I’ve heard of people dealing with issues by choosing to let them go. You can – they say – choose to forgive, or to not hold grudges, or to stop mentally bashing someone’s face. But can you choose to NOT be depressed? It’s advice I’ve been given pretty often, and it always annoys me, because in my mind, I didn’t decide to be depressed, so I can’t exactly decide not to be.
Except maybe I can. Depression is a disease that makes you see the world – and yourself – in muted tones. The sky is never blue, the grass is never green, and your eyes are never pretty. The whole world could tell you how awesome life is, how awesome you are, and you just wouldn’t see it. But is it possible to teach yourself – to train yourself to see a different world?
I recently reconnected with a dear friend from high school. In the middle of a random conversation, she pointed out that in all the years she’s known me, she had no idea how low my self esteem was. She said, ‘Tell me one good thing about yourself – apart from your daughter and your writing.’ I smiled and realised for the first time in a while that according to me, there wasn’t any.
When you say things like that to the wrong people, they get mad because they think you’re fishing for compliments. But when you say it to the right people, they see you, really see you. And if they truly care about you, they help you. My friend helped me, and I love her for that. Thanks to her, I looked in the mirror for the first time in ages. Really looked, not the cursory glance I give myself at every bank window. And for the first time in ages, I allowed myself to see the beauty that was there.
I sat down and analysed myself the way I do every minute of every day. Except this time, I made a conscious choice to look for good things, and I was surprised at how many I could come up, with considering I wasn’t aware that anything good existed. I made a promise to myself, and to my friend, that I would do this every day, deliberately making a list of all my good qualities, until it comes natural to see myself that way.
I made a second promise that is harder to keep. I promised her I wouldn’t talk about my weaknesses. The reason that promise is harder is that it feels like lying, like pretending to the world that I’m not who I am. But my friend put it clearly. If a bird breaks its leg – or even its wing – does it stop being a bird?
Pretty much all my life, I’ve defined myself by my flaws and lived my life accordingly. The reason I’m depressed so much of the time is that I see myself as the sum of my faults, and dwell on them so much that there’s nothing left to love. By shifting my perspective, I can be a lot happier, because I can finally see the those hidden features, the ones that everyone else claims are so many, and so clear.
I’m a cynical romantic, that’s no secret. I don’t believe in happily ever after, at least not for me. But in talking to my friend, I realise I do want that, I just don’t think I deserve it, or that I’m worthy of it. I convinced myself that I don’t need it because I think I’ll never have it. So maybe my first step in finding an ideal, healthy relationship is not in letting go of toxic liaisons, but in teaching myself I don’t deserve that kind of love. Then maybe I can draw the right one into my life, or at the very least, recognize him when he walks by.
It’s interesting that ever since I started watching Gilmore Girls, I couldn’t wait to turn 32. For me it was the apex of motherhood and feminine beauty … and Lorelai. But what changed for me wasn’t simply the age. It was a much-needed talk from a well-loved friend, a talk that came at just the right time, a true message from [God and] the universe.
This is my gift to myself, for this year, and for years to come. Allowing myself to see the good everyone else sees in me. Fixing that wound on the inside that no one else knows about. And leaving myself open to the right kind of love – in friendship, in partnership, and even in my own child.