“And once the fogs over and the stars and the moon come out at night, it’ll be a beautiful sight.” ~ Jack Kerouac
You can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the glow is dim and the distance toward it is long.
You’re tired and don’t believe you can make it to the end, yet you continue on, hoping. “Perhaps things will get better,” you tell yourself as you begrudgingly put one foot in front of the other.
As you continue down the tunnel, the dark cloud that follows you everywhere and constantly storms above your head begins to break down. The rain begins to dissipate but you can still feel the moisture in the air; the weather can change at any moment. You push back the tears that beg to fall from your eyes, you keep going even though you’re fearful of never reaching the end.
“Why is it taking so long?” You begin to pick up the pace, you’re walking briskly because you can see the dim light glowing brighter, the luminescence is enchanting and you want to get closer. You begin to jog. The tunnel seems larger, less suffocating. You can breathe easier and when you spread your arms out, you no longer can reach both walls by standing still.
You begin to run. The light is closer, it’s brighter, the end of the tunnel. You can see it, you’re almost there. “Keep going, look how far you’ve come.” The rain has finally stopped, the cloud gone. You step outside and realize that the light at the end of the tunnel was not an illusion, the tunnel was. You made it to the other side.
The light at the end of the tunnel is probably the most overused metaphor for people with depression, but it’s the most accurate. Depression shifts, lifts, and changes. When we are in the throes of a depressed episode it’s hard to see an end in sight, specifically one that doesn’t see us hospitalized or gone from the world and out of pain. It’s hard to remember that things can and will be better, but we’ve lived those days, don’t you remember?
For some of us, the fog lifts gradually. For others, it’s almost instantaneous. But the fear of feeling that bad again haunts us all. We continue to put one foot in front of the other and with each step, life becomes easier to bear.
My experiences have shown me that the only person to give credit to in these moments is myself. A promotion at work, a fun night with friends, meeting someone new, great sex—none of these things push away those feelings. I do. I get up every day, I keep going, I keep fighting; I choose to commit to being healthy and happy, so I keep running.
To a person battling depression, happiness seems like a joke at times. Even though you feel moments of bliss, feeling that way consistently seems completely out of the question. As the emptiness inside begins to fill and you catch yourself smiling, laughing and genuinely feeling happy, you realize little by little that the darkness is gone.
You’re in a new relationship with yourself now. Though it may be rocky at times, it’s the best and most stable relationship you’ve been in for awhile. Depression lies to us so deeply that we truly believe we are not the strong, beautiful, intelligent humans that we are in reality. We are unable see ourselves the way others do.
When the light begins to shine brighter and we notice those moments in which we aren’t feeling hollow, we can begin to believe those things others say—you matter, you’re beautiful, you’re loved. We begin to feel those things about ourselves— I’m beautiful, I’m wanted, I make a difference.
When depression fades we can think more clearly, function more consistently and be more productive. If we know that darkness could come back, we can continue to embrace the good moments. These are the times that make our struggling worth it. We fought to get to the other side of depression, and we’ve made it.
In the past two years, I’ve lost everything I had to lose—my first love, one of my best friends and my home. I’ve said goodbye to more friends in 24 months than in 24 years. I woke up day after day for six months wondering why these things happened to me, plotting how to escape from the pain. I fell into the darkest place I’d ever been in (which speaks volumes for someone who, as a youth, almost successfully took their own life).
I had no one. No support to truly understand how I felt; my needs weren’t being met and I just wanted to evaporate. Then one day, my friend pushed me to go with her to a carnival. We sat in the parking lot and talked for hours about everything and nothing. We both cried. She gave me courage and her hand to hold as I watched a video of the person I was dating (who had committed suicide two months earlier) for the first time. When I left my friend that night it dawned on me: there was a way past my depression, but as much as I could tell others what I needed, this was a journey I had to take alone.
Friendship. That was the first key to me realizing there was another side of feeling depressed. I had friends and they loved me. It broke their heart to see me shed so many tears and sit, unable to function, day after day by myself in the dark. I wasn’t alone. No matter how difficult it is to ask for help or to say you’re not okay, our friends are there for us and we need to allow them to be.
Strength. When I realized how much I had lost and the depth of it finally hit me, I realized I had the choice to give up, but I didn’t. Not only did I keep going, I found a well of compassion and love inside of me that I never knew existed. I fought not only for myself but for others who felt like I did. I fought, and still do, to keep the memory of those I’ve lost alive. Although I was wildly depressed, I kept surviving because I was strong. I am strong.
Love. There is nothing like losing a person you’re in love with, but losing someone you never got to say goodbye to without the ability to get closure is a different kind of pain. Because I fell so hard after such a difficult loss, I had to work even harder to get back to myself than I expected. Not only did I discover the enormous amount of love I had to give inside of me, I also realized how important it was to love myself. I thought about what the people I lost would want for me, and the answer was happiness and love. They would want me to find someone to make me smile again; they would want me to love myself.
Trust. Though it’s hard to trust our feelings, especially if they have failed us before, we need to learn to trust ourselves. Trust your intuition and that things will be okay even if it doesn’t seem like it. Once you’ve learned to trust yourself again, you’ll find trusting others is not so hard.
Let go. Face your fears. Change is petrifying. Part of me begins to panic every time I consider how quickly things could change again, but it can also be magical. Use the power that comes from not feeling so depressed anymore and let it catapult you into more joy. The truth is, it’s worth it! Go outside and feel the sun shine on your face even when it’s cold out. When you feel the fog lift and you see the stars and moon out at night, embrace it. It’s a beautiful sight and so are you!
There is another side to depression and it’s called life. Go out and live it!
Author: Danielle Glick
Apprentice Editor: Elly Woods; Editor: Emily Bartran
Image: Author’s Own; derek maguire/Flickr