Today marks the anniversary of the day I woke up to sunshine. The marvelous, wondrous, tentative day that I woke up, and by a miracle, my depression had lifted. I wrote this post about the experience. Now it’s one year on, and, although I’ve had ups and downs, moments of feeling hopeless, sad, angry or lonely, they pass. They are no longer the boss of me. And it’s still wondrous. Now I have the added bonus of not worrying that it will come back again any time soon; I feel strong, I feel happy to be alive.
More than everything, I feel lucky. I’ve felt the love of so many friends old and new, I’ve had the steadfast support of both my biological and my ‘chosen’ family. I’ve met people that blew my mind, and seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Well, some pretty lovely things, anyway. I was healthy enough when I started the journey to recovery that it was easy to get back into shape (I only had to walk hundreds of miles up and down hills, really, no biggie..). And I have all the advantages I’ve built up over a lifetime: I have done a lot of therapy, met a lot of people, learned a lot of things, I have a loving support network, I am a white, middle-class (or can pass for middle class if required), well-educated and articulate person. Yes, my struggle to want to live was real. It terrified me. But I was so lucky from the start; I had all the advantages to help me get well again. Most of them only required me to begin to be honest and to reach out to my friends and accept their help and love.
I didn’t have to struggle with mental health issues while worrying about how I could afford to eat, heat the house, get to my appointment at the Job Centre or face being sanctioned. I was ‘homeless’ but only ever slept rough by choice, in beautiful places. My citizenship was never in question, I was never a stateless refugee, forced to contemplate jumping onto a moving lorry or taking to the sea in an inflatable boat to save my life and the lives of my children. I don’t face discrimination due to my body, race, sexuality, health or appearance. I don’t have any life-threatening illness or chronic condition to sap the strength a person needs to fight depression.
Be kind, as much as you can. Let people know that you love them and that you have their back if they need you. Several of my closest friends and family have been through some pretty dark and scary times in the past two years as well. A very powerful part of my healing process has been the mutual support we’ve shown each other, and the inspiration we’ve drawn from each other’s courage, spirit and determination to heal and have better lives. To be able to help and support another person – what can be more life-affirming, uplifting and self-esteem boosting than that?
In this year, I have cried a lot, laughed a lot, shouted to the heavens in fury and pain, and danced around in joy and gratitude. I am alive. And I relish the challenges to come and am excited about the way that we will navigate them, together.