"But how can you be depressed? You don't have any reason to be depressed."
These are the words I have often heard from people when I finally tell them how I am feeling. I am not depressed. I have depression; there is a difference. Depression is a mindset, a mental challenge that I must fight through every morning. Some mornings, even waking up is a triumph over the dark. You don't need a reason to be depressed or to have depression. Sometimes it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the world around you. I have the trifecta: depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Every moment of every day is another battle to remain calm and not assume that everyone around me is plotting my downfall.
Sometimes it is a struggle just to smile.
But it is in the moments where my depression drags me down the farthest that I find myself clinging to the reality: I'm still alive. It doesn't matter how far down I am dragged, or how low I feel. It doesn't matter which way I think my life is heading. In these moments I no longer feel the numbness but the sensations, the fear of falling. It keeps me going; it keeps me sane.
The first time I truly felt the weight of my depression was in my second year of university. Really early in the year my oldest friend died of cancer. I hadn't seen her in some time, and the last words I spoke to her had been unfriendly. At first I was shocked. I didn't register what had happened. It took me a few days to really understand what that meant, and the fact that she was only twenty at the time made me see my mortality. I didn't handle it very well. For months I just ambled around, never focusing on anything. I cried a lot, but they weren't tears of grief, they were tears of anger, of loss, of hopelessness. We'd made many promises to each other, and now that she was gone, I felt like she had abandoned me. Left me alone like she didn't care about me or our friendship.
I was lost in a sea of anger and grief that I couldn't navigate out of.
Personal selfishness is remembering that you are a person who needs understanding and help.
It took a lot of counselling for me to realise that my guilt was unfounded. Guilt at not grieving properly, guilt at my anger, and guilt at the way things had ended between us. I realised that none of this was my fault and that my feelings were just as valid as everyone else’s. I had spent so much time wondering how everyone else was, helping them, making sure they were okay that I sacrificed my own personal mental needs to accommodate them. I have learned what it means to need to be personally selfish. You can be selfish and still be able to be mindful of those around you. Personal selfishness is remembering that you are a person who needs understanding and help. It is remembering that your needs are just as important as everyone else’s.
Yes, I have depression. But I do not let that define me. And neither should you.