Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicidal thoughts and depression
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My depression began at the age of twelve. I remember looking up one morning after I had washed my face wishing I were dead. It seemed that a tired dejected little Black girl’s face followed me around. Only her face has now grown into my own weather-beaten one with laugh lines and faded acne scars. On some conscious level, I knew that the suicidal thoughts I was experiencing were a sign that everything was not okay. I just never had the words to describe how I felt. How could I when my parents, teachers, and the acquaintances I hopefully called friends — lamented over how easy my life was? The emotional and sometimes physical abuse I experienced at home, the misogynoir, islamophobia, and the homophobia I faced from the world all reached a boiling point. It seemed I was also living to die slowly withering away with each day.
I continued this way for years except it changed as I grew older, relying on whether or not I had enough life experiences, interactions with others, and seemed generally to have a ‘good life’ in order to feel happy. I ran away from myself, seeking happiness in the form of emotionally detached people I would have to earn love from, and books or films that could distract me from myself. I was simply afraid of seeing that little girl’s face in the mirror. Therefore I daydreamed about my future creating a world in my head where I was finally happy.
While daydreaming got me through most days it did not on others. It was these days, the ones where the future did not seem bright or close enough that my depression felt worse. The suicidal thoughts in my head seemed far more rational than the notion that I belonged on earth. Being left alone with my pain from such a young age taught me many things. One, that no matter who came or left in my life I would always have my own company. Whether that is a fact to lament or rejoice over depends on who you are and the way I feel about that still fluctuates. The best lesson I have ever learned came during the beginning of this pandemic. The first few days of this pandemic were terrifying but then changed into something else. Days began to feel blurry and getting out of bed became much harder. I often lay in bed wondering why I had such an urgent need to start the day. My depression eventually took over and I lived on autopilot shuffling through a life I did not believe I had agency over.
After doing some soul searching prompted by the care from friends I never thought I deserved I finally came to an earth-shattering conclusion. I deserve the life I dream of. The kind of life that will not only make me happy but turn my life into something worth fighting for. While I yearned for this life I did not know how to reach it, trying to do so through the version of Islam my parents taught me to pray to a God who detested queer people like me and measuring my worth by my level of exhaustion and ‘productivity’ each day.
Think of one thing, no matter how big or small, you will look forward to tomorrow. Just one thing that makes you excited for the next day.
That is the advice I came up with for myself. I honestly do not know how I managed to find this advice but it has been life-saving. The life I would have been more than willing to trade in for a quick death became exciting. It seemed to transform before my eyes and make every day worth living through. While I still do have depression thinking of one thing I would look forward to the next day slowly made suicide less of an option because I was finally curious about my life. In my most suicidal moments, I used to think about the impact my death would have on those I love, creating a cloud of shame and grief over my depression. It did not make me want to live more, rather disappear so no one would notice my absence.
I decided to remain in the present by being curious about each day. So sometimes the only thing I look forward to for the next day is eating my favorite leftover pizza, listening to a new song by an artist I have just heard about, or trying out a new shade of lipstick. Though they may not seem like exciting things it is these tiny everyday things that make every day more interesting.
Finding something to look forward to every day has not only improved my mental health but turned me into someone I love. The woman I have become by taking back my own agency from the depression that chained my life and from the self-doubt and hate I experienced made life worth living. One cannot place happiness in the future because although that may make your future alluring it makes the present something to trudge through and the past a thing to regret. I am exhausted waiting for a time, place, or person to make me happy.
As someone with a depressed mind living a life beyond the confines placed on me by my depression seemed impossible. An exciting life seemed unattainable because it required the kind of self-love and energy I didn’t have. My depression made me think that the only kind of life I could strive for was the kind that would sound like a monotone if it were a song. The kind of life where love would be replaced by like and settling for the decent instead of the extraordinary would be my only choice. This gray existence was my best hope at times when I did not think I would make it to the next month much less a far-off future filled with gray hairs. While I don’t have the answers or secrets to life I share this advice in the hopes that it may help someone.
Though I have people who tell me they love me believing it was oftentimes very difficult because I could not do so myself. Self-love for me was winking at the woman in the mirror, and going out of my way to make sure that every day would be exciting because I believe I deserve more than the bare minimum. Of all the things I want my life to be, I hope it is exciting. Having lived with depression for longer than I can remember I have held onto all kinds of things to convince myself that I needed to live. Eventually, I learned no matter what I achieved, the number of people who loved me, or how perfect my life seemed to the naked eye, I need to live for myself and create a life wonderful in my own eyes.