Writing about depression
Writing about depression is difficult. When I’m depressed, I barely have the energy to function. My body is on autopilot. I can only do the things I have developed into habits, and even those things can be really draining. Going to the gym when I’m depressed is a drag. It’s not the same as going when I’m anxious. Anxiety tends to evaporate as soon as you confront the stimulus that makes you anxious. Depression feels more real. It lingers on and dries up your energy. The longer you stay exposed to the world, the more it sucks you dry, the more you feel you need to run back into your shelter and hide. When I go to the gym while depressed, I force myself to not leave before I’m done despite my depression dragging me out, pulling me back home. It’s a conscious act, and a difficult one. But I need to do it to show myself that I can do it, that my depression cannot take over my life, that it can exist in my mind, but it cannot control me, reduce my days to lethargy and inaction, reduce my existence to nothingness, rip me away from my life and from the world. Because that’s when depression wins: when it becomes more than a state of mind; when it manifests itself in my life, in my routine. There are, of course, times when I need to allow it to do that, but I fight with all my energy to not let it happen, so that when I do need to take a break, I know that I really, absolutely need it, and that I gave it my all and fought as hard as I could.
When I’m depressed, I have no energy to write, no energy to be creative. I’m too emotionally numb, my mind’s response to being overwhelmed. It shuts itself off, shuts out all emotions. And I’m afraid of going in, to that place of emotions and creativity. I’m constantly on the edge of breaking down, and my mind doesn’t allow me to go in, to protect me from what I might find.
When I’m not depressed, I distance myself from depression. It’s like I’m afraid that if I think about it, I will put it in my frame of thought, lose myself in my mind, and consequently stumble and fall back in. So I stay as far away from depression as I can.
I’ve had depression throughout my life, and I’ve always struggled to not distance myself from it when I’m not going through a period of depression. I used to be two different people, when I’m depressed and when I’m not depressed. The way I expressed myself through my clothes would change drastically, as would the music I listened to. I’ve had times with a dark aesthetic, and other times, when I was distant from my depression, my aesthetic would be much more colourful. Those two identities, throughout my life, have been divorced from each other. When I’m expressing myself through a colourful aesthetic, I can’t imagine myself in a dark aesthetic, and vice versa. Lately I’ve been working on reconnecting with my dark aesthetic. But that only became possible once I gained perspective on my depression, once I realized that my depression will come and go — that being able to overcome it doesn’t mean it’s gone for good, but it does mean that it will always ultimately leave and I’ll be able to continue living my life.
It’s been more difficult with music, because music really does take you to a deep and hidden place in your mind. The melancholic music that I listen to when I’m depressed develops a dark aura around it and becomes full of bad memories. Listening to it takes me back to a bad time in my life, and I’m always afraid being exposed to it will trigger my thoughts down a spiral into depression. Going back to it requires a tremendous amount of mindfulness and mental discipline. Yet I do it, because I’ve long sought to merge and unify my fragmented identities. It’s a way to reclaim my life from my depression, to reclaim my depression and own it, rather than allow it to own me. Depression is a part of who I am. It does not solely define me, but it has significantly shaped the way I experience and relate to the world. By reclaiming it, I’m reinforcing that it’s a part of who I am, and only a part.
Similarly, writing about depression requires confronting my experiences with it. It requires me to explore the dark depths of my mind and to sit with my thoughts, for long periods of time. I can only go in when I know I can pull myself out, and when I know that going in won’t drag me down emotionally. I can only go in when I know it will be only a short visit. And that’s precisely why I believe it’s important to write about depression. It’s a powerful way of conquering and reclaiming it. Telling your story tells you before telling the world that you have lived the tale and have survived to tell it.