Before we begin
The depression I experience is relatively mild, and I want to be clear that this is NOT a message about “thinking positive” or “looking on the bright side” or trying to diminish the experience of those with more severe forms of this disease. I can only write from my own perspective, and I am open to hearing from you if this resonates or if it is unintentionally dismissive.
What depression has taught me
A few weeks ago I scribbled a random thought on the bottom of a page, and promptly forgot about it.
“Lesson of depression = love yourself more
Love without shame”
Last night I stumbled upon it again just as I was about to lead an hour-long meditation, so i spent some time with it, feeling into the intention.
The feelings I had around this also intertwined with a story I’d heard on the radio earlier about restorative justice. A judge required a drug offender to write an essay about how she ended up in the criminal justice system, and she wrote about how she had been diagnosed with a fatal illness 24 years earlier and her life had taken a turn toward hopelessness and drug addiction. After she read the essay in court, the judge said, do you realize you beat that disease 23 years ago? Then the judge described the moment – observing as the woman realized how much time she had lost, how many years she had let the diagnosis beat her instead of realizing she had beaten the diagnosis.
That flip in perspective echoes in my scribble about depression. I can push back against depression defining me. I can see it as a visitor bearing gifts that may outweigh its pain. I can frame this as a lesson in how to take an obstacle and treat it as an opportunity: to cultivate the ability to love myself tenderly, unapologetically, unconditionally. To develop the resilience to protect and forgive myself on the days when depression wins. To resist its lies. To use my good days to build structures and practices that will cushion and shelter my heart.
Depression has taught me about boundaries. I am learning to say “no” even when I feel like I should do something, go somewhere, or perform socially for someone else. If it doesn’t feel right, I am learning to put myself first and to do it with integrity – no white lies, no evasiveness, I can say no in service to my own spirit and let that be the answer. I also set boundaries with my inner voice – the liar in me that tells me I’m not enough. I can say to that voice, in much the same way I teach my children to hold their boundaries: you can’t talk to me like that. That is not okay, and that is not going to happen.
Depression is teaching me to say, I am perfect just the way I am, and fuck off if you don’t agree. My mistakes don’t define me or reduce my beauty. I am perfect on my good days and my bad days. I am perfect and I am good and I am wildly, deeply loved. It’s reaching me to be stronger when I’m okay so I’m stronger when I’m not.
Depression has taught me not to compare myself to others. I recognize that everyone has strengths, their strengths don’t need to be mine, and that doesn’t make me any less. I catch myself when I despair over the “Five Hundred Things Happy People Do Better Than You” type articles. I laugh when I see that Beyonce has the same 24 hours that I do… dude, Beyonce has STAFF. I have ME and I’m doing just fine, even when I’m not.
Depression lies to me and tells me I’m a failure, everyone hates me, no one is listening, no one truly cares. Some days I believe it and I even hear myself saying those words. I am still learning to make amends. I will adapt and I will thrive.
I will respond within 24 hours.
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You’re perfect just the way you are.