March 04, 2023
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Illustration by Brittany England
At first, this sounded impossible. But with time, I’ve found ways to appreciate my depression and feel more at peace now because of it.
I have affectionately named my depression. Her name is Maude, and we’re in a love-hate relationship. I hate her, and she loves me.
My girl Maude comes with me everywhere. She’s usually sleeping in the backseat as I drive through life. Always there but relatively quiet. Piping up every now and then before simmering down.
However, she has been known to wake up on the drive. Sometimes, she jumps up into the front seat. A few times, she’s even taken the wheel. Occasionally, her good friend anxiety, Janine, shows up for the ride, too. They’re constantly throwing their own form of a party when they’re together.
I’ve tried to lock them away in the trunk and kick them out of the car. They always fight me on it.
In the spring of 2022, I was coming out of a severe depressive episode. During a session with my therapist, she asked me if it was possible to appreciate what I had gone through. “Is there a way to thank your depression rather than neglect it?” she asked.
I laughed. “Absolutely not.” I was clearly not ready for that advice. It took nearly a year to recognize myself, but I’m now out of that dark time in my life — appropriately referred to as the Dark Times. I’ve found an effective cocktail of antidepressants, and I’ve made peace with many of the obstacles I’ve faced.
Anyone with depression understands how heavy it feels and how every day can feel like an enemy. As I emerged from the Dark Times, I found myself fearing my depression. Not only had Maude destroyed my inner peace, but I knew that she would be back again. She would be in the backseat even if I got better. Yes, the Dark Times were ending. But would there be the Darker Times? How would I anticipate it? How would I know if the next episode would be any better? What if it was worse?
Much to my disappointment, my brain doesn’t seem to have a calendar that allows me to schedule a mental breakdown. No one — including my therapist — has a crystal ball to anticipate an episode. There are no forecasts to predict how everything will work out.
But as much as we can’t anticipate the darkness, we also can’t anticipate the light. I went through that dark tunnel of depression without knowing that there was a meadow on the other side.
This past fall, I spent a few months alone in England. I had many reasons for going, but one was a way to prove to myself that I could. I wanted to fall back in love with being alone. I wanted to know that I was capable of going someplace totally new — knowing no one — and that I would be OK.
I had plenty of time to reflect while I was in England — about Maude and Janine, but also about the Dark Times. While there, I found myself so thankful for it all.
Maude led to the Dark Times, yes. But Maude also led me to England. Maude led me to understand what true friendship is. Maude led me to unlock art in my brain and write an entire manuscript that I hope to publish one day. She’s helped me become a more empathetic human. She’s encouraged me to be mindful and present.
It might sound a little wonky making friends with my depression. But I have. For as horrible as my depression has been, it’s been as equally eye-opening. I’m ultimately thankful for it. I have to be. How else can I justify its existence?
Maude is simply along for the ride. I can’t kick her out of the car. And I no longer want to. To hate her is to hate a piece of me.
It’s so easy to criticize ourselves and focus on our flaws. But it’s also exhausting. So, I’ve stopped expending my energy on hating Maude. Instead, I have listened to my therapist, and I have found a way to appreciate her.
I’ve stopped picking myself apart. I’ve stopped cursing my brain for its messed-up chemicals. Whenever my brain does go there or starts resisting Maude — after all, I’m only human — I pause and take a breath. I reflect on my past year, and I think about what I’ve learned. I thank myself for being here.
And when things get bad — which I’m sure one day they will — I will remind myself to fight the depression. I won’t fight myself for having it.
Medically reviewed on March 04, 2023
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