Feb 3, 2013
(November 2012)

I am convalescing, still.

Let me start out by saying: I do not want this to be a depressing piece of writing. I am not depressed. I am sitting comfortably in my house as the afternoon sun streams through the window on what seems the first balmy day in months since winter ended. I am, in this moment, healthy and happy. I baked some biscuits today and played a bit of guitar; two things I really enjoy.

Here I sit, and I am content, but that is exactly the problem: I really should be researching and writing assignments. I have mentioned that I am not depressed, but I once was. I don’t need to go much further into it than saying that for most of my adolescence, and for a brief period into emerging adulthood, I suffered chronic depression (albeit untreated through years of denial).

I am better now (someone please shout ‘hooray!’ with me!) and the past two or so years of my life have been the most different, strange, eye-opening and best years of my life. But they have not been without struggle.

I understand that if you are human, you struggle, I understand that there are daily tasks we must complete and challenges and hardships we must face, I understand that many students find it hard be constantly motivated, balanced, and get their assignments in on time. I don’t want to talk about that so much; though of course my years have been filled with those struggles, but I want to talk about a different one. An ailment of sorts.

Think of a scar you have, particularly from a more gruesome injury if you have one (though I generally try to avoid those... ergghh, blood) and come on a little journey with me.

I have a scar on the inside of my right thumb, just in the knuckle joint. The injury was from a mishap with an s-hook during a camping trip in early 2012; a mishap which resulted in the metal hook being much more embedded in my thumb than in the camping contraption it should have been (or as I put it so eloquently then: ‘that was very in my thumb!’ whilst dancing around in a frantic panic, blood beginning to pour down my arm). Luckily this day was the end of our camping trip, so I went straight home to the all-hours doctor where they patched me up nicely as I tried not to look (regrettably, curiosity got the better of me and while the doctor was out of the room I stole a glance at the ‘unstitchable’ puncture wound. Commencing another round of queasiness).

In the grand scheme of available injuries that life has to offer, I got off pretty lightly with my thumb’s puncture wound; despite being quite haemophobic (note: haemo-, not homo-) and nearly fainting when I even thought about my holey thumb and it’s misfortune, the wound wasn’t at all life threatening or disabling. The worst outcome of the situation was that for a fortnight or so, it was difficult to write, and the accident happened to coincide with the start of semester.

Unsurprisingly, I made it through the ordeal (show me your ways, O wise Emily) but I do have a scar. It runs across the inside of my thumb: a smooth, lighter patch of skin that sits as a lump above the rest. For a long time, after the wound had healed over, that scar was tight, and I could feel it stretching when I bent my thumb back. It didn’t hurt, but it still impaired the use of my thumb and my writing, even if only a little.

Now? There is no pain, the scar is not tight and in fact it’s hardly noticeable unless you know it’s there. But as I sit here, and think back on where the scar came from, I definitely remember that pain. I relive the nausea I felt as I looked into my open knuckle and blood ran down my arm. I remember worrying that the blood would stain my white angora jumper. I remember feeling  horrible that I was no longer useful in helping pack up the camping gear, I remember the long drive home from our trip, as I tried to be the grown up woman of 21 that I was, and not cry (I cried), I remember buying myself a cupcake styled like a happy pig to cheer myself up when we stopped for lunch, I remember thinking that the scar would be horrible and that no one would want me after that (irrationality, would you like a bed to sleep in? You’ve been here a while now), I remember feeling pathetic as my dad drove me to the doctor and I cried, again, explaining to him what had happened.

But I am okay. All is good now. It might seem like I’m being overly dramatic about a little wound, but all of those feelings and thoughts were very real to me at the time.

And sometimes, the wound comes back in the way that it has affected my life. For a long time, I used my thumb awkwardly even though it was healed and pain free. When I touch the scar, I feel nauseous, just from the memory of what happened.

Everyone has been hurt in life, been wounded, and everyone has scars.

Suffering from depression for 6 years (on and off to varying degrees, but fairly steadily from age 15 to almost21) has left me with an enormous amount of scars, not to mention the scars of various events that encouraged that depression to begin.

