Beyond Depression

Depression is hopelessness even on the brightest of days. It is despair in the face hope. Living with depression, I’ve spent countless hours trying to unlearn my impulses to catastrophize everything around me. To take a step back and realize that a string of bad days or terrible events did not mean the end of the world. I thought I’d gotten pretty good at it, too. But what good is all that behavioral and cognitive therapy in a time of actual catastrophe?

2020 was set to be a good year when it began. I’d visited my lover in California—had every intention of proposing to them. My depression was stabilizing; I could finally work on getting a job and an place on my own. I was healing. Traveling outside my comfort zone and participating in society. My brother was even to be married in spring.

March came too soon. Every ounce of hopefulness slipped through my fingers like water through cupped hands. The harder I tried to cling to the plans I’d made, the faster they were pulled from me. Impossible as trying to remember a dream.

There would be no proposal, no wedding of my brother. No job market for me to enter. No way for me to socialize with my support network. All a recipe for depression in even those without the clinical disposition. The storm that COVID-19 heralded broke down every coping strategy I’d spent years perfecting. I was left stranded on a sinking raft with no idea how to navigate the ever-worsening events of the world. Racial injustice, police brutality, political tensions, lies, conspiracies, ignorance… And what could I, a depressed trans man with no skills beyond writing do to stop it? Nothing.

Powerless, afraid, and hopeless—all feelings I am intimately familiar with. They were easier to remedy when they were about school or relationships. Easier to convince myself it didn’t really matter.

I couldn’t do that with 2020. Everything mattered. A lot. It really was life or death. No matter how hard I searched, I could find nothing about how depressed people of the past dealt with their condition during major crises like this. Asylums? Homelessness? Not even my therapist knew how to help me. No literature exists, at least none I could find. So I trudged through every day, balancing despair and depression as I walked the 2020 tightrope. No guidance. No precedents. No roadmaps. Just the instinct to fight the urge to allow oppressive gravity to claim me. The year I wanted to thrive in, I could only just barely manage to survive.

I miss my lover. I miss my family. I miss hope. 2020 exacerbated my depression beyond what anyone could expect me to manage. I wasn’t sure how, or if, I’d make it to 2021. But I did, if only through the grace of my privileges. When the world inevitably crumbles again, my message to the depressed is this: No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, cling to some hope.