Content Warnings: Self-Harm and Suicidality.
It’s 12 A.M. I’m lying in bed frantically texting my friends because I’m afraid I’ve overshared with a distant friend. I’m playing Smith & Thell’s “Alice” on a loop to soothe me, only half-hearing its echoing strains. And then somewhere in there, somehow, something occurs to me. Something that I haven’t believed since I was ten years old.
I’m a good person. And I deserve to be happy.
If I’m honest, I’m not sure when I lost sight of this fact. Maybe it was kindergarten, when I’d stare in the mirror and wished my skin and hair were lighter. Maybe it was elementary school, when I made a mistake that felt so monumental I was sure somebody would show up to punish me, to make me face some kind of repercussions for my hubris. It could’ve been middle school, when I found myself entangled in a toxic friendship that left me feeling isolated and unwanted. All I know is that by high school, the damage had been done. Everything that seemed to go wrong felt like it was my fault, whether it was my drama teacher yelling at me or my friends telling me I was overestimating my importance or strangers on the internet bullying me out of a space I thought was safe. When the victories came, they felt meaningless… from my novels’ publications, to my National Gold Medal in Science Fiction/Fantasy, to the production of my webseries. No matter what I accomplished or what I did, I still felt empty, fragile, and brittle.
I’ve lived with depression for at least half my life. It’s colored every moment, weighed down every happy thought. It’s cast doubt over my relationships and invalidated my achievements. It’s led me to take blades to my skin so I could feel on my flesh what I felt in my heart, and it’s driven me to consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, I’d be better off dead.
For the first time in a decade, I don’t feel that way. I feel light. Giddy. But I also feel pragmatic. I know I won’t feel like this forever. Maybe when I wake up tomorrow to go swimming, and I’m exhausted from staying up late writing this, things will feel dismal and dark again. Maybe I’ll get to stay like this for a few days longer, until another faux pas sends me spiraling once more. Whatever the case, I know I need to get this down before the feeling is lost. To remind me of a sentence as close to truth as anything else I know.
I am enough.
I am a flawed person. I care, but I care too much… I obsess, and I obsess over how I don’t fit in. I am a privileged man with a loving family and a good home, but between my sexuality and autism I have struggled to find a place for myself. But, as corny and cheesy as it sounds, it’s never been about finding a home. It’s been about making one.
I am not a good rugby player. I am not a good public speaker. I am not athletic, I am not charismatic, I am not logical. But you know what?
I am kind. I am talented. I am brave and I’m creative and I’m funny. I’m a good friend. I see magic where others don’t and I stay true to myself despite the circumstances. I’m human. I’m so human it hurts. And considering the limited time I have, it is so important that I understand that and accept that.
My mental illness is not gone. It probably never will be. I don’t want anyone to think of this as a moment of miraculous healing. It’s a second of quiet clarity. A breath of fresh air after years inhaling toxins of my own creation. My depression is not my fault, but recovering from it is my responsibility and its one I take seriously.
I don’t want this essay to be any longer than it has to be. There’s nothing neat about my feelings, and I couldn’t encapsulate everything in a few pages if I tried. But if you take anything from this message, take this: You can be loved and love but none of it will matter if you can’t love yourself. And that is not an easy thing to do.
I may regret this post tomorrow. But I hope I do not regret the power I feel in this moment. I am more than my worst estimations of myself even if I’m less than I’d hoped to be.
Thank you all, and may you know peace in these tumultuous times.