So let’s talk.
Mmm… have you ever felt mentally ill?
That makes it sound as if I had the plague. Everyone has felt mentally ill at some point of his or her lives. It is unavoidable. It is like asking if someone has gone through life without a cut, a cold or a broken arm.
Mmm… sound fair. But have you gone through something serious
Well not all illnesses are transitory; a lot of mental issues come and go. But yes, I’ve felt depressed.
You mean you have depression?
No, it was one of my symptoms.
What is it like?
It seems like a never-ending loop of hopelessness. It is like if you recorded a sad song and you had it in your head for days. The lyrics tell you that are not loved and that you shouldn’t bother asking for help because nobody cares and you are not worth it.
What was the most difficult thing about…
Everything, it feels like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders… you are a sad Atlas. Getting up is hard.
It’s hard to muster a reason to get up. The blankets could be made out steel for that matter.
What about death? Do you perceive it the same?
Death feels like deliverance sometimes. But if you are lucky you get your grip on things before it goes beyond fantasy; its easy to catch yourself thinking how easy would be to step into the rails of the subway. It is surprising because you think these things only arrive in novels like Anna Karenina and you feel so far from that. You don’t think you are capable of those thoughts and yet you are.
When do you know you are depression is a symptom and not sadness?
When there’s no exterior cause for it, no tangible reason to feel sad, when I recognize that old terrible sad song playing over and over, but the song has no factual meaning.
Would you say that depression is the opposite of happiness?
No, sadness is. Depression is numbness, is life devoid of meaning, of highs and lows. Depression is when the pain of heartbreak is an upgrade to how you feel. It is true that is a convergence of negative feelings: anger, sadness, and pain.
What’s the biggest misconception about it?
That you can snap out of it, that is a matter of willpower.
So how do you live with it?
You just do. The same way that a mountain gives you perspective on the valley and the valley gives shows you the greatness of the mountain. You learn to accept both, that if you are to walk you’ll walk through both; that there’s grass in the valley and that there are hard rocks in the peak of the mountain.
Could you be more pragmatic?
Yes. Reach for help. Talk about it. Treat it as you would do with your physical health. You have a cut put a Band-Aid; don’t wait for the wound to get infected. Learn to know your sad song so you know it has no base on reality. If the song tells you: you are not loved, than you say to yourself I have all these people that love me. If the song tells you: you are not worth it; than you enumerate your accomplishments as small as they might be they count.
What about antidepressants?
Only you and your doctor know if they are right for you. Not a good dose, change it, not a good doctor change it. Sorry to insist but you would never tell a diabetic to stop taking her insulin, or to someone allergic that an the pen doesn’t work. They can save your life.
Any other advice?
Police your thoughts. Always think that the way you talk to yourself matters. You should do it as if you were talking to your best friend. If you wouldn’t say something to her because it’s too offensive than it’s not ok to say it to your self.
Last thing. Have you made your peace with it?
By it, you mean depression.
Yes. It’s hard to get used to speaking about illness by their name.
No worries. Well, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that depression is a gift but one can learn to appreciate the gifts that come with it. Death stops being the motivator to live fully. Life itself becomes the reason to have an equanimous journey where you can observe and gain from every feeling you have.
You become an empath as long as you understand that the journey is not about your self but about the ones you love and love you back. About the warm feeling of gratefulness and kindness to others, even the ones that you don’t love or love you back.