As I said, I’m not depressed anymore. It’s awesome.
But sometimes, (okay, a lot of the time), I feel or act like I am. Just like I still lived as though my thumb was disabled when it was actually better, I often live as though I have no passion, motivation, joy, or energy. But I do, I have lots of those things, I just don’t know what to do with them. I have surmised (and someone please tell me if I’m wrong) that having depression during your teenage years somehow stunts mental development. The synapses that are created when you respond to life out of depression during those years have got to somehow affect your later life (SO much citation needed).

I have learnt that when life is overwhelming, you sit and cry and stare at a wall. I have learnt that when you have important things to do, it’s easier to sleep.
I have learnt that there is nothing you can do to fight whatever-the-fuck-it-is that goes on inside your head and your heart.

And while I know that those things aren’t true, I still live as though they are.
These are the scars of my depression; the stunted development, the absolute lack of any conviction to stick to my commitments or look after myself, the lack of ability to concentrate and multitask.

And as I sit, and look at my scars, I remember that pain. I remember feeling physically sick with anxiety. All. Of. The. Time. I remember feeling paralysed with fear at night when I was alone, and I remember feeling more afraid than I thought I ever could when I realised that the fear itself wasn’t restricted to the night, but had started following me around during the day. I remember wearing a mask around people, because surely if they knew, no one would want me. I remember feeling ashamed that I couldn’t just be happy like I was supposed to be (as dictated by being a Christian in our ‘privileged’ Western world). I remember thinking that maybe I would always have to live life that way, and know that I couldn’t do that for much longer. I remember not being able to think or concentrate or apply myself to any sort of study. I remember the sadness and despair as I lost the love and joy that I got out hobbies and my favourite things. I remember feeling so worthless and awkward in any social context, wondering what the hell I was wasting my time for when it was obvious that I had nothing to offer anyone and it would be better for everyone if I committed to a reclusive life. I remember not really being close with anyone, and having many surface friendships but no really close friends. I remember feeling pathetic when I would cry and get angry and anxious over little things, I remember feeling helpless and like a waste of space when I couldn’t find it in me to help and love others because I simply could not help and love myself. Sometimes now with a certain smell or song, I’m right back in my depression. (Music I can’t listen to any more: Sam Sparro’s self-titled album, Kate Havnevik’s Melankton, Fragrance I can’t smell: Dove’s cucumber and lemongrass deodorant).

I remember a lot of things, thoughts and feelings that I wish I didn’t. I remember the excuses, because back then I had them; I was well-and-truly depressed. If I sat for too long in a stupor, even though I had nothing going for me and hated myself, the only way I could ever cut myself some slack was saying ‘hey, Em, don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re pretty depressed, remember?’ Encouraging.

Now I don’t have that excuse. I’m not depressed. There’s really nothing holding me back per se. But I do have these scars. And maybe it’s just a way of trying to make more excuses for when I fail in life, but I really do feel as if it’s still affecting me.

Just like my thumb for a little while shaped the way I lived, even after it healed, depression has been doing the same, just on a much larger scale.

How long do I keep these excuses intact? How do I teach and train myself to live in healthy ways instead of the macabre wasteful ways I used to? Where do I give myself grace and where do I give myself a kick and say ‘NO MORE EXCUSES, SOLDIER!’? I’m not sure where the line is, or if indeed there is one, or if I’ll ever cross it. I know that I’ll always remember the times I was depressed, but I definitely don’t want the scars of lethargy and sadness and cynicism to define who I am now or the way that I act.

There are some scars, though, that I want to keep, and depression left me very scarred; with wisdom to look behind people’s masks; with compassion to love people through their hurt; with grace to forgive others their failures; with stubbornness to keep trying even when I fail over and over again; with a desire to learn and grow more; with a passion for seeing other people free; and with a discontentment that I don’t want satisfied until the day I die.

It’s all easier said than done. At the moment, I am just tired. And when I am tired, I’m quick to fall back into the learned ways of depression, when I know that I was built for so much more. When I know that I was built for life, and not for death.

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