“I have spent my whole life scared. Frightened of things that could happen, might happen, might not happen. Fifty years I spent like that. Finding myself awake at three in the morning. But you know what? I came to realize that fear – that’s the worst of it. That’s the real enemy. So get up. Get out in the real world. And you kick that bastard as hard as you can, right in the teeth.” – Walter White
2013 was an extremely difficult year for me. I spent much of it mired in varying states of existential despair, even as virtually everything in my life improved. Naturally, this created a feedback loop wherein I would think about how much better my life had gotten and grow even more upset that I wasn’t able to appreciate it. I found myself often unable to enjoy life, unable to express myself, and eventually unable to feel much of anything, apart from apathy and anger. As a result, I began to resent all the things I should have been feeling good about: my new job, my new house, my new dog. Instead of taking pride in how far I’ve come over the last few years, I focused entirely on what I lacked, and what I felt was missing in my life and those around me. I became withdrawn and emotionally unavailable to everyone, particularly Dana.
I didn’t know at the time if what I was experiencing was true blue, according to Hoyle depression, though I’m now pretty certain that it was. What I did know was that these mental and emotional difficulties were orders of magnitude beyond any I’d ever encountered before. Everything was out of whack. Nothing made sense. I would often find myself staring into the mirror, unable to identify with the person looking back. Horrible thoughts – things I can’t even bring myself to repeat – came into my head and asserted themselves as truth. It was terrifying. I couldn’t explain to anyone what was happening to me because I didn’t understand it myself. I couldn’t trust my own brain anymore. How could I trust anyone else?
That’s how depression isolates you. It tells you that you’re alone, that nobody cares, that you aren’t strong enough. That you aren’t good enough. And you believe it. You believe it, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary. Even a healthy brain is exceptional at lying to itself, and depression just amplifies that, until you’re left wondering whether you can ever really trust yourself again.
But you can.
It isn’t easy. Even with the love and support of my friends and family, as well as professional help, there were times when I didn’t think I would make it. I could not have done it alone. And make no mistake, it’s very much a work in progress. I’ve had to make some changes – in my behavior, in my outlook, in my general living process – that I’m still figuring out, and there are definitely more on the horizon. More adversity, too. That’s life. But I’m more sure of myself, and where I’m headed, than I have been in a long time. I’m not drowning in doubt anymore.
Self-doubt is poisonous, and it will destroy you if you let it. I can’t tell you how to fight that nagging voice in your head, and I won’t patronize you with some hokey “believe in yourself and anything is possible!” after-school special bullshit. You can’t just believe and wish and hope your way out of depression (or be magically cured by not taking your medication), despite what Hollywood may tell you. But I can say that if you don’t believe in yourself, then everything is impossible.
The truth is that you won’t always succeed. You probably won’t even succeed most of the time. And it took me almost three decades to really understand this, but that’s okay. There’s no point being afraid of failure, because without failure, you can’t have success. Being afraid of failure only stops you from trying.
So the next time you find yourself reluctant to try something because you don’t think you can do it, just do it anyway. And if you fail, try again. Or try something else. Who cares? Just don’t stop trying. Because no matter how results-driven our culture might be, what really matters is effort – the feeling of working toward something, even if you may never reach it.
Fuck fear. Fuck doubt. Throw ‘em out.