I don’t know why I’ve never written to you before. Maybe it is because what’s done is done. Because the past is unchangeable. And because your disease — your depression — is incurable.
Or maybe it is because writing to you means writing to myself. Means believing in myself. Means I must love myself.
But regardless of the reason, I’ve never written to you; I’ve never even spoken to you.
I’ve never tried to say or do anything, because nothing I say can protect you from the isolation. From the anger, the sadness, and the pain.
And for that I feel helpless.
I want to protect you — 17 years later, I still want to “save you.” Yet just because I cannot save you, doesn’t mean I cannot help you. It doesn’t mean I cannot make you feel less alone.
You see, it isn’t all bad. Today is the day you learn you aren’t crazy. Today is the day you learn there is a reason for your sadness, your anger, and your racing thoughts. Today is the day you learn there is something behind the endless tears, and all of your senseless and seemingly ungrounded fears.
Today is the first time in a long time you will be able to stop — truly stop — and take a breath.
Today you will feel acknowledged and heard.
Today you realize you are OK, and you will be OK.
… At least until you sit back and digest your diagnosis: depression. At least until you stop and consider what “it” means — that you are sick; you have a mental illness.
Shit, you think; not only are my thoughts crazy. I am crazy … like really, really crazy.
The fear rises. Your insecurities mount. The self-loathing renews, and the tape you’ve heard on repeat since you were 13 — the tape which tells you you aren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or “normal” enough — begins playing.
But this time it is amplified. Because you are sick. Because you are “mentally unstable;” or so you believe. Because you are desperate. And because your life is pointless.
If I have to live like this — and feel like this — forever, life isn’t worth living, you think. I am not worth living … I am a goner.
That’s it — stop and breathe. (Seriously. Breathe. I’ll wait.) And listen; really listen.
You are not crazy. You are not your disease. And depression does not define you.
I mean, I understand how it feels right now: You are hurting and feel hopeless. You cannot imagine living another minute, another hour, another day, and certainly not an entire lifetime feeling this way.
You want out; you need out. Because, well, you have to make it all stop: You have to silence the voices in your head and the ache in your heart. You have to find a way to make the tears end, to put the anger to bed.
But listen to me when I say, it gets better. You will get better.
Make no mistake: Things will get worse, much worse, before they get better. You will lose your faith, and some of your friends. You will lose all motivation. Your grades will start slipping. Your head will start hurting. (They’ll tell you it’s migraines, but don’t buy it — because I still don’t buy it.) And you will want to die. You will try to die.
You will pray to God to stop your heart. To cease your breath. To give you the strength to cut deep enough, or the courage to swallow enough, to make it all go away.
But eventually the weight on your chest will lift. The fog in your mind will clear. And the feeling that you are drowning — flailing, kicking, screaming and drowning — will actually pass.
You will suddenly feel happy and present. You will suddenly feel alive.
But to get there, you will have to fight. You will have to stand up to yourself, and for yourself. You will have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You will need to see more than a dozen different therapists and psychiatrists, in three different states. And you will need to learn how to ask for help.
Because you have to. Because your life is worth it. Because you are worth it.
Don’t believe in yourself? Well, believe in others. Because (spoiler from the future), when you “get better” — when you start to mend and “recover,” and move from patient to survivor — you will learn how to use your disease for good. You will start helping others, and speaking to others. You will exude compassion and empathy. You will become more than a mental health statistic: you will become a mental health advocate. And you may even help save someone’s life.
Your words may help save your own life.
But for today, just know this: I know how it feels to be scared and lonely and helpless. I know how it feels to live “in the darkness” — to be full of sadness and self loathing; hatred and suicidal thoughts. (Hell, there are still many days in my life, well our life, where waking up is a struggle, showering is difficult, and getting dressed — and leaving the house — is all but impossible.) And I know the numbness and isolation. I know how it feels to punish yourself. To blame yourself. I know you believe this is your fault. Somehow depression is your fault.
But please, be gentle with yourself — and accept your disease as quickly as possible. You are not to blame for your mental illness and directing that anger at yourself will only make things worse. Being overly critical and feeling guilty because you cannot just “snap out of it” will only make things worse.
I know, I know. Easier said than done. But trust me: You deserve better. We deserve better.
Stop sitting in shame, and silence, and stop doing everything that hasn’t helped you until this point. Because now you know: You are not crazy; you’re sick. And there is hope. Not a cure, per say, but hope.
Just keep moving, keep fighting, and know that no matter what your mind tells you — whatever twisted tales your depression weaves next — you are not hopeless, and you will never, ever be alone.