I talk a lot about what depression took from me. It took a lot. opportunities, experiences and friendships that could have been wonderful sailed right past me simply because I was mentally ill. I have spent a long time grieving on all that could have been. But I am all about positivity and optimism and I do my best to focus on what I have gained.
Above all, I have gained empathy. I know what suffering looks like, I know how pain occupies you veins and the ice that forms in your stomach when you are hurting. I know what hurt feels like. I also know that people can’t always be summed up in first impressions and how good people can hide behind thorny facades. In my heart, sits a fear, a fear of judgement because I know how this looks. I know my monosyllabic responses sound rude and bored and my poor attendance and lateness reads as disrespect. I was taught not to judge a book by its cover by being given a pretty tatty cover. Fortunately, I am surrounded by people who see past the exhaustion and “laziness” and see my soul and so I try my best to do the same for others. Make no mistake, I am not always successful; I make harsh judgements and unfair assessments like anyone else but I like to think depression has improved my ability to be patient and see the good in people, even when it’s well hidden.
Depression is a privilege. This is what I tell myself on the difficult days because, in a way, it is. Because I have depression I have a sharp eye for the suffering on others, I can see that pain that under smiles that others can’t, sometimes I can even soothe it a little bit. That is a privilege. Don’t get me wrong, I can be blunt and insensitive like anyone but my years of hiding sorrow and cries for help behind quick jokes and throw-away comments gives me an edge in seeing that in others. I have lived through this and I have learnt so much and maybe I could pass just a small part of that on. I am no expert. I do not have all the answers but I know a few little tips that can help. I can also listen, listen and listen and listen until you’ve poured your heart out and I hope you will know that it’s safe to do that with me because I have those kind of secrets too. As much as I hate that people can relate to my story I’m glad that it makes them feel less alone. Depression has been so painful, but it’s equipped me with a few extra tools that I can use to help people with and that is a bigger gift than I could have asked for.
Resilience is a better word than strength. I say that because I have never related to ‘strength’. I have never felt at all connected to a stoic and unmoving self of which all problems bounce off. I have been hit. Hard. I have fallen down. I have made mistakes. I have lost friends. But I have gotten up, made amends, learnt to love again and that is resilience. If depression gave me anything it is resilience. I have gained resilience because I have had to. Without it I would not be where I am today, I would be only a shadow. I am not strong and depression never made me strong but it did make me resilient and for that I am glad.