The beautiful new sweater sits folded neatly on the shelf. The color is lovely and bright, and the buttons are shiny. It’s taken out into the world, often complimented; but when the wearer comes back home, it’s folded and put away once again.
Thrown over the back of the couch, the old sweater is dingy and ugly. Buttons are missing, there’s a hole in the elbow, and the cuffs are stretched out. But it is still worn like a safe cocoon. This sweater is warm, comfortable, and familiar.
Depression awaits, not unlike the old sweater, as I become stronger and happier after this most recent very long and very horrible depressive episode. Most days have been good. I can feel sadness without depression, happiness without mania. But once in a while, the habits of coping I developed while depressed creep back into my life – isolating, crying for no apparent reason, losing myself in a book, sleeping, not interacting with my husband. I can remember this happening before. Being depressed is, in some ways, easier than being mentally healthy. There’s no effort involved, no self-examination, no communication with others. Hide in the dark, curl up on the couch, sleep away the normal stressors of life.
This is not acceptable. I remind myself I am a fighter, a survivor, and I have the tools I need to fight depression. On the other hand, I am also compassionate and learning to treat myself with kindness. So for now, I will fold the old sweater and set it on the shelf beneath the new one. I recognize that the old one will still be needed once in a while; but as I become stronger, the bright new sweater will be worn more often.