Depression’s Last Trick


(This is a follow-up to a post I wrote more than a year ago about how I overcame depression. For those in the depths, that may be the place to start.)

For two years I didn’t go a week without contemplating suicide. It was depression in the worst way. The kind where you don’t leave bed and a shower is the biggest accomplishment of the day. The kind where you can’t look the cashier in the eyes because you’re ashamed of your existence.

I don’t know that guy anymore.

My problems are bigger now than they were when I was depressed but they feel lighter. Even Depression itself isn’t as heavy anymore. I know it too well now. I know its tricks. I know that, if it returns, I can win. I know I prefer life above anything else.

As I began to leave my depression behind it had one last trick, one that took me a long time to see.

Depression made me fear life without Depression.

It convinced me that without depression I was nothing. Without depression I would turn into a terrible writer. Without depression I wouldn’t be able to have religious experiences. Without depression I would become just like them.

It wasn’t just empty threats.

Movies, paintings, and poems used to move me to tears all the time. Now that’s a rarity.

I used to look into a leaf and feel the weight of the universe until tears ran down my face.

I once cried uncontrollably at the funeral of a man I met once.

Basically, I cried everywhere all the time. Everything had a terrible and overwhelming beauty.

The intensity of the world was available in everything. The oneness of the world was apparent while every difference was tragic.

These are beautiful gifts that I would never want to let go of.

With every Heaven there was a Hell. I thought this was the price of admission.

Depression had me beat for a long time.

I took the ride. I kept up the crying. I kept breathing while my thoughts demanded that I end my life.

Then I saw a friend living well. One I trusted (mostly because he had been depressed before I could even understand it). I saw him kicking bad habits and picking positive thoughts.

I asked him Don’t you miss the subtlety, intensity, and creativity of Depression?

He didn’t. He felt more creative than ever before. I saw him doing his best work ever.

Depression is a fucked up form of narcissism. It’s always right and the rest of the world is always wrong. It tells you that you’re better than the rest of the world and that they just don’t understand.

So I didn’t believe him right away.

But his work kept nagging at me. It really was good and honest.

Depression will tell you that everyone else is depressed (and if they’re not then they’re just blind to the realities of the world).

And so I told myself my friend was in denial.

But I believed him. I knew that he wouldn’t bullshit me. We had been to hell together.

Then I gave it a test run.

Maybe I can let go.

It takes a lot of bravery to risk being wrong in the face of feeling so terribly right.

As I let go I found strength I forgot about. I didn’t cry at leaves anymore. Not because I lost anything, but instead because I was capable of more than sitting and staring now.

Life is lighter. Decisions are simpler. It’s easier to trust people. It’s easier for me to love. I’m equipped to deal with problems that would have destroyed me before.

Pain is still pain – but I hurt myself less.

And I’m able to write more than I was ever able to before. I think it might even be better.

I’m grateful for Depression. It showed me a world that I’ll never forget. It showed me that some of the greatest adventures I’ll ever go on will take place invisibly in myself. It gave me empathy for others who suffer in ways that physically make no sense. It is the reason I began writing in earnest.

I’m also grateful I’ve let Depression go. This is also a whole new world that I didn’t think was possible. It’s different. It’s lighter – but that just means I can take on heavier burdens.

I don’t know what’s next. I know I won’t die before seeing another version of Hell. For now, though, I’m just happy to be here. For no reason at all.

That’s a gift Depression never gave me.

Amor fati!