If This Is Your First Depression, I’m Writing This For You

Photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon

I am writing this in honour of a strong, beautiful, vibrant woman who died by suicide this weekend. I am writing this in honour of all strong, beautiful, vibrant humans who suddenly slip into a depression and start feeling like there is no other way out … and if this is your first depression, I’m especially writing this in honour of you.

Because maybe you’re one of those people who has never been depressed before. Maybe your normal has always been a kinda good and happy space. Maybe you’ve always loved life. And life has loved you. And when depression started looming over you, crushing you with its dark and twisted hands, maybe it was such a shocking strangeness that you’re feeling like you’re trapped in a never-ending nightmare.

But please know this: the nightmare does not last forever.

The states of being are so different, so sharp in contrast that I imagine the first depression must feel like you’ve been hit by a train. I imagine that you feel there is no way out. But I’ve grown up with depression, so it’s not strange or shocking to me, it’s more an old and familiar companion. Not a very nice companion. But one that does go away.

That utter hopelessness, that suffocating bleakness, that nothingness and aloneness and tormented darkness does go away.

You’re not feeling like this because your life will never be okay again. That’s just a lie that depression weaves. Because your life can be okay again. It can even be beautiful again. Every time I’ve promised myself that I would try and live another day, to give life a second chance when all I wanted to do was to end it all, it has always been worth it.

It wasn’t that the next day would suddenly be amazing, but somehow it would be less hard, or I might feel a little less like so many shattered shards of glass, a little less raw and broken. I might notice the sunlight dancing between my fingers, or feel the tug of a smile at the perfect circle my dog’s lips make as they curve around her heartfelt howl at the dog next door.

Hearing my cat purr, a bird sing, the love in my mother’s voice, or the whistle my little nephew makes around the ‘rth’ in happy birthday. It could be watching an orchid stretch open or the daisies in the garden as they lift their heads. It could be my hand in my lover’s, or a painting suddenly come out right. Or even better, a painting in the sky.

It could be the unexpected deliciousness of the perfect mango. Or a message from a friend. Or even just a whispered promise of something new.

I might feel a flicker of hope or beauty or love. And as the days would roll on, eventually there would be joy again, or purpose, or laughter or silliness, or something so sublime I would feel like the luckiest human on earth.

And I know you’re tired, and I know you’re weary, and maybe you think you just can’t do this anymore, but I think maybe you can.

I’ve just recently emerged from the longest, darkest, most debilitating depression of my life, and as I sit here writing these words to you, I can honestly tell you with my whole heart that I am happy I am still here. I am thankful that when I felt suicidal this time I reached out and asked for help. And in this moment I feel blessed and I feel honoured and I know that if I can feel this that it can be your world too.

So maybe promise yourself just one more day.

Do whatever you need to. Try those meds if you and your doc think they could work for you. Give yourself space if that’s what your body tells you it needs. Give yourself patience as if you were your own best friend. And be gentle with you. Be kind to you. You’ve got this.

I have found profound healing in my daily gratitude practice, in meditating, in stillness, in healing chants, in surrender, in sunshine, in exercise, in art, in connecting with nature, in connecting with my heart, in disconnecting from social media, in ignoring the news, in eating right, in eating for my neurotransmitters, in realigning my sleeping patterns, in creating and watching my own mind movies, in embracing every part of me, in therapy, in alternative healers, in learning to trust the Universe again, in leaning into the people I love. It’s in the little things I have found the most.

So do the little things. And give someone a chance to be there for you. They might surprise you.

You don’t have to do this alone.

Here’s how you might find some joy in the exquisite healing of art therapy.