Living with depression can be like having a part in an old silent black and white movie and not knowing which part you’re supposed to play. Everyone else is scurrying around with enthusiasm while you keep trying and failing to jump in at the right moment and do the right thing.
Depression drains the color, the sound, the purpose, the life out of everything. You lose all sense of yourself and nothing feels like anything. You’re empty, but you know you’re supposed to have a purpose, have fun, be alive. It was bad enough to be empty and colorless, but for me, the really painful part was wanting and trying so desperately to fix it, to be fixed, the constant wondering and analyzing of what was going on with me and why. What did I do? Why is this happening? The questions always eventually boiled down to the same place. Who am I? Who am I supposed to be?
Everything is hard from that empty hollow state. I constantly evaluated and criticized myself. Maybe if I just did life a little differently. Maybe if I was more artistic. Maybe if I wasn’t such an introvert. Maybe if I dressed better.
Maybe then I’d feel ok.
So I tried really hard. I scrutinized every single move I made. I was standing in the cereal aisle one night about 11:00 pm when I realized I was in a very bad place in my life. I’d been there for thirty minutes at least. I was frozen with indecision about which cereal to buy for breakfast. I was weighing all the pros and cons of every possible choice. Maybe I should buy Mini Wheats because I’m like a classic-fun-don’t-worry-about-much kind of person. Maybe I should buy Trix because that will remind me of being young. Maybe I should try something totally new because change is good for you. Maybe I should learn to get up earlier so I can cook a real breakfast. Maybe I should go easy on myself and just buy granola bars.
I can’t remember what I ended up buying that night. But I’ll never forget that crippling feeling of having no idea who I was, who I was supposed to be, if I was really anything that mattered at all. Over the next few years I learned techniques to pull myself out of that depression. I filled in the void with gratitude, beauty, and humor. I trained my brain to feel things again through self-inquiry, journaling, and visualization.
I started asking different questions. What am I thankful for? Where did I see beauty? Where did I notice humor? What do I want to be true? What do I like about myself? What am I excited about? I kept asking these questions every single day until I retrained my brain to operate on gratitude, to notice beauty, to appreciate humor.
Each day I declared something I wanted to be true. The world is kind. I am strong. I feel amazing. With each passing week it got a little easier to write something I liked about myself. My hair was nice today. I told a cute joke at lunch. I care about people. I remarkably began actually feeling excited about the things I decided to be excited about. I’m excited about the Batman movie coming out. I’m excited about the first snow. I’m excited about training my dog.
After a while, the world just felt ok again, really nice even. The world felt lucky and beautiful and hilarious. And I felt good about my place in it.
I only had to start asking myself different questions.
These days I’m doing well. I’m even to the point where I can appreciate those hard times. Depression cut me down to nothing. Zero. My brain was like mush but emptier. While it was painful at the time, it gave me a chance build my mind from the ground up. I got to write the recipe for my inner world, and I firmly believe that I couldn’t have ended up any better off.
DISCLAIMER: This website does not render medical advice. I am not a mental health professional. I share the methods that have worked for me and I truly hope they work for you, but I cannot guarantee any specific results.