I feel like I’m fighting myself. And how could it be otherwise? Depression is a condition beyond my control, and yet it is part of who I am. It doesn’t define me, but it still is me.
Even after a decade, this kind of pain still feels like a fresh cut. It’s the feeling of being filled with cement. It’s the ache in my chest and my abdomen that tells me I’m freezing up. Every movement is a fight against gravity; every step is a resistance against the thought telling me to lay down and stop. Every body gesture is heavy with the shackles of depression. Yes, I know its name. It is my familiar. It saturates my fluid and coagulates without killing. And I have to sit here with it and wait for it to run its course.
My self-care list is strong. Exercise? Check. Good diet? Check. Social support? Check. Hygiene? Check. Check. Check. Check. I’m doing everything right. Medication change? Check. So why do I feel so responsible for being depressed? Why do I continue to fight myself, to blame myself for these experiences? Overcoming the self-stigma of mental illness has been a love-hate relationship. I know this is not my fault, and yet paradoxically I still think it is.
It’ll pass, they say.
Yes, I know.
Just focus on getting better.
Rent doesn’t pay itself.
Don’t worry, things will work out.
Can I get that in a notarized document?
Fighting depression isn’t just a battle with myself — it’s a battle with society. Could I use a month to figure this out? Absolutely, but I have bills, deadlines, the pressure of work and the reality of not having money if I don’t. There isn’t a “no strings attached” government bailout package for a high-functioning person not sick enough for hospital but not well enough for daily life. I have forever been in the gap of care.
As I sit and write this, I want to maintain that message of hope. Because I do know it will pass, despite not feeling like it will. But it is these experiences make salient the great changes we need to conjure in society. We need a new culture of health that better supports people living with mental illness. I need this. We all need this.
For anyone else who finds themselves relating to this point, obviously you’re not alone. As strangers, perhaps we can take comfort in knowing we fight ourselves — we fight depression — alongside visible and invisible support.
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