Give it a Voice

Before I walked out of her office, my therapist looked me in the eyes and said, "I want you to give it a voice."

I looked back at her, and said "I want to. I'm going to try to."

We had spent the session talking about my depression. She'd re-diagnosed me in November when the traits started showing up, but it wasn't until recently that they've really made their home. 

During our time together, I described to her what life has looked like lately. This is the fourth year in a row that I've sat in her office and described my depression to her. I talked about the weight in my chest and the fog in my brain. I told her that I've lost my motivation and my energy, that it feels almost impossible to do anything normal. I told her that I'm trying to maintain my normality, but that it's hard when I want to spend my days in bed and my time alone. 

As much as I described my symptoms, though, I talked about my shame. I admitted that I feel like a fraud; I talk a big talk about being honest about mental illness and ignoring the stigmas that surround it. But, I've been hiding it for months. I talked about how I don't want to be ashamed, but with the diagnosis came the familiar feelings of weakness and defeat. She reminded me that shame is a symptom too. She reminded me that depression is not synonymous with weakness. 

I never plan to be ashamed. When I'm not depressed, I always want to be the kind of depressive that talks about it. I plan on writing about it, on telling people and showing them that there's nothing wrong with mental illness. I want to fight the familiar stigmas around depression and anxiety. But, it wasn't ten minutes after I admitted to my counselor that I'm depressed that I decided to bury the truth. I even decided to see how long I could go without my roommate knowing. (I made it three weeks. Sorry about that, Liz.)

That was months ago, though. Since then, I've turned 22, Christmas has come and gone, and we've welcomed a new year. I've lived weeks with this secret, only telling those who I thought would notice. Shame has dictated a lot more of my decisions than I'd like to admit, but that's over now. 

Today I am choosing to be brave rather than ashamed. I'm here to talk about my depression, to invite you all into this all-too-familiar season and give a voice to whatever it'll all look like. 

It's probably important for me to say that I'm okay. I'm tired, and I'm definitely depressed, but I'm okay. I'm going to be okay. 

Though this season is heavy, it's still good. It's harder for me to do the things that were once simple, but that doesn't mean that I'm not doing them. I'm showing up to everything I have to do, and I'm doing it all well. I feel weak, but at the same time I feel much stronger than I used to. I may be depressed, but I am in no way defeated. I'm not going to let this illness win; I've given it that chance too many times before.

Here's my resolution to give a voice to my depression. I'm going to write about it, to invite you all into the unknown but somehow still familiar. I'm not going to hide behind my forced smile and perfect attendance any more. I'm not going to let shame make my decisions for me.

I'll write on the bad days and on the good. I'll confess the lies that try to win and proclaim the Truth that prevails. I'll recap the counseling sessions and the tears and even the laughter (because depressed people laugh, too). I'll be honest, and I won't be ashamed. My depression has a voice, but it will not have my life.