Conversations happen when someone dares think out loud.
Sometimes we do so in print, using the page as a gathering place for curious minds eager to find out more about what makes us human. And about how others navigate this journey called life, for our experience isn’t the only one there is.
Every word I commit to paper is an invitation to engage, a sign of life, an extended hand toward those rendered invisible by illness. After losing my writing voice and livelihood to major depressive disorder for five years, the page is where I’m growing a better present and a future that works.
Word by word.
Doing so is a public excavation of the self designed to humanize a much misunderstood yet widespread disease. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide; the number of depressives on Earth exceeds the total population of North America.
And yet, there’s always someone who insists it’s all in your head.
Writing is a way to reclaim our humanity, the humanity many of us are denied when our brain breaks under the strain and pain of being alive.
As I seek to understand the genesis of my depression, remember who I am, and pull myself out of hardship and illness, I also strive to offer some comfort to those who do not enjoy the privilege of self-expression.
While there are laws designed to protect against discrimination, there are still many reasons you might not be able to be open about mental health. It could jeopardize your job, your earning potential, your reputation, your relationship(s), and more besides.
As long as stigma endures, only those who have nothing to lose will be able to speak freely.
If there was ever a silver lining to losing everything as I did and ending up with not very much at all, this is it.
When I started writing again, I was haunted by shame, guilt, and an all-encompassing feeling of unworthiness.
After five years, I had also come to the informed conclusion I was likely unfit for life, such was the hold depression had on my psyche. As it held my brain into a chokehold for years, it led me to conflate depressive propaganda with my own thoughts.
The parasite had almost completely colonized the host and was killing me slowly, urging me a little more each day to find the courage to expedite the process.
Writing became a way of sorting through mental clutter and making a clear distinction between the illness and the self. In the absence of therapy I could never afford in America, survival instinct became my guide and determination my driving force.
Angry at being left to hold my own hand, I wanted to spare others the agony of isolation, alienation, and rejection.
Because humans aren’t born with an instruction manual, I seek to document what depression can be and how it sometimes operates.
To someone who has no firsthand experience of the disease, it is pretty opaque as we sufferers don’t usually narrate our feelings as they happen. Such is the stigma attached to invisible illnesses that we naturally tend to conceal them at first. At least until we’ve figured out how to deal with them, which isn’t always possible.
With depression as with everything else in life, no one should ever have to go it alone.
For reasons I haven’t yet understood, I had to for the longest time.
Although I am married, there was scant sympathy for my predicament at the beginning. It soon morphed into protracted resentment before apathy set in. Accepting the onus to get better was all on me was the hardest part, but once I did the way forward appeared.
Vocation returned the moment I resolved to use my experience as material and embrace radical honesty. This makes for uncomfortable work that often leaves me wobbly with vulnerability hangovers. But it is also oddly liberating.
The more I write about what ails me, the more shame, guilt, and unworthiness recede as I come to terms with the vagaries of chronic illness. I’ll never be rid of depression but it doesn’t make me any less human.
In fact, getting up close and personal with the intricate workings of the malfunctioning mind helps me develop empathy and compassion not just toward myself but toward others.
Articulating psychic pain is what makes it all possible because it taps into a need for understanding the widespread yet much maligned human experience that is depression. When living becomes so painful you’re considering dying by your own hand as the only possible form of relief, something is clearly very wrong with how we humans interact.
Although this yet has to pervade global consciousness, we all have a duty of care toward our fellow humans.
For now, this knowledge remains the preserve of scientists, the more enlightened of religious folks, and curious secular people.
Whether you suffer from it or know someone who does, depression can make you feel helpless.
Unless you’re one of those people who already know there’s always something you can do, in which case you step forward. This is why I write, and this is what writing has done for me, too.
By reaching out to others through words, others have reached out to me, making such an impact it altered my perception of our shared humanity. Thanks to you, I am coming back to life faster than I ever could when I was voiceless, invisible, and alone.
Attention is an empowering gift, especially when it is motivated by a sincere desire to help lessen someone else’s suffering. When that desire is mutual, you can join forces and co-create something far greater than the sum of its parts that benefits everyone involved.
When used in the spirit of service, words have the power to bring us together.
And transform your life.
I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.