Let’s Talk Depression

Alright look, a lot of us are not strangers to depression. Chances are if you’re reading this blog you’ve either been there or know someone who has been. I think we can all agree that it sucks (understatement of the century) and the unfortunate truth  is that there’s no magic cure. I can’t give you an instant spell or some kind of divine potion to “fix” depression.

As one of the only people I know that has successfully escaped this demon, I wish I could. I want to help; hell, I want to wave a fucking wand and make it all go away for everyone. Four years ago today I was in the middle of the desert in Utah against my will. I was at a therapeutic wilderness program and in the very infant stages of taking the road for recovery.

The unfortunate truth to my overcoming of depression was that initially I did not choose to start. I was booted out of my home by my parents and sent/forced into a place where I had to face myself. I hold absolutely no grudge with my parents for this because it was completely warranted and if I’m being completely honest; that decision saved my life.

This wilderness program locked me out in the desert (supervised obviously) with nothing but a backpack and a sleeping bag. We hiked for miles upon miles every day and it left me with nothing except my mind for most of the time. When I got there, my mind was a terrifying place; I hated myself, I hated being alone because my thoughts tore me apart. This is what happened…but what most people don’t expect is that being torn apart was what I needed.

The thing about depression is that it distorts; color becomes gray, light becomes dull, emotion becomes emptiness, happiness becomes pain. It morphs your view of the world and your mind becomes a dark and vicious place. You effectively lose control of your own mind (as I like to put it) because your thoughts turn against you. But in that desert; alone, terrified, and distraught I had to face myself. I had no choice, there was nothing there to distract me or shield me from my own mind. There wasn’t an escape; there was me and only me.

This is why depression is so god damn elusive to help. I’ve used this quote before and I’m certain I’ll use it again, but no one can walk your road for you. They can walk with you, they can hold your hand, but they cannot walk the road for you. No one can “save” each other from depression. It can’t be done, I’m sorry. In my mind there is only one way to non-chemically (I’d like to avoid debate here, I am taking no stance on this) overcome depression; Face yourself. Make the choice to face this demon and fight it head on.

Depression distorts. It feels like your thoughts aren’t your own. It feels like you can’t control your actions. It feels like the universe hates you and no matter what you do, nothing works out the way it should. But those are not your feelings. You let depression have control of your mind and all of those seem true but you have to remember that it is your mind and you are in control. No matter how much it seems like you aren’t.

Now making this decision does not make overcoming depression a fucking prance through a field of cake and flowers. It’s shitty feels like you’re trying to climb a mountain in a hurricane with a boulder on your back and I will not promise you it will be easy.

But what I can absolutely promise is that it’ll be worth it. Four years ago I was in the desert in Utah and an infant in the steps to recovery. Today I am living a few hundred miles south of there by pure happenstance but I am the happiest I have ever been. Life is…reassuringly normal in a sense. I have relationship drama, I have days where I’m sad over something and I have days where I’m feeling great, but the main difference now is that I am alive. My mind is clean; clear for the first time in my life really. I can make stupid mistakes and look like an idiot and laugh about it because it doesn’t hurt anymore. Beyond all that my outlook on the world is more mature than most people in their early twenties; things that most people agonize over (such as looking stupid, making mistakes, etc.) I just laugh about because in the end I know they don’t matter. What matters is me and that I’m living as best I can with as few regrets as possible.

So I’m sorry; there is no magic cure. This is the best advice I have for depression. How you go about facing yourself is your choice; distractions are everywhere (from phones to drugs to a million other things) and you have to choose to ignore them and take back control of your mind. When those painful thoughts flow through – let them. Let them come and then dismiss them and push them out because it’s your mind. You shape it and if you work at it…someday you could be looking back at depression as an achievement and not a demon.

Enduring the Darkness

It’s easy to stand in the sun and smile. It’s easy to feel that warmth on your skin; to listen to that breeze wash through the branches of the trees around you and feel…happy. It’s easy to look at the beauty  and feel that you’re safe; that everything is okay.

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Taken on a hike I went on this week at sunrise.

Some of us have the priviledge of experiencing that frequently. Some of us do not.

But it doesnt matter because everyone stumbles. Everyone falls down. It’s the inevitability of life; it’s going to hurt. There will be days where it feels unbearable; where you’re alone; where you’re in pain; where you feel like you can’t hold on. I don’t care if you live in extreme poverty or are a billionare: life hits everyone.

But this is not such a bad thing.

We are humans. We are capable of so much. We can feel happy – we can love…but with this comes that pain we all know so well. And yet, that very pain is almost more important.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat up at night wondering; racking my brain and tearing myself apart over whether I could have done things in my past differently. Asking myself how much that one mistake cost me. Had I not done something so stupid, where would I be today? It plagues me. I know that I destroyed something with that mistake; that my life at that moment was completely crushed. I shattered it beyond recovery.

But it’s okay. 

