I’m a crier. I always have been. One of the only memories I have of first grade is of preparing to cry, and of my teacher – her normally sweet, patient face turned cold and hard – snapping, “No, Amber. You will not cry today.” I remember being ten and walking in circles around our tiny backyard because my mom was tired of listening to my sobs. And yes, of course it was raining, and of course my windbreaker was black. Once I got started, it seemed like nothing could stop me.
As I’ve gotten older, my tendency to cry has lessened, but when it does happen, it is more embarrassing. Two weeks ago, I cried at an airport because my traveling companions were cranky and because a crossing guard mimicked my clumsy, waddling attempt at running across the road. I wonder what people thought when they saw my tearstained face. If they noticed.
The bottom line is that I cry quite often for no real reason. Even when I’m otherwise happy. Since relapsing with dysthymia this past fall, I have cried even more often. It’s horrible. It’s embarrassing.
Having depression as an Adult™ is much different than having depression as a college student. In college, I was surrounded by people who cared. Some were paid to care, some cared because they saw me so often, some cared because they were experiencing similar things. Now, I feel like I have to earn concern and sympathy. Chronic mental illness gets old when you’ve had it for nearly ten years. It has altered my development as a person – not necessarily for the worse, but its mark will always be there, just like the freckle on my nose.
I feel such tenderness and compassion for the nineteen-year-old girl who started this blog. The younger me talked about recovery as if it were a finite goal, something to be achieved and then discussed breathlessly and optimistically forevermore. I wanted my battle with depression to be a Lifetime movie, and I almost got my wish.
And then – this fall. Back to the nauseating waves of anxiety and guilt. Back to the isolation and the recurring thought that would hit me out of nowhere – You are a failure at everything you have ever done.
And back to the crying.
When I was given the PHQ-9, I checked off every symptom on the list.
Since resuming medical treatment, I have come to realize that recovery is not a goal that you reach and just sit at. You have to work to recover, tirelessly, every day. Doctors can help, and medicine can help, but the majority of the work is up to you. And it is thankless.
Sometimes you stumble in your recovery, and you have to face the consequences. Because – let’s face it – real life doesn’t care that you have depression. Real life cares about things like chores and nutrition and profits and productivity. The government will not accept crippling self-doubt as a reason why your taxes are late.
So you apologize. Pick up the pieces. Forgive yourself, and move on.