Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s Power editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.
Over the last year I have worked incredibly hard and have almost completely pulled myself out of a years-long spiral of depression and both emotional and sexual trauma. I've been feeling amazing, my life is getting back on track, I finally have the energy to focus on my creative goals, and am feeling stable enough to start pursuing new relationships.
But for some reason, the better I feel, the more I have noticed myself becoming paralyzed. I think that maybe I was leaning on my depression and trauma like a crutch for so long that trying to do anything again seems terrifying since I know I'll have nothing to blame if I fail — especially in relationships. I'm afraid to allow myself to need someone again, and afraid to admit to myself my true feelings or desires or creative ideas because I'm finally in a place to realistically begin the work. I'm so far out of this hole that I dug myself into, but I feel like this is the trickiest last few feet at the top. What do I do? How do I shake this off?
A very unfair fact about depression that people don’t tell you is that after years and years of hard work and finding the right medication and facing the things that have happened to you the prize you win — literally the best you can hope for — is that you are now, on your good days, like most other people. Just as dumb and cowardly and embarassing and miraculous as the person sitting next to you on the bus. It feels like you should get a bigger reward, but that’s it.
Congrats! You will absolutely want things you will not get, and like someone who doesn’t like you back, and try and fail, and it is always going to suck when that happens. But it will also suck to look back and feel the loss of all those years you spent not wanting much of anything at all. Even though it can often feel like that was, if not better, at least safer. Another thing we don’t say about depression is how safe it can feel, how protected from the vagaries of living, to simply decline taking part in it fully. Nobody uses their depression as a crutch, but I have at times sort of nestled into mine like a warm blanket.
So yes, what comes next will be scary, in no small part because it is unknown to you. Depression, for better and worse, is monotonous. You know how you will feel tomorrow because it’s how you felt today and yesterday. And in this way, depression functions like a habit. This is the good news, because new habits can help form you into a new person. Aristotle was right about this, in the sense that brave people do not do brave things, but the doing of brave things is what makes you a brave person.
So, don’t think of yourself as lacking some inherent quality you need before you can start building the kind of life you did all those years of work to get. After all, that life will not be perfect, or uniformly good, it will simply be full of the things you choose to do. Go make some bad choices and realize this will not kill you. You’ve already survived worse.
Have a question for A Fuck-up? Email DearFuckup@theoutline.com