We never consider time to be in our control, but that’s probably because you never had to. For once you’ve watched time slip by and leave you behind, you know that others do have it wrapped around their pinky. As they experience the best years of their life while you struggle behind a curtain of darkness, you become sorely aware that time is not your friend. I lost seven years of my life to my depression. And I do consider them lost because what I mainly have of them is painful memories and a fear that seizes me. The beautiful moments that my peers will look back on and speak fondly of are either blur to me or another reminder of how much I ached while everyone around me grinned.
It started so slowly that I didn’t even realise. Looking back, the darkness was always present, but it kept a respectful distance during my childhood. But when I turned fifteen, it began to steal me away. Everything that made me special and happy was taken by it. I was depressed, but I wouldn’t even let myself believe it, because I held firm to the thought that I had no reason to be depressed. The next years are fuzzy in my memory. I was starving myself, hurting myself and wishing it could all end. But the worst part was the wide smile I painted on to hide it. I had high functioning depression, which would later be diagnosed correctly as Borderline Personality Disorder, and so no one believed that I was struggling. This thief of happiness took all of high school and most of university. Around me, I saw people discovering themselves, letting loose and experiencing the beauty in life. But I couldn’t. Because everywhere I went, as much as I tried to run away and drown it in substances, I was so achingly unhappy.
Hand in hand with the depression was my anger. My anger at myself, that I couldn’t overcome this, that I was so weak as to be depressed for no reason. My anger at the world, at time itself, to be snatching these vital years from me. I deserved a childhood, adolescence and more. And I got morsels, just enough to keep me hungry. But I lost crucial moments. I lost my first attempts at intimacy, I lost my graduation days, I lost birthdays and Christmas. These may seem frivolous, but the pain of seeing everyone get joy from these moments but me stings deep in my cuts.
I consider the time between fifteen and twenty-two to be lost for me, as that is how long it took me to be accurately diagnosed and actually start to get better. There were brief interludes to the ache, but it was never in my control.
It didn’t end. It probably never will. Some people can recover from depression fully, but many of us will carry it around for our entires lives. It is woven into my personality disorder, coiled and ready to strike when the moment permits. It is one careless comment that was tossed, and the benefactor probably couldn’t remember the words if they tried. It is a surprise attack that hits just when I reach the high. It is waking up in the morning and knowing that today will be awful. Why? Just because it can be.
I spent years waiting for the finish line, often believing it would never come. And it didn’t come, but instead, I found a parallel track. The track isn’t as easy as the one I see others glide across, but I’m sure they also stumble on their own hurdles. It’s realising that I am happy today, and maybe I was also happy yesterday. Which is more than I could’ve said years ago. It is looking around to discover that right now I control my depression; it doesn’t control me. And that will have to be enough.
I will never get those years back. I will always know what depression feels like. I will always feel a sense of melancholy for the time lost. For the moments that should’ve been a joy but couldn’t be. For the secrets that weighed me down during the ‘best years of my life’. I will mourn those years, and I am allowed to, as pain is relative. Two years ago, I was introduced to grief by losing someone very dear to me. And it made me realise that I am also grieving for myself. For my innocence and naivety, for figuring out too early the pain that could be felt. I feel a sickness in my stomach when people mention being young, as I can’t remember much of it. It is a blur, punctured only by the intense moments of anguish that controlled the time.
I will never get those years back. But now I am in the driver’s seat; this is the first year that I feel like I have control. It’s like waking up after years of slumber, your finger is spiked from the spindle, and you’re desperate to leave the castle yet fear the real world. I won’t get those years back, but thanks to a correct diagnosis and treatment, I do get to have the years to come. If I had not pushed my need for a psychologist, expressed that I felt there was more going on than just depression, and attended weekly sessions without fail, I would still be asleep in the darkness. Every day I get now is a gift. They’re not all perfect, but they’re mine, and they’re real. Days can be bad, but now they are given the opportunity to be good.
Allow yourself to grieve the time lost, as it is unfair that you had to give so much to depression. But also acknowledge the beauty of today and tomorrow. Don’t let your anger of loss overshadow more days, as then you are taking them away from yourself. Those were not the best years of your life as they were for others, but that means you get to have the best years now.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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