The last few years of my life have been particularly difficult. I have endured depression, anxiety, and loneliness so severe that there have been times I would almost have preferred that life not go on. I have longed to find a sense of belonging with others and acceptance of myself. So far, I have not succeeded.
I have been through three particularly nasty bouts of depression, in 2007, 2009, and 2010. This year was by far the worst, and while I am much better than I was a few months ago, I am still not entirely out of the woods. I suspect that I never will be.
The thing which hurts the most is loneliness. This has long been an issue for me, but it has only intensified as the years have passed. In the past I have tended to blame others and the world for my woes, but after a certain point I realized that I am the constant. I think that people are ultimately drawn to those who they feel will benefit them in some way, and unfortunately that rarely seems to be me. There seems to be something broken about me, and people realize this, and keep their distance.
That is the hand I’ve been dealt. I do the best I can. I would love to be sociable, always friendly, optimistic and happy. But it just isn’t in me. I cannot pretend to notice how unwanted I am and put on the cheery face that is apparently needed. My continual failure to be able to make and maintain real and meaningful connections is agony, and making it through each day is a struggle. I can’t pretend otherwise.
But I can take it. Despite how bad the depression, anxiety, and loneliness gets, I manage to endure. And eventually it lessens. Each time I learn a little bit more about myself. Each time I get a little bit tougher. Each time I am forced to find a little more strength within myself – and I do.
We all face many struggles in life. Regardless of our age, income, family situation, political beliefs, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, or health status, we all face different battles on a daily basis. We often face them alone, without the support that we would have in a perfect world. But this world is very far from perfect.
Through watching the Clint Eastwood movie, I recently became aware of the English poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley. The word itself means “unconquered”, and it is a poem about self-mastery despite difficult circumstances. The author had his leg amputated at age 12, and the poem inspired Nelson Mandela during the 27 years he was imprisoned. It is a truly inspiring poem. And while I am no Nelson Mandela, like the poem says, my head is bloody, but unbowed.
Despite everything, I am, and will remain, unconquered.