A few days ago I opened up to a friend about my sense of aloneness in this world. In return he told me a little story about me, and directed me to experience a little story about someone else. Those little stories gave me the psychic strength to pick myself back up to put myself back into the world again.
We all need mirrors around us, because we only see a particular dimension of ourselves. If you’re like me, the image I see in the mirror is particularly corrupted. I would never say the things that I say to myself to another human being. But the voice in my head is mocking, cruel, pitying at times. At my worst, I think I am a giant waste of space and thoughts of de-existing will haunt me again.
I have a collection of photos stored privately and securely, and they are screenshots of people messaging me to tell me how less alone my writing has made them feel. These messages keep me alive, if only I remember to look at them. I notice the irony: how my words provide comfort to people’s existential despair, but not to myself.
People ask me why and how am I so brave to wash my dirty linen in public — first of I don’t think of chronic depression as dirty linen, at least not anymore, secondly it is precisely that it is being thought of as something to be ashamed of, that is why I try so hard to keep writing about it.
I think my depression has been a gift and a curse. I am not downplaying the debilitating effects of it but I wish to acknowledge the light it has shone onto my life. My condition forces me to the brink of death, and if I am lucky enough to get past the cruel, mocking voice, I get to the bare essence of it all. Wishing death upon myself makes every superfluous thing fade away: reputation, career, approval. In my mind, I have died a thousand psychological deaths.
It is cyclical. I fall into deep depression, it forces me to face myself and my life decisions. Truth hurts — self-honesty is very difficult. I emerge with my raw wounds, but the identification of wounds means there is something to heal. But life and ego often takes over, and in no time I am back to my old ways of spending my energy and time on things that do not really matter in the grand scheme of things. Why? Because like everyone else, I am a social creature, and it will always hurt to be outside, so I try to fit in.
But attempting to fit in kills me, slowly. Fitting in means having to amputate the parts of me that stick out, but these are the parts that make me precisely me. I have learned this lesson over and over again, but somehow it does not stick. The allure of being part of the crowd, of acceptance, is sometimes too much to resist. I become attached to having a very specific image reflected back at me, I forget the child living inside of me.
I am very lucky. Once in a while a person comes by and mirrors the image of myself that I need to remember. Like that friend who gave me a gift of stories.I laugh at myself for trying so hard to become a person I am not, and I try to not resent myself for forgetting the person I am.
I must remember to be a gifter of stories, like my friend was to me.
Originally published on Medium.