Fighting The Good Fight

Fighting The Good Fight
Dane La Born

Dane La Born

It feels odd to me, as a cancer survivor, to talk about depression in the same terms. When people talk about cancer, it’s always in battlefield terms. It’s a battle, a fight, a war, not a serious health issue. Whether you win it or lose it, that’s the way it’s spoken of. I do it as well, and it’s an accurate descriptor. There’s a clear and present danger, an enemy to fight. You have weapons, even a battle plan drawn out. You have allies.

Depression isn’t like that. If cancer is the heroic final stand of a soldier on the hill, emerging scarred but victorious, then depression is the lonely warrior on a mountaintop, accepting that his death has come, and trying to face it. That’s the best allegory I can think to describe how crushingly lonely a thing like depression is to deal with.

I’ve spoken before about it, but never in terms of how I deal with it. Which is to say, I don’t. It’s funny, I can sit back and watch these men and women that I admire, both in real life and those beyond my real life, succumb to their depression. I can watch drugs fail to provide any relief, and laughter fail, and family, and love, and even though in my own head I am constantly pushing down that little voice that equates me to them, I just ignore it. I see so many people lose their fights, listen to their voices and leave this world and still, I think I can deal with it on my own.

For over a decade it’s been like this. I was on antidepressants in high school, but I got off of them when information started coming out about young people killing themselves in part because of the medications they were on. I’ve watched my mother, sick as she is with cancer and other diseases born from a lifetime of abuse, be crushed under the weight of depression more than anything else, and I still didn’t ask for any help.

I spent much of that decade sick myself. Even with the illnesses I dealt with, I didn’t have to live my life shut inside, in the dark all day, perpetually apathetic and bored and just a lifeless, soulless, waste. It took coming very close to dying for real to get me out of that, and to get me to try and live.

The reality of depression as a mental illness, though, is that it can’t be cured, only treated. One can lift oneself out of the worst of it, and live life just fine for months, even years. Eventually, though, that darkness is going to come back, that crushing weight is going to bear down on you again, and everything is going to feel hopeless.

It’s not cowardly to ask for help. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you’re like me and have one of those voices that whisper in your ear that you’re worthless, that death would be better than inflicting yourself on the world. For the record, I don’t mean that in a literal term, there is a vast difference between what I am talking about and auditory hallucinations.

Finally, when it became clear that my options were pretty much ask for help or fall back into that literal pit of despair, and lose everything that I have worked so hard to gain, I asked for help. I went to my doctor and had a very frank, very matter-of-fact discussion about what had been going on with me, and what I wanted to do about it. It was that stupidly easy.

I’m not saying I’m fixed or anything. I have no delusions about how hard this is. When I talked about depression as the lonely warrior, I meant it. The thing is, it’s still a warrior. As long as there is fight left in you, you can win the battle. It’s a lifelong fight, but it’s worth it. Because no matter who you are, you leave a mark on the world, and it’s not fair to yourself or to anyone else if you choose to remove it for no reason.

For me, I have too much worth sticking around for. I want to see where my life ends up going. For the first time in forever, I have a path forward, and a goal in sight. I’ve worked too hard for everything I now have to let anything take it all away.

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