gift“Molly, happiness is a choice. Just choose it!” I cannot even begin to recount how many times this was said to me. I always had the same response, “How?” “I don’t know how, you just choose.” How come I couldn’t choose happiness? How come I didn’t know how to be happy? Isn’t this something everyone knows how to do? I must be broken. There must be something very wrong with me. I’m failing at the most basic human thing, happiness. So, I would leave those conversations feeling even worse, that I was disappointing everyone.

I lived in this place for a long time. I thought my lack of joy and happiness was a character defect. I thought of myself as a downer and a drag. I hardly ever felt like doing anything at all and envied my brothers who had such zest for life. I so wanted to be more like them. I wanted to figure out how to do this thing called life, or I wanted to not do it at all. This place I resided in felt so stuck. I wasn’t alive and I wasn’t dead. I was just stuck… in darkness… in paralysis… in a prison of sorts.

It so much felt like a prison. I could see all the things I loved slipping away. I stopped playing soccer and I couldn’t even really explain why. I just couldn’t do it. Yet, it felt like the worst loss. I loved soccer; it was the one thing I was really good at. Just like that, soccer was gone. Then my friends were gone. It felt like I was disappointing everyone all the time. I wanted friends so badly. I wanted to fit in and belong more than anything in the world. Yet, I felt like such an outcast. I wanted to date, to go to football games on Friday nights, to go to prom, to go to the movies with friends. I didn’t do any of those things.

I think depression is often misunderstood as sadness. “I feel so depressed today.” Or, “that movie was so depressing.” To me, depression was not about sadness, although I did experience huge bouts of sadness. For me it was about loss of vitality. I lost my life spark, my energy, and my will. How do you explain this to someone? I certainly never found the words. I was alone, misunderstood, and afraid.

There was so much I didn’t know. I didn’t know I was experiencing symptoms of depression. I didn’t know I had a mental illness. I didn’t know it was treatable. I didn’t know there was so much more to life. I didn’t know I wasn’t alone. I didn’t know just how many people were also suffering in silence. I didn’t know I hadn’t done anything wrong. I didn’t know I wasn’t broken. And I had no idea just how loved I was and how many people cared about me.

These are all things I would later learn. The road of recovery and the journey of wellness has been a wonderful struggle. I’ve stumbled a lot. I’ve felt frustrated, angry, confused, resentful, exhausted and a million other emotions. There have been so many ups and downs along the way. It has certainly been a process of trial and error to find what works for me to live well. My journey with depression is rounding into its 30th year. The first 23 years were stuck in the darkness. The last 8 have been about recovery and healing. From those 30 years, this is what I know for sure…

1. I am not alone.
2. I am so loved.
3. There is purpose in the suffering and the pain.
4. There is something on the other side of the darkness.
5. Depression is treatable.
6. I didn’t do anything wrong.
7. There is nothing wrong with me.
8. Being heard without judgment saved my life.
9. God has always been with me.
10. Depression has been my greatest teacher.
11. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t change a thing.

After 23 years of a paralyzing stuckness, I felt like I got a second chance at life. I get to do all the things I wasn’t able to do before. But now, I do them with so much more zest and enthusiasm. I am a die-hard Denver Bronco fan. I missed Friday night lights in high school, but I haven’t missed a Sunday game in years. I have incredible friends and go to the movies all the time. I have a wonderful boyfriend who takes me out on dates… mostly to go eat tacos…another all time favorite. I still have prom on my bucket list. I don’t think it’s ever to late.

What I know for sure is depression has been the hardest thing in my life to accept and love, but it has taught me the most about being accepting and loving. What an amazing gift.