That suffering is something that I hope to never experience again…and it’s something that agonizes me just knowing that others must endure the same. But that suffering led me here. Led me to this moment. This second. This breath.

This is a different life and, admittedly, I am a different person today. I lost a lot from that blow and I fell hard. But somehow by some inconceivable miracle I made it through. I survived and while it was difficult beyond all comprehension…I eventually started moving forward.

I fell. But getting back up; that’s what built me. That is what molded me into a person that isn’t afraid anymore – that can appreciate the feeling of every single passage of air in and out of my lungs. That can walk outside into the warmth of that wonderful sun and feel that happiness even in spite of knowing that it will not last.

Darkness will come again; it always does.

Pain will happen and while I can spend my life desperately trying to avoid it, I know that’s a hopeless pursuit. It’s going to come again and it’s going to hurt. There will be times in my life I end up alone again. There will be times I suffer beyond what I thought possible. It’s going to happen.

But look at what I’ve gained from that very phenomenon…a sense of hope. A sense of wonder for a world of endless possibilities and an utter lack of fear to pursue those very possibilites…no matter how unlikely they may be to achieve. That’s what’s important here.

It’s not about the darkness; it never was. It’s about holding onto that light no matter how faint and distant it may seem. It’s about reaching for something more even when your face is pressed into the dirt. It’s about hope and strength; something we all have but often fail to remember.

There’s always going to be the opportunity to turn back. The opportunity to stop and give up will always be available and god knows I’ve felt how tempting that decision is. There will always be a million reasons to choose it; “This isn’t fair…I shouldn’t have to suffer like this.” And you’re probably right, you shouldnt. But you are…and this is all you’ve got.

This is your life and this is where you decide whether to hold on to hope or let it go. No matter what color your skin is, whether your straight, gay, rich, poor, it doesnt matter. What it comes down to is that it’s your life…and it’s worth fighting for.

The End of My World

I spent last night in the Emergency Room. Something about it is just innately terrifying inside of me; those cold white walls – they seem to fill me with dread whenever any sort of medical undertaking begins. I suppose hospitals really encompass what I fear the most; helplessness. I can handle spiders, I’ve come millimeters from wild rattle snakes – I’m not afraid of heights or rejection or even pain. No, the one thing that really crushes my courage is helplessness. Being trapped somewhere with no escape…locked away with no key, not just without a reasonable escape, but with no possible one. I’ve written about my depression as that quite a few times. Maybe now that one would make a little bit more sense to some.

But hospitals create this helpless feeling to me because what really brings fear to my find is that prospect of pain that cannot be overcome. I can deal with a cut or a bruise but when it comes to persistent and unrelenting pain, my strength breaks down. It is my Achilles Heel (oh the irony).

I have a kidney disease. I’ve known about it for a long time and it’s been a major contributor to my depression. This week I developed a pain in my toe that started off quite tolerable. However, over the course of a couple days it grew to an extreme level of pain that I could not tolerate in the slightest. I couldn’t walk; couldn’t nudge it at all; physically could barely even move it. Last night I went to the ER when the pain culminated to an unbearable level. I was admitted and after a lot of testing my fears were confirmed; Gout.

Now, that diagnosis in itself is relatively decent. Treatable, short term, easy to handle. But here’s the problem; Gout is caused by a build up of Uric Acid in my blood, this acid grouped up in my joint of my big toe into crystals that cause some pretty extreme pain. The problem is that this build up in acid is being cause by my kidneys. Exact numbers are being looked at, but we already knew my kidneys were growing into worse and worse condition, and this seems to indicate that they are closing in on their last legs. Unfortunately, because most the treatments for Gout are intolerable to my kidneys…it means we cannot cure the Gout. I am on pain meds and steroids to bring down the inflammation but this condition will persist until I have a transplant. Persistent unrelenting pain that I cannot do much about. Welcome to the nightmare.

So what does all this mean? I’ve had my life flipped over time and time again. Despite the gravity of this situation I am not freaking out very much. I’m upset, yes, and I am afraid. However, for some reason I am not panicking. I am not losing control in the slightest. Maybe it’s because I’m so conditioned for life to change completely at any moment, as it has so many times. I’m going to have to most likely leave my current life behind to pursue transplant and recovery but it really is not destroying me. For some reason I am able to greet even this with a peak of interest in the corner of my eye at the new adventure to come.

I suppose what I’m really trying to say is that this moment is a big stepping stone for me, I think. If this had happened years ago it would have destroyed me. I would have withdrawn into my depression and away from the outside world and it would’ve eaten me alive. But today I am doing the absolute opposite. Greeting this terrible misfortune with a smile…of sorts. It may seem like a dark and ominous cloud has just formed over my life, but I think maybe now I allow myself to see past it and on to the sunrise that sits beyond. I’ll leave you all with one of my favorite quotes, something that I’ve held close to my own heart since I started the path to overcoming my depression.

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”

-Richard Bach