The Shadow that Accompanies Me

Illustration © Francesc de Diego

I am 28 years old and I am a Catalan and Spanish teacher, although now I am unemployed. I have been diagnosed with endogenous depression since I was 18 years old, although I remember my sadness when I was younger as well as small symptoms of obsessive disorder.

For some time now, I feel the need and the obligation to get involved in a project to support people with mental disorders. My story is certainly like that of many other people with the same disease. Different psychiatrists, psychologists, different medications … until I had a suicide attempt at age 22.

Over time, I realized that this suicide attempt really was a cry to life, a cry of despair. What I wanted was to live. What happened made me see, somehow, that I loved life. From then on, and with the help of my current psychiatrist, I became better. I have been very stable for six years, with medication, of course, but with few relapses which were very mild.

What worries me most is what does is not found in medical manuals. What costs so much to explain and that makes us feel so alone and so misunderstood. An endogenous depression, that is, chronic, hereditary, is not a person locked up in the room without wanting to leave, not wanting to live. Or perhaps it is. But it is also a kind of shadow that accompanies us when we are relatively good, when we smile, when we make life “normal”. I’m worried how to explain this to people who have never felt it, how to make us understand.

Because the shadow is always there. The shadow transformed into headache, anxiety. The shadow that does not let us concentrate on reading a book, when watching a movie. The shadow that does not let you feel like when you want to feel like it. The shadow that calls you to loneliness. The head that always seems to explode. The thoughts, unrelated, the constant feeling of unreality, of distance. Or, on the contrary, the sensation of “zoom”, as if our perception were a camera that made us live everything to the skin. And tears, always about to fall, even when you’re smiling. The shadow that always accompanies us.

Over the years I have accepted my limits. I have accepted that there are things that I can not do. It is not a renunciation, it is simply acceptance, it is not wanting to hit myself a thousand times more against the same brick wall. Over the years I have accepted that I can not be in a conversation for more than two hours because the head disconnects, because the shadow takes it. Over the years I have discovered that I am slower than others, that I need more time to do the same things. For the shadow stands in the middle, and I stumble. And if I run, the fall is always worse.

But over the years, I have also discovered that perhaps this disease or non disease, this shadow that accompanies me, maybe also is my treasure. Sometimes I think that people with mental disorders have learned to develop other things: sensitivity, the ability to thank, having enough with the song of a bird.

I think that those of us who have mental illnesses and have learned to live with them, somehow have the moral duty to help those who are still at the bottom of the well. We have a duty to make believe that there is a light at the bottom. Because there is. And accompany them along the way.

Júlia Casas

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