Dysthymia – Dysthymia, also called dysthymic disorder, is a form of depression. It is less severe than major depression, but usually lasts longer. Many people with this type of depression describe having been depressed as long as they can remember, or they feel they are going in and out of depression all the time. (Harvard Health publications)
It’s fast-forwarding to the future, to better days, some possible, most of them fantastical, escaping the present, regretting the past, keeping up the façade that you’re a functioning adult who makes the right decisions. Life can be an exhausting performance, but no one tells you that early enough. Oh, they probably tried to in their own imperfect ways, but you didn’t know how to listen or refused to listen, thinking maybe you were unique, maybe life’s claws wouldn’t dig deep into your chest and strip bare your heart and soul. You thought maybe it would only sting you, not incinerate you to ashes.
Once you’re no longer shielded from the walls of college or some full-time graduate school program, you dive into life abruptly, sometimes shockingly, like someone dumping icy, cold water on your head, and you weren’t ready.
I wasn’t ready. I missed the class on how to cope successfully with the ongoing anxieties and despairs of adult life, its constant rejections, and failures. I didn’t learn the tricks of the trade or value the importance of networking and connections, all the necessary information delivered only after you’ve suffered through the beatings of your mistakes.
To choose the life of a creative is to invite great suffering. Every day you ask yourself if it’s worth it. I could’ve chosen something more practical, studied the markets, gone into computer science or any health-related field, and then maybe I wouldn’t be so dead broke. Over-educated with a degree from Tufts and Columbia, I stumbled into one ditch after another, asking why did I chase prestige thinking it mattered when it was useless, in my case anyway. Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. I’ve made so many mistakes while pursuing the great white whale of publishing success.
I shouldn’t complain. Every day these words flash in my head: don’t complain. I’ve lived in five different cities and towns in my twenties: Boston, New York, Seoul, Korea, Toyokawa, Japan, and now Atlanta with eyes set on a livable city or town in California. I’ve met and interacted with people from all over the world, diverse in thought, philosophies, religion, and race. I’ve had unforgettable experiences living in Korea and Japan. I shouldn’t complain. Don’t complain.
But depression doesn’t care about your desires to stay free from pessimistic outlooks, low self-esteem, fatigue and exhaustion, disinterest in social activities and people in general. It doesn’t care how much you repeatedly tell yourself to stay positive, be thankful, consider those more unfortunate than you, suffering from the lack of basic needs you easily take for granted.
Depression doesn’t care about your well-thought out arguments against feeling deprived of joy, happiness, fulfillment, and self-control. You can argue all day and night. Scribble in journals. Pray and cry out to God. Depression doesn’t care.
It claims you, attaching itself to your mind, like a dark blanket wrapped around your head, superglued to your skin. It latches onto its host and grows in a unique way where some are highly-functioning while others are unable to get out of bed. Whichever way it manifests, depression is depression.
And so, I turn to exercise, running. The pain reminds me of my life. The finish line, my goals. Running is never just running. Each time a foot hits the ground, it becomes a metaphor for enduring, fighting, choosing to be defiant to the internal, screaming calls to stop and give up. Each time I finish a run, it reminds me of each time I wake up in the morning, having survived the last day, despite the clamor in my head to give up and die.
My family and friends stop me from taking my life. I don’t want to inflict any pain on others, especially on those who have sacrificed so much for me already, whose love has saved me countless times before. But that doesn’t stop the suicidal thoughts. As I said before, depression doesn’t care, not even how much you love your family and friends. It devastates everything, even love.
But I don’t have to live this way. It doesn’t have to be part of my character or be some twisted aesthetic accentuating my life as a broke, unpublished writer. Romanticizing depression isn’t cute. Major depression is ugly, blood, burns, cuts, sticky, gross intoxication, a haze of impenetrable smoke, destructive, paralyzing, a leviathan swallowing you whole, a killer.
So I make lists. Too many. Crossing off. Not crossing off. Scheduling. Forgetting. Smiling. Recoiling. I have to remind myself to widen my eyes and focus my gaze when my lids droop in disinterest and my mind wanders off into a blank space. Conversations deplete my energy faster than oil guzzling out of a pipe in a disastrous spill.
Sometimes people want too much from you. And sometimes people want nothing from you. I don’t know which is worse. I live in extremes with balance always remaining elusive, like a mirage that disappears each time I approach it.
But, I keep paddling forward, writing stories I believe many people will enjoy reading. I keep moving along. I keep dancing. I keep singing. I keep trying and learning. I keep going. I keep keepin’ on, and that’s all I can do. Keep keepin’ on, hopefully not forgetting the present, clinging closer to loved ones, and staying woke in increasingly dark oppressive times. To make love my religion, kindness my creed, compassion for all (except Nazis) my motto. This is life. This is to live with high-functioning depression in 2017.