun nonetheless. Showered, brushed my teeth, put on clean clothes. Fed and walked the dogs. Took my meds. Baked banana bread. Sat in the sunshine. Breathed. The average person, I think, doesn’t think twice about basic hygiene and self-care: eating, showering, living. But depression’s theft doesn’t discriminate. It’s been a long, long time. Ten years, I think, post-diagnosis. Post-first psychiatrist appointment, post-first prescription, post-first few steps into the black hole that would spend the next decade toeing the line between home and grave.
I used to see a psychologist on the Upper West Side, back when I lived on 108th and Broadway. During one of our sessions, he so confidently said I would get better. I asked him why he thought that, how he thought that, when the doctors always offered such little hope. When I still had pink scars lining my left arm, barely spoke, and couldn’t eat. He said, “You’re young. You won’t understand how young you are right now until you’re older. As you get older, you gain a better appreciation for just how short the times in our life last–the good, and the bad. After a while, five years, or even ten years, will start to feel like a drop in the bucket. The way you talk about your depression–you talk as though it’s a part of who you are, rather than something that you currently have. Without depression, who are you?”
The more severe the illness, the deeper the hole, the more of you it takes. Until you can’t see yourself anymore, any part of yourself, all you see is endless blackness and no foreseeable way out. And yet, I’ve learned, if you can stay long enough to see it, light will start to break through, bit by bit. A pinpoint to a ray, warmth begins to wring the numbness from your hands. Without depression, I am kind. I’m a good friend, a good listener. I laugh a lot. I’m gentle. I enjoy black coffee, soft music, and quiet moments. I love my dogs. Everyday I hold them and turn the tenderness of the moment into infinity. My eyes bloom with life, even with the damn dark circles, and I am capable of bringing happiness to others, and to myself.
“Yes, I do believe one day it will be just another drop in the bucket for you.”
Perhaps not yet, but maybe soon. Perhaps because, finally, depression is not who I am, it is something that I have. Perhaps now, because I believe it, too. Thank you.