Whenever I am in the throes of depression, I’m a master of disguise. No one knows. I never leave even one inch of space for someone to discover that part of me. It’s a combination of wanting to protect the people around me and not bring them down, and also… keeping up this self-fulfilling prophecy I have which to be this bubbly, happy-go-lucky person for everyone. (That is me, but not all of me.)
I don’t ever want to be a downer or defined by depression. (These days my happy to depressed ratio is better than it’s ever been.) But yet, when I am in a darker place– keeping this “always happy” persona up can really wear me down.
I am very bold and honest with my writing… I am very secretive in real life. I might give little slivers of what’s going on behind curtains, but oftentimes I retract. Or “lighten” it.
I’m a little, littttttllle, better about verbally conveying my emotional and mental state now, but it wasn’t always that way.
I felt lonely for so long, no matter how many friends I had. No matter how close I was to my family. (Remember- my tendency is to protect those around me from worrying or bringing down their happiness. I hide.)
I used to long for someone to just get me. Someone who I could shake off my “for the world” skin and jump into my “this is me, really me” skin… someone who would say, “you can feel down, just feel down with me by your side.”
It’s almost as if at the time, I subconsciously wanted to fall in love with someone who was suffering as much as I was. Or who had suffered as much as I had. Someone with an equal amount of stories. Or someone with similar vices.
And no one ever seemed to fit the bill.
Often times I would write people off who tried to get too close. “They haven’t been rocked in ways that I have. They wouldn’t understand.” Or: “I’d either shock the hell out of them or drag them down if they knew my whole story.” <—-These are the things I would tell myself.
Naturally, I do connect with people who have sailed some rougher seas. There is some sort of comradery there.
But I want to say WHY seeking out this kind of person as a lover (even subconsciously) is more destructive than helpful.
I have a story for you about one of my past relationships.
That person I was looking for to just “get me” in that kind of way? I found him… and dated him for a long time.
In a twisted way, I believe we both sensed something “dark” in each other and that’s a big reason why there was attraction in the beginning.
We both had some dark stories– ones that hadn’t left our mouths more than a handful of times in our entire lives. We connected over that.
I remember telling him parts of my past and him holding both of my hands, not breaking eye contact, and just hugging me after. No judgment, no making me elaborate where I didn’t want to, just indicating that he got it. My emotions and traumas felt safe with him. And finally, I felt heard.
And his– they were safe with me too.
In the beginning, it was great. We were both introverts and…. pretty much… high-functioning depressed people. On days off, we weren’t out at the beach. We weren’t getting together with friends. Eating out, going to shows. We weren’t putting on masks for the world. No, we were holed up in mine or his apartment. Reading, writing, watching TV. Often with the blinds pulled tight.
It felt nice to retreat from the world with someone who also wanted to hide.
….I want to make it known that we weren’t negative people. We weren’t angry. We were just heavy with sadness and dealing with a lot at the time. (Most people saw us as happy and charismatic, with great work ethics– go figure.)
Our dynamic felt secure but here’s the problem… we were constantly underwater, together. We were both comfortable and naturally inclined with getting down in trenches with the other person. We didn’t have the ability to pull each other out. Once one of us starting digging to the top, the other would fall back. And we would fall back with them.
It was a never-ending cycle.
I so vividly remember this one day off work I had. It was the afternoon and he had texted me. He was in a light-hearted mood and had actually made plans to go see some friends. It would have been really good for him to do this. To be social and get out of the house. Me– I was in my apartment, feeling extra low. No plans. No want for plans.
Instead of being productive and seizing the day, I thought, “what is the f*cking point?” and sat on a floor cushion next to the window. I cracked it open and pulled out a joint from this little tin I had- fully aware I was about to do nothing with my day and in complete acceptance of it. (I’m sad to say I secretively used weed as escapism for much of my 20s.)
Suddenly- a knock at the door. It was him dropping by to bring me some coffee before he headed out. Immediately he saw my state: still in pajamas at 1 PM, my place a total mess, my expression totally devoid of light. Instead of asking me what the hell I was doing, he came in and sat beside me on the floor. He placed one had on my shoulder as the other grabbed the joint and breathed in a few drags.
He didn’t leave.
He didn’t leave and he should have. Because this wasn’t an isolated event- it was constantly this way with us.
The next thing you know, it was 8pm and dark out. We hadn’t left my apartment once. We were stoned, with ordered-in food watching a documentary.
I hadn’t done a damn thing with my day and he had not done a damn thing with his.
I dragged him down.
And an equal amount of times, he had dragged me down. But it was disguised as being there for each other.
We were there for each other, we were just not good for each other.
When we broke up, I knew it was for the best. We would have lived a life of intense understanding but no pushing in the right direction. No getting stronger, lighter, healthier.
It was better for me to be single and depressed than in a relationship with someone who was also prone to depression. He validated me staying down and without knowing it at the time- I did the same to him.
It’s beautiful to connect and be vulnerable. To hear people’s stories…. and hear them deeply. Inarguably, there will be times when both people in a relationship will be going through some really tough times. But if that is your normal, if you’re both prone to depression or addictions or darker things in life– things are more likely to stay that way. And no one going through these things genuinely wants to stay that way. I know I didn’t.
There are many reasons why I know Dan is the one for me, but one that really sticks out in my mind is that he challenges me when I am feeling low. He hears me, he cares, he knows my story more than anyone… but he knows when I’m taking things into dangerous territory.
Keep in mind, I am the strongest and healthiest I have ever been, but I constantly need to work at it to stay this way. There are weeks when I feel myself regressing.
When this happens, he doesn’t let me wallow too long. And at first– it really bothered me. I felt he was being insensitive and maybe– does he not understand me? But then I think- what would the opposite of this look like? It would be my other relationship all over again. And I know that’s not good for me.
The reality is, he does understand me. And because of that, he knows there will be times I won’t be strong enough to will myself out of the house. To put on makeup. To do something kind for myself. He knows that sometimes dark is all I see. So he pushes me. He puts out his hand as if to say, “Grab it or I’m grabbing you.” And even if I am kicking and screaming inside, the second I get out into that sunshine, the second I even “fake it to make it” for the world… I actually feel better. I feel challenged in a way that empowers me to keep going forward.
He is my rock in so many ways. And that push from someone who knows me deeply, that is what I need. (I don’t need someone to complete me, but whoever I’m with needs to compliment me. You know?)
And I like to think that a guy like Dan is complemented by a girl like me- someone who he can be vulnerable with and give him space to be down when he needs it. He naturally pushes himself just like I naturally sit in my feelings. He doesn’t need someone to push him. He needs someone to sit with him.
I no longer seek misery for company, I seek connection and challenge. And that shift of perspective has done me well.
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