It was February, and I was spending my days either trying to give a damn about my handful of remaining graduate courses, or trying to write my stupid goddamn thesis. Many hours were spent in lecture halls, libraries, and coffee shops. I just wanted to get my goddamn work done, but I was also trying to come to terms with the rapidly-approaching end of my graduate school career. I was calling on every trick I’d ever learned and every scrap of strength I had to keep fucking going. There were good days, but overall it was a struggle.
At the same time, I was spending a lot of time talking to a friend who was having a very rough time of things themselves. They’d always been a sort of melancholy type, but they were experiencing their first real episode of major depression, or at least their first one unconnected to an obvious major life event. And they weren’t handling it well. And so one evening, as I was once again trying to cheer on this friend of mine to fucking KEEP GOING, despite how shitty they felt. And they asked me: How? How, through more than ten years of periodic episodes of depression, had I managed to keep going?
Initially, I didn’t feel qualified to answer that question. My depression is managed but not cured, there have definitely been times where I’ve kept going only just barely, and I can’t claim to have everything figured out by any stretch of the imagination. And I didn’t have any magic fixes… I mostly just dragged myself through, doing whatever happened to work.
But I wanted to help, so I started talking, giving every idea I could think of. And I gradually realized… hey, I do have something to offer here. Nothing magic, no cures, but I have tools. I have built myself some degree of a framework for how to keep living life even when my damn brain chemistry seems to be fighting me all the way. And maybe, just maybe, that was worth something.
I had been trying half-heartedly to start a blog for quite awhile, but–as I’ve mentioned previously–I have a ridiculous amount of anxiety surrounding the question of “what is worth posting”. I have a hard time believing in an idea for long enough to execute it and get it posted. But I needed to write about this, I knew, whether I posted or not.
See, even after all these years, depression still really scares me sometimes. I know that depression lies, but sometimes knowing that isn’t quite enough, because sometimes those lies seem more real than anything else. So some days, when I’m really struggling, feeling really worthless and sad and uninterested in everything and sure things are never going to work out… on those days, it’s easy to start to feel just as alone and lost and hopeless in the struggle against my stupid broken brain as I was back in the beginning. I start to feel like I’m back at square one, like no matter what I do, I’m not actually getting any closer to “better”. I start to feel like I may as well just give up now, rather than continuing to fight this same stupid battle over and over again for the rest of my life.
I wrote that post of mine to remind myself that all of that is a lie.
I really, really wish that I could say I had banished every one of my demons for good, and I can’t. In fact, given my history, my family history, and the statistics on such things, I’ll probably NEVER be able to say that–odds are, I will at the very least be more vulnerable to depression than most other people… for the rest of my life.
But it also isn’t true that I’ve gotten nowhere. It isn’t true that all my therapy and meds and just years of pushing through goddamn it were worthless. I have learned things. I do have more coping skills than I used to. And after that day talking to my friend, I believed that more deeply than I ever had before. I had clarity.
I knew it wouldn’t last. Moments of clarity like that are temporary. But if I could just get it down on paper, maybe I’d be able to find it again when I needed it. Or at least, maybe I’d be able to take comfort in having evidence that the clarity had existed once, and so it could again. So I sat down and started writing.
I spent most of a day on that post. I was supposed to be writing my thesis at the time, so I was supposed to be at home typing all day. The writing wasn’t all that impressive and the post wasn’t all that long, so I can only imagine that it took so long because of how important it was to me. I needed to get it right. I needed to preserve that feeling of clarity. And maybe my intensity came through, and that’s why it became the thing that it became, I don’t know. But I know that after writing it, I somehow still believed in it enough to want it to exist forever out in the real world, where I couldn’t tear it up or take it back or lose it.
I still can’t quite get my head around what happened after that. The post got shared by a few bigger bloggers, and it fucking took off. Since that day, almost a year ago, that post has been seen by more people than any other piece of work I have ever produced in my life. It’s taken on a life of its own on sites like tumblr, and every now and then I will get a burst of new visitors as the post is discovered by some new community of people. The internet is a bizarre place. Beautiful, and bizarre.
But the truly beautiful thing was not the size of the audience, although that was certainly a much-appreciated confidence boost at a time when I sorely needed one. The beautiful thing was that the response I got kept me writing.
This blog is not my first. I’ve tried and failed to write publicly on and off since about 2006. Before that, I tried keeping up a livejournal, and before that I wrote on paper. I’ve never stuck with any one of those things with much consistency for this long. And this time around hasn’t been anywhere near perfect. I’ve still had my slow periods and moments of doubt and all the usual panic about not having a “niche”. But I’m still here. And at least some people are still reading.
The last year of my life has been difficult in a lot of ways, thanks to my miserable end to graduate school. But it’s also been amazingly productive in terms of personal growth. I may not have all my shit figured out yet, but I’m getting there. That’s been possible because of the tremendous support of my friends, and because I’ve been writing. And I doubt I would have written so much this year were it not for this blog, and for the people reading it.
So this year, that’s what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for friends and words and the internet. And if you’re reading this, I’m thankful for you.
So thanks, and I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. Or, you know, a lovely Thursday, whichever applies to you.