I read a post recently that made reference to the idea that mental health is not just something for the mentally ill to worry about, any more than physical health is only for the sick. It’s health and something that everyone has to manage for their own well-being. This is important to consider because there’s no line in the sand between the mentally well and the mentally ill; it’s a gradient in millions of colors, and your place in it can change from moment to moment.
Like many people, I first came to terms with my depression in my late teens. But there was no moment of revelation, no incident; no day that I woke up depressed, having been cheerful and happy the night before. Rather, I remember a gradual fading of interest, a sense of boredom and ennui, and a graying of the world that took place over the course of an entire year. By the time I entered my senior year of high school, I was skipping classes, staying in bed all day, and cutting myself with razors.
Now, some fifteen years later, I’m a different person. I hold a steady job, have a teenage son of my own (who thankfully isn’t showing any signs of depression yet), and have written several novels. But am I well? Oh, heavens no!
Since my teenage years, there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t felt depression of some kind. There hasn’t been a moment that I haven’t identified as depressed, or mentally unwell in some capacity. It’s simply that over the years, my depression has changed, mutated into other things, and redefined itself. Only a few years ago did I get a diagnosis of Bipolar Type II, and set myself on a path of therapy and medication to cope.
I say cope because there is no cure. There is no getting ‘better’. This is fundamental to understand. Our mental health is not defined by ‘ill’ and ‘well’. I may feel better on some days than others, but in the end what I really needed was a way to handle the incongruent messages my brain was sending me. I believe this is true of everyone, and whilst some people have coping mechanisms that work without outside aid, for many others it requires coaching, relearning, and often, medication to rebuild the pathways in our brains.
In the end, I will probably always identify as depressed. Not even bipolar, because that could change into something else down the line. But depression has been the one constant in my life for more than fifteen years, and there’s a small part of me that doesn’t want it to ever go away. But I understand now that my mental health is not fixed: it’s a fluid, ever-changing spectrum, and as it has changed over the years, it will continue to evolve in the years to come.
I just need to learn how to cope with it.