Name witheld

I am not sure how to make meaning of the fact that I, unlike so many, and yet like so many others, have been offered a life that includes depression and anxiety. What I do know is that I feel compelled to share my experience. Here is what “playing the cards I was dealt with” looks like for me.

I am quite aware that exposing the darkness that surrounds this experience creates a negative image around the people who hold a label of depression or anxiety. I am so reluctant to do so. But what I hope to do is create fewer moments where people who are struggling are made to feel alone. We all know the statistics. Depression and anxiety are rampant, and therefore those of us who struggle are not alone, in that others share the experience. But what I mean by alone, is the emptiness and loneliness that is felt when someone you love cannot relate to your experience, and with the kindest of hearts and best of intentions, tries to fix you.

I want to paint a picture of the paradox that is my life. Someone recently said to me: “Just as easily as your heart can fill with love, in moments [of sorrow] it also feels so much more…”. This person saw me. Like a select few others in my life, they understand that my heart can feel as equally full as it does empty. The peaks and valleys are my day to day, and they may never meet each other to become the rolling hills I long for.

I feel gratitude for the fact that I feel so much. That I can feel the vibrations of music in specific parts of my body, that I can be physically overcome with joy and warmth when I share in someone else’s good news. A song lyric or poem or comment can have a lasting impact on my life. I notice things, so many things, all day every day, like the warm sun on my body, a new plant on a regularly frequented trail, my sisters growing and blooming, smiles from strangers, two young cross country skiers in true camaraderie… those magical moments – living.

And just as I constantly notice these beautiful moments, I am equally noticing and viscerally experiencing all the suffering. Like a dark black dying tree in front of what I came to realize was a women’s shelter, a homeless person I drive by on the underpass, a child who has so much energy they can’t sit still… these devastating moments – life.

The magical moments carry me through. Because the weight of the devastating moments builds up until I am debilitated. Like a dark cloud hanging over me, carrying so much water… it’s heavy. And until the cloud bursts, I am carrying its weight. And what does that cloud feel like? It feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. I physically cannot move. Like every ounce of suffering in the world is pushing me down. My thoughts are overcome by darkness. Moments, people, places and interests that brought me joy the previous day no longer have any bearing. The clouds are thick and black and make it so I can no longer see or think clearly. And even though I’ve been here before, and the sun shone again, I start to believe that I have always been like this, and that I will always be like this. I feel so much panic and fear that I feel myself start to float away. I can’t find myself anymore. I am a part of the clouds. I start to loose touch with my reality. I start to believe that I am losing my mind and that I am being called to die… and finally, the cloud bursts, and eventually it rains, and I get spit back out. And then the sun comes out again, those clouds remain, and the cycle starts again.

And it just is. This is the cycle.

So the next time you meet someone who struggles with depression and/or anxiety, know that they, like me, may be trying so hard to carry that cloud. Help them carry the cloud. Ask them, “How I can I help you carry the cloud?”.4


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