Living with depression, I have found, has opened my eyes to dealing with the unpredictable. Or at the very least, made me afraid of it. The pure inconsistency of life can be exhausting, when every day can feel like waking up as a different person to the day before. The good days are rarely when you need them to be, and the bad days can creep up on you in a thousand different ways, each time in a new disguise.
Above everything else, I think the lack of control I have felt over my depression in the past is what stopped me even attempting to build any sort of healthy and functioning life around it for so long. If I can’t control my illness, it must control me. Right? I have spent years of my life believing this, with only short bursts feeling brave enough to question the logic. The thing is, believing this creates a distance from responsibility, and, my god, I have needed that in the past. But distance from responsibility creates distance from the truth.
To let myself believe that my whole life is out of my control because of my depression is willingly placing my whole identity inside my illnesses arms. It is accepting defeat in the face of something that makes me who I am. It is telling myself that my depression is the most powerful force in my life. It is belittling my own power to such a minute scale that my depression provides me with some comfort, a protector that I can hide behind, like some sort of twisted Stockholm Syndrome.
I’m not going to sit and tell you that I have figured out a magic way to escape that grip. It doesn’t exist. Life is pretty much like wading through mud when dealing with any mental illness. But I have found a good place to start is to find a way to be brutally honest with yourself. Some of the habits, and thought patterns, we use to cope with feeling so out of control may comfort us at the time, when all they are really doing is keeping us trapped.
I have to constantly assess my intentions behind the coping strategies I use. I have realised that most of the things I want to do when I am depressed will make me feel worse in the long run, although they feel easier at the time. I can tell you now, forcing my way out of even some of these habits and thought patterns have been some of the hardest moments of my life. But I have had a pretty good few months in terms of my mental health, built up of moments when I have found within myself, and dragged out, something stronger than my depression. I have found ways to take responsibility for my life, and take some power back.
Now I know I’ll have more bad patches in my life. Times when I can’t find any extra strength. I can’t do it constantly. I slip up all the time and find myself falling back into old habits, but I the important thing is that I try. And my relationship with my depression has completely changed since I figured out how to.