- When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang out.
- When you’re going through Hell, keep going.
- Just keep swimming.
- Everything will be okay in the end. If its not okay, its not the end.
- Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.
These are some of the phrases that I tell myself when I’m going through times of struggle. They are the bumper sticker happiness that make for great posters involving adorable cats in randomly-dangerous situations (like hanging from a tightrope). These inner-quotables help on those bummer days or when a situation does not play out as hoped. They help when there are enough good things already banked that the new situation bounces off okay and a semi-rhyme is enough to keep going.
There are longer days when its not an inner monologue that gets me through but rather a metaphor. I imagine myself being wrapped and held together by duct tape. I once told a cute boy in college that I owned two rolls of duct tape, and he asked why I wasn’t married yet (hello, you haven’t asked!). Since then I’ve understood duct tape as a the solution to physical, emotional, and social problems. So when I feel like I am too fragile to get through the day on my own, its the silver savior to the rescue.
This metaphor comes in handy for me during times that I struggle with depression. Much like the gray clouds currently covering Portland, depression seems to come into my life at unexpected times, sometimes settling over me first thing in the morning even if the night before was completely fine. There is a weight covering my way that is undeniable and unescapable (for a little while). Most of the time it lasts for just a day or two, and then the sun breaks back in and I’m standing fully upright again.
I’m writing to share the truth about those other times, when the darkness seems to last days or weeks and it takes a lot of work to remember the truth of goodness in this world. During those times, I’ve found that beyond my duct tape straps, I also build a wall around me. Now the assumption might be that the wall is to keep others out, to not let anyone see the truth behind the mask or share my vulnerability. But if that were the truth, I would hardly be writing this blog today (hi!). Instead the walls are for those on the other side. For the friends and family members that I want to protect from the darkness, as though its an illness that could infect their lives. I have loved ones in my life whom I know have internal and external struggles much greater than mine, and the thought of adding to their burden in a strange way gives me strength to go forward.
Depression and I have journeyed together enough, like a cousin keeps passing through, that I know those dark times are temporary and not my true identity, or the true state of the world. But that truth does not matter during times when I find myself sitting in my car, unable to move as the thought of making a choice regarding where to go is just too much. I sit there, with keys in hand and a myriad of options before me. Perhaps those moments of inaction is when the duct tape is being reapplied. Or a crack in the wall repaired. Finally, life begins again and I get the car into drive. I go to the gym. I work on my dissertation. I meet with wonderful students who are on such important journeys to life-long goals. And I laugh with friends over politics (because seriously, when are the real candidates going to show up).
One of my professors posted an article several months ago on high-functioning depression (http://www.upworthy.com/the-danger-of-high-functioning-depression-as-told-by-a-college-student). I had never heard the term before. Really I had struggled with self-identifying as depressed because I wasn’t fitting what I thought were the characteristics. But this article and others (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/things-people-with-high-functioning-depression-want-you-to-know_us_57ed52d8e4b024a52d2d9160) showed a better fit for being able to generally go through the motions, and often feel happy in life, while also sometimes having the shadows, duct tape, and walls. It was a relief to be able to have others reflect my emotions through the mirror of cyberspace.
Earlier this week I shared on Facebook about how on darker days, it’s important to hold onto hope with every ounce of strength. Hope that the duct tape will be temporary. That there will be a door in the wall. That the sun will break through again.
I’m sharing this in case it can be a cyberspace reflection of truth and hope for someone else. I am a perfectly imperfect human who is sometimes taking five minutes to get the duct tape.