By Kimberly Zapata
I know those two words seem so small, and they are. They are nothing more than nine simple, basic characters, but I don’t know where else to start so I’m sorry — I’m so, so sorry — for how my depression affects you.
I’m sorry for how my depression affects others.
There are things I’m not sorry for, things I can’t be sorry for. I’m not sorry for my illness. It is something beyond my control; it is a physical disorder as much as it is a mental one. But I am sorry for the years I’ve wasted feeling sorry for myself. I am sorry for the years I have tried to hide it, to keep it a secret.
You see, that secrecy has been our undoing. I have pushed you away, though you never knew why. You may not have even realized I was doing it, but there were cancelled plans, birthday parties I failed to attend and social gatherings I forced myself to go to, resentfully and begrudgingly. It wasn’t your fault. I was too broken to hold myself together, but because I was also too scared to tell you the truth I would just sit there, forcing an awkward smile and some stale conversation about the weather or work. I would excuse myself from games and other events and, while I wouldn’t leave, I would withdraw to a corner and watch while you laughed and played.
You thought I was a buzzkill (and I was) but what hurts me the most — what I am most sorry for — is that you also thought I was too good for you, too good for “child-like” games. That was never the case. The truth is I want to be happy. I want nothing more than to laugh beside you and enjoy myself the way you do, but there is disconnect somewhere and I can’t. Sure, there are moments of happiness and joy in my life, but most of my life is about just getting by, so instead of pretending I pulled away, from you and from life.
I focused on little things, like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. It seems strange to even mention these “accomplishments” but when you do not want to get out of bed, when you have lost the will to live, the simplest of things can be the greatest of struggles. It’s not that these things are difficult, it is because they are banal and routine. It is because they are mundane. That is all your life is in the midst of depression: the banal, the routine, and the mundane.
I’m sorry for not being present, for not celebrating in your successes and joys. Please know I wanted to but sometimes the pain held me back — the pain of seeing everything I wanted but would never have, could never have. It is selfish, I know, but I didn’t know how to handle it.
I’m sorry for the times my temper has been short, and you’ve been the recipient of my rage. Anger has been the most unexpected symptom of my sickness. When I was a teenager, and even well into my 20s, my depression was marked by melancholy, but as the years passed the symptoms shifted. While sadness still permeates most days it is the anger I cannot ignore. It is the anger that scares me. My volatile words cut you and my blind and unforgiving rage injures you, and I am sorry. So, so sorry. (There was no reason to snap at you when you pointed out I was burning a few strips of bacon or scream and shake — literally shake — when you turned the air off.) I have destroyed us; I have destroyed you as much as depression has destroyed me.
I am sorry.
And I’m sorry for scaring you. I know I have. While you didn’t know I swallowed 20 Tylenol and 4 Advil with a 20-ounce bottle of Coca Cola, you may have known about the cutting. You may have seen me hold a knife to my wrist or heard me talk about suicide. You were probably terrified to know that I had lost the will to live, and felt helpless, yet you also carried the burden of reminding me there was something worth fighting for, I was worth fighting for. Please know I never meant to place that weight on your shoulders. I couldn’t stop the pain and I couldn’t bear to come to terms with the idea that this could be the rest of my life. The cutting was a way to remind myself I was alive — each mark became a physical marker of an invisible pain, a pain that was eating me from the inside out — and the suicidal attempt was a desperate, last ditch effort.
It is embarrassing and scary to admit you need you need help, to admit you are not okay. You know once you let your secret out you will have no choice but to follow through with therapy. You will have to talk to friends and family about your illness, even when you don’t want to. You know you can’t close the curtains and hide anymore, and that thought is terrifying.
Sometimes we “find the light” and make it out. I have before; in fact, I am currently on an upswing, but that doesn’t mean I am better. In fact, I know better than to believe I am better. Depression is a lifelong disease, and my depression will return. There is nothing I can do to stop it. The only thing I can control is how I handle it when it does. And, for me, handling it means not hiding from it; handling it means drawing back the shades and letting everyone in.
So to everyone entangled in this mess with me: I am sorry. So, so sorry.
I never wanted to upset you or hurt you. I never wanted to drag you through this two decade long nightmare, but I also love you for standing by me. I hope you still can. Just know that whatever you choose, I love you. I will always love you, and I am sorry.
I will always be sorry.