The main narrative associated with depression is the dark, dangerous turmoil that washes over you. It's a rightful narrative because it is a destructive sensation and depression leaves you teetering on the brink of life and death. To be clear, depression can leave you with very black and white options in your mind: live or die. It can be that terrifyingly simple.
There is another face to depression though, which can be overlooked but can be as equally destructive. It is the siren-esque nature of depression, as if you are having a sordid affair. Sometimes the sensation of depression is utterly hypnotic and the allure is like being transfixed by the snake from Jungle Book. You know you shouldn't be seduced but there is a strange sense of comfort in the dark arms of depression. I have felt, many times, afraid of getting better because it would mean the possibility of losing the familiar embrace of despair. That may appear absurd to read, but there is a very real addiction to the illness at times.
I have suffered from the illness for many years and therefore it is hard for me to understand who I am without the shadow of depression over me. I was encouraged by my psychiatrist to write positive post-it notes about myself and put them up around my home. It is an exercise to remind me of all the things I have achieved, the way others feel about me and the aspects to my personality I find good. It was very, very difficult to do. It was difficult because it seemed as if every note I wrote was tinged with an unseen darkness. Whatever I wrote I felt as though I should put, "But," on the end. Depression is a, "But," in life. 'You have a great network of friends...But,' 'You are funny...But.' I am aware that who I am, to the very core, is potentially tied in with the illness I have. I know I am not completely defined by my illness, but it feels as though it is woven into my being like a black thread. Therefore, to try and beat this illness appears to imply I have to unpick the fabric of my being and slowly remove the black thread from every aspect of my life. I have been with depression for many years and, like an affair, I know the relationship is toxic and needs to finish. The problem is, who will I be when the relationship stops?
I am passionate about describing my illness with others because I hope my struggles and successes will somehow provide a semblance of comfort. I don't want that to be my only story though; I don't want to be known only for my illness; I am Tom, I am not depressed Tom. It's going to be a lengthy, difficult process to close the door on my mistress depression, but the pangs of desire to have her embrace me are subsiding. Depression is addictive at times because it's familiar; to walk into the world without the blackness leaves you feeling exposed. I am slowly understanding how that exposure is a good thing. When cloaked in depression you become numb to the world and find no enjoyment in the simple things; with that cloak lifted I am starting to find joy in the little things. Depression may be an addictive siren, but to finally read a book again or appreciate a sunset is liberating and full of possibility. The affair is coming to an end and I am starting a new relationship with hope.