Change is scary. I think it is scary for everyone, depressed or not. Whether it’s a change of schools, beginning of a new relationship or a new job, we all prefer to stick to what we know because it’s familiar and involves little risk. When we know what to expect, we feel safe.
I remember hearing once that it’s the unhappiest people who most fear change, and on the surface that doesn’t make any sense because no one wants to be unhappy. My understanding of this is that if you’re unhappy, it’s highly likely that you’re aware of the potential for bad things to happen in this world.
My depression really took hold after a few deaths in my family and friendship group and moving from sixth form to full time employment to University. But I feel death is the biggest change of all. The loses in my family felt so ominous and overbearing that everything felt out of control. I became aware of how impermanent everything is, realised my mortality, how everything ends and it made me want to give up on life. That way, I would be in control of how and where I die and in charge of my good-byes.
For the past few years I feel like I resisted getting better from my depression because it felt like it was the only real truth that wouldn’t let me down. Negative thinking patterns felt comforting because I thought they’d keep me from being hurt again. I’d been hurt and lost enough people that I simply felt afraid and couldn’t take any more hurt.
After three years or hanging on to negative thoughts, isolating myself, and generally saying “fuck it” to life I finally realised it wasn’t getting me anywhere. I wasn’t feeling better, comfortable with my lack of change, or anything…positive – I was actually just feeling worse. Plus, I was, as is anyone, unable to protect myself from further harm or bad things happening because life is life and it has to come to an end.
To be totally honest with you guys, I feel ambivalent about getting better every day, probably a hundred times a day. So, if you do feel like you’re the only person who is confused or scared about getting better from depression, you certainly aren’t! It’s completely normal to be scared or unsure. It’s normal to take one step forward and two steps back, to try something new and then go “Okay, that’s enough!” “I’m done.” And go back to what’s familiar.
Something that comforts me is knowing that change doesn’t happen overnight. Getting better from depression is like having the sun rise. It happens gradually so that our eyes get used to the change in light. If the sun just popped on and off like the world’s biggest lightbulb we’d all get in car crashes and walk into lamp poles when the light suddenly went out…which wouldn’t be great.
It’s normal to go slow, try things out, and change your mind. It’s normal to both hate being depressed and also feel some comfort in it because it’s what you know. The best thing about getting better is that we never forget the lessons we learned from our pain and years of strife. We grow and change but we don’t forget.
I’ve found that taking one step out of my comfort zone has actually allowed me to take ten steps away from a life with depression. Everyday try something that scares you, get your adrenaline pumping and be conscious of your progression.
Honour your feelings, no matter what you’re feeling. Write them down, express them, and when you feel sad or scared about getting better, look at your old art and say, “Yes, this is how I felt, but it’s okay to feel better now. I will never forget what I’ve been through.”