I had been meaning to write this post for my birthday this past Saturday, but as with most personal evaluations that I make, dismissed the idea as something pointless. But the more and more I think about what I wanted to say, the more and more I feel I need to write this, for myself if no one else.
I turned 24 this past Saturday and for the first time in my life, I actually felt a significant change in myself over this past year (or two). It was a period of time marked by some major life decisions that I took on my own accord and with no strings attached. I took the first plane flight of my life for job training in September 2012, spent a week out-of-state all by myself, decided that job wasn’t right for my personality, and began to grow into the person who I wanted to be, and not who others assumed I was.
It’s a strange feeling when you finally take the reigns of your own life and tell yourself enough is enough. One of the topics I’ve returned to in previous blog posts, but one that I’ve never shed much light on, has been my crippling decade-long depression and anxiety. Since the age of 13/14, each day was started with me making a very conscious and real decision to live that day. I think that’s a very abstract thing to say because it sounds so simple, but there’s a point you reach, a rut you’re in, where the cloud of depression is so heavy that you could really give up at any moment. That cloud lingered over my head for my entire adolescence and teenage years and drove me to seclude myself from most people, or to hide as much as possible, just so I didn’t have to deal with the daily decisions and events that most people have little to no issues with.
Were it not for the support and strength of my family and a few key friends, even if they didn’t always understand what I was going through, I’m sure I’d not be here today.
For around 10 years, any happiness I could attain was fleeting, a moment of joy in a sea of oppression. I’d escape into whatever avenues I could find, mainly video games and music, and simply mask over my struggle. I went to a doctor and was twice prescribed heavy doses of anti-depressants, medicines that changed my personality weeks into treatment. Medicines that I, despite the inherent “addiction” and necessary weening, quit cold turkey in an effort to overcome my depression on my own. I had peaks and valleys of happiness and haunting sadness, the latter of which I, to this day, cannot pinpoint.
That’s the thing about depression. Sometimes you’re simply born with it, or a trigger is pulled in your life and suddenly you live in a world of darkness and pain. There’s no one event or anyone to blame for my depression: it’s just something that befell me. It ruined my life for around a decade. It drove me away from friends, away from healthy relationships, and contributed (if it cannot be fully blamed for) my reason for leaving high school despite my perfect GPA.
But you know what? I’m glad I suffered through depression. It’s made me who I am today, and after years of hating myself and my bleak outlook on life, I’ve finally won the battle. With the severity of Winston Smith finally loving Big Brother in the end of 1984, I finally love myself and the man I’ve become. I’ve finally conquered the depression that kept me from being who I was meant to be, and the events of this past year are to thank.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll always carry my depression with me. It’ll always be lurking beneath the surface, ready to rear its ugly head and cause me to doubt myself, but I’ve learned to harness it. Much like wounds can be ignored thanks to adrenaline, I can use my fight with depression to strengthen me. I’ve seen absolute rock bottom; now it’s my time to achieve the polar opposite.
So who am I? What has changed in me that contributed to my changed outlook? I’m driven, determined to not let that depression rule over my life. It’s an uphill struggle each day, yes, but I can never again succumb to the strength of negativity. I’ve learned to be confident in my abilities, in the words I say and the way I act, to be accountable for what I believe and the way I carry myself. I’ve learned that no matter how difficult or challenging something is, if I work hard enough for it, I can achieve it without suffering a breakdown as I did at the end of my school career.
It wasn’t a conscious decision to make these changes. I guess at some point, my subconscious simply got fed up with being overruled by this foreign emotion and had enough. Eventually I realized that things that unnerved or frightened me – social situations, speaking out, taking risks, moving forward – simply didn’t bother me any longer.
This past year I got hired at a job that I love, with people that I get along incredibly well with and who I’d support in any situation. I negotiated, by myself and on my own terms, for my own vehicle. I got promoted at the aforementioned job and am working hard to make sure I perform as best I can. I can talk to strangers without even a hint of nervousness in my voice. I can speak my mind and state exactly how I’m feeling or what my opinion is in a way that makes sense and doesn’t offend.
The key change to my life is: I finally have confidence. There are literally no reasons for me to doubt myself anymore, in anything I do, any situation life can throw at me. My self-doubt, fueled by my depression, crippled my ability to live for over a decade. No longer. There’s no reason for me to doubt myself anymore.
Soon, this year, I’m going to publish a heap of my writings. They’re not all going to be masterpieces, or even on that great a level, but in time, my skill level and success will grow. What I want most in life is to be a writer, and my last hurdle is to overcome my doubts in achieving this goal. So, if you’re interested in my work, keep checking here or my Twitter for updates and links; I’ve got two serials planned, a novella, and 52,000 words of a novel’s aborted first draft that needs to be finished, rewritten, and edited. Among other projects that I will complete and publish.
I’m going to fail in life. That’s inevitable, for each and everyone of us. But failure isn’t bad, and it’s not something to be afraid of. You shouldn’t allow the risk of failure to stop you from taking an opportunity or an intelligent risk in an effort to get closer to your goals. That’s something that’s taken me over a decade to learn on my own, to get through my thick head. Making mistakes and screwing up are parts of life. What matters is your reaction to them and what you take away from such events. Everything’s a learning experience, and I’m learning that there’s a reason for everything that happens.
And finally, I credit my changes in life to something else above all else, something I never talk about because of how deeply personal it is to me, and something that I don’t feel it’s right to preach about, for we each (rightfully) have our own thoughts on: faith. I was raised in a Roman Catholic/Christian household, and though I no longer consider myself a part of either of those religions, in the strictest of senses, my belief in God through all the struggles I’ve gone through has only grown. I’m not, nor will I ever preach or try to convert or disrespect someone’s religion or belief (or lack thereof), for each of us makes our own decision based upon what we feel is true and feel is right for us, but for me, God has been my staunchest ally in the darkest of times, and the more faith I have in Him, the more light I see at the end of the tunnel.
To top all this off, I believe every writer needs to have a crusade, and for me, depression will be mine. One of my goals is to assist others battling the disease and to help them weather the storm of oppression and emerge stronger for the challenge, such as I have. I’m researching and planning different ways to do this, but it’s my goal to not only weaken the stigmas associated with depression and depressed individuals, but to find ways to combat it and help people overcome. I’ve kept my battle with depression hidden for so long that it’s finally time to put the ugly beast in the light and show it for what it is: weak and pathetic.
For once in my recent life, I’m excited for the new year. My goals are to publish a handful of writing projects, get an apartment, and keep moving forward with my life. After a decade of struggles and torment, I’m finally ready – and able – to enjoy life and all it has to offer.
Thank you to all who stood by my side throughout everything. I know my depression will never be cured, but with my new outlook and the support of those who love me and care about me, I will no longer give in to the torture.