I don’t shy away from discussing the realities of my depression. This blog is a fine example of my candor. I find writing about my struggles to be a major part of the healing process.
I often tell people I care about (not long after I realize I care about them) that I suffer from depression. Sometimes I use it as a test. If they’re still standing near me instead of running away, they’re meant to be in my life.
My friend Dzmitry, whom I’ve known for about eight months now, had a test for me recently. He challenged me with a seemingly simple thought. “Maybe someone told you a long time ago you were depressed and you still believe it,” he said, urging me to see myself from a different perspective.
Dzmitry doesn’t notice my depression. In talking with me early on, nothing seemed amiss, even though I sensed my illness lurking in the background, hellbent on fracturing a friendship before it could form.
What if I saw myself as a person with depression rather than a depressed person? What did I feel so powerfully that Dzmitry didn’t see in our meetings?
Of course, I can’t deny the physiological effects of my illness. Someone did indeed label me depressed a long time ago and I believed him because of the pain I felt and the discomfort I displayed. It’s one thing, though, to admit that I’ll be on medication for the rest of my life, and another to assume I’ll always be miserable. But this is how depression affects me: in feeling like shit, I often tell myself that feeling shitty is my destiny.
The power of Dzmitry’s suggestion—that a diagnosis of depression might become a self-fulfilling prophecy—helped me reevaluate my illness. In the process I found comfort in Dzmitry’s friendship, in his being there next to me. And I was glad that this time I didn’t run away.