Remember when we used to skip instead of walk? Our feet freeing us from the mundane moments of our day, lifting us closer to the swirl of clouds above whose shape more often resembled a dragon than a mouse. Remember when we would slip our hand into our parent’s warm, reassuring grip, and hold on tightly while our worries would quietly let go? Remember at night when our head would come to rest softly on our pillow, and our body would only start to unwind once our blankets were carefully tucked in around us? Remember how candy used to taste magical, and ice cream could make or break the day? Remember the sharp sting of water against our legs when the sprinklers were suddenly turned on, and the laughter and shrieks that would burst forth with the kind of exhilaration that we haven’t seen since the days our knees were scuffed and our hair held the promise of the outdoors? Remember the joy, the ease and the freedom to be in the moment, to feel the excitement of the wind, and the discovery of our imagination in the sand? Remember the beauty of our innocence, and the memories of our childhood? Remember when life was more than just this?
Our memories are the threads that hold the tapestry of our past together. For some of us that thread is thick and strong; a colourful wool blending to create a rich visual transcript of our journey. Yet for others, such as myself, memory can be like a fine, weblike lace, full of holes and empty, unanswered questions. Perhaps it is a coping mechanism, a safety feature built into our brains that allows us to disappear into soft, safe, empty nothingness. Perhaps it is a habit left over from a need to constantly suppress the waves of unwanted reminders and constant assault of regret. Either way, it sets the foundation for a future full of uncertainty. New memories are sometimes hard to form when one’s habit is to forget, to smother and blur with the broad brushstrokes of denial. It makes for awkward conversations and apologetic explanations. It creates the need to ask for gentle reminders from our forgiving friends. It means asking for understanding, and hoping for the embrace of unconditional acceptance from the ones we love.
The simple truth is that painful memories, regret, and even flashbacks don’t just go away. They are always there. We just learn to manage them better when they come rushing back to us.
We are like boxers who train to take a hit. It hurts like hell until we figure out what we are doing. We learn to manage pain, to block it out. We learn to breathe. We become stronger. Sometimes, if we are lucky, we can sidestep a memory and avoid the agony of being hit hard enough to drop us to our knees; other times, the times when our guard is down, we aren’t so lucky.
We carry these sorts of memories like slow healing bruises, and we hope that the smiles we wear are wide enough to cast those bruises into the shadows where they can be seen only by those who take the time to look closely enough.
(This blog is made up of a variety of funny, quirky and sometimes serious and heavy posts, because that is what makes up who I am. I can’t be one without the other. The following post was written over a year ago, but I am re-posting it now, because these are the kinds of conversations that need to be had, and they need to be had often. )
Depression isn’t always an easy topic to discuss. It is confusing, overwhelming, and often misunderstood. One of the most frustrating things about being depressed is having people tell you that it’s all in your head, that happiness is a choice, or that if you really put your mind to it, you can overcome anything. You can’t just shake off depression any more than you can shake off a cold. It is inside of you, it consumes you, it becomes everything about you. It grabs hold of you with its dark, heavy arms, and pulls you down into a jumbled pile of devastating nothingness.
Depression is sometimes described as a battle that needs to be fought, but to me, that’s only part of it. Living with depression is more than just a struggle. It is finding yourself buried beneath the weight of your own worst emotions, and knowing that your only hope of survival is stay small and hope you make it.
When you are in the true grips of depression, endurance is sometimes the only thing that you’ve got left. Sometimes there is no fight, no kicking or screaming. Sometimes there is only the terrifying sense of drowning in the tears of your own despair. And so you wait. You wait for the storm to pass, and the waters to recede, and you watch for that tiny shimmer of light that means maybe, some day, you will be able to breathe again without it hurting.
I have been there. I have survived the storm, and I came out the other side of it gasping, reaching, and trying desperately to hold onto my freedom like my life depended on it, because it did. That is when your fight truly begins. That is when you battle hard against depression, to hold it back and beat it down. It takes courage, strength, and the kind of blind determination that will keep you going even when you stumble, because you will. It takes faith, and a belief that you are worth fighting for, because you are.
Too often, people with depression struggle alone in silence. There is a certain amount of shame attached to feeling this way, and a worry that other people won’t understand or accept what is happening. It’s hard enough trying to navigate through life during the best of times; it’s almost unimaginable trying to do it when you are depressed. Yet, as scary as it is, we need to reach out and talk to each other, share our stories, and ask for help (even if we think we don’t need it). We need to hold on to one another, and also to hold each other up. We need each other to survive. No one should ever be expected to survive this on their own. We are stronger together, so if you know someone who is struggling with depression, or if you yourself are, reach out, hold on, and don’t let go!