**Disclaimer: No two people's experiences with depression are the same and I am absolutely not trying to speak for every person with mental health issues.**
Growing up I always knew I was an emotional person...
a deep thinker, and an intense feeler, but I never truly understood why. I would listen to sad songs in elementary school and stare out my bedroom window, tears streaming down my face. My mom used to always say that I was "prone to melancholy". I sort of thought that's all it was, just sensitivity that would always be part of my life. And while my sensitivity hasn't completely gone away, the intensity of it has simmered. It took me until I was a junior in college to finally accept that I have chronic depression and anxiety. The topic was brought up many times before that, my mom suffers from both as does my brother, nevertheless I continued to think of all the people suffering so much more than me. I was living my life, I made it through each day (even if some days were really hard). That's not depression, right?
What I didn't realize was that naming my depression took away its power. I thought it would change who I am and I would no longer be thought of as "Audrey", but as "Audrey with Depression". Maybe that's partly true, though only because I choose to speak about it with others. Being honest with others about my mental health keeps it from feeling like a secret I should be ashamed of. It has also opened up a world on the internet and in real life of people who deal with this mental struggle just like I do. Being transparent has helped me feel comforted instead of alienated. Confiding in others has allowed me to gain confidence in my choice to find help through medication, and continue with my practice of regular talk therapy.
Now to the moment you've all been waiting for– John Mayer. As much as I think he's a very controversial person, his music has comforted me for most of my life. He was one of the artists I used to listen to dramatically in my childhood bedroom. As a kid I was always looking for songs and musicians that left little clues of emotional turmoil, so I could know I wasn't the only one feeling this way. Most of John Mayer's songs are emotion-driven and melancholic, but these three have continued to feel like pages from my journal were ripped out and broadcasted for the world to hear:
I'm not alone
I wish I was
'Cause then I'd know I was down because
I couldn't find a friend around
To love me like they do right now
One of the top songs I would play when I was a confused little seven year old. I had an amazing family, good friends, and incredible resources, yet I still felt so empty at times. After one of these episodes I would chalk my emotions up to being a unique breed of sensitive and thought that no one would ever understand me (yes, I went through my angsty phase early in life). Recently I listened to the song's lyrics again and thought "oh, yeah, that's called depression". It is as complex as it feels, but in the moment it helps to identify it for what it is. We are not our depression; it's something that messes with us, but we are not beholden to.
I am driving up the 85 in the
Kind of morning that lasts all afternoon
I'm just stuck inside the gloom
4 more exits to my apartment but
I am tempted to keep the car in drive
And leave it all behind
Now this is truly a song that captures how chronic depression feels. It's not always dramatic or jarring, but a constant feeling of melancholy, disinterest, and wishing you could be anywhere else but here. I plan a trip about once a month for just myself, to get away. I'll look at dates, locations, accommodations, itineraries, and never go. It's usually not about the itch to travel, more so the desire to feel something other than the current, unexplained, loneliness. Periods where I feel like there's a never ending cloud over my head are definitely hard, though I know now that they will always pass.
You know, I used to be the back
porch poet with my book of rhymes
Always open knowing all the time I'm probably
Never gonna find the perfect rhyme
For 'heavier things'
This last song touches on the complex relationship that we can have with our mental illness. I'm so happy that I am able to think more clearly with my medication, be more productive, and have a better perspective on life. However, it's pretty easy to romanticize those overwhelming feelings of depression. To be completely honest, sometimes I miss the days of endless contemplation and dramatic writing in my journal. Depression tells you that you're better off sinking into your feelings, staying home, and being alone in your mind. Having gone through a lot of therapy I know that this is a lie, but I can't help longing for the indulgence at times. I'm still learning to combat this urge with the help of my wonderful support system.
While my experience is unique to me, I know that there is still so much room for connection and relation when we open up our stories to others. If this helps one person to understand that they are not alone, they can ask for help, and the future is bright, then it was all worth it.