The ups and downs of depression: My personal journey

20 April 2023
Gowri Kishore Written by Gowri Kishore
Gowri Kishore

Gowri Kishore

Gowri N Kishore is a content strategist and writer who helps organizations tell great stories....

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Today was one of the good days.

I knew it was going to be as soon as I woke up. I felt wide awake and surprisingly well-rested. 

When I brushed my teeth, I didn’t think about the work I needed to finish. Instead, I felt the urge to do something with my body. Throw my hands in the air and break into a ludicrous dance. Jump up and down like a child. Walk. Run. Hurl something. 

On a bad day, I would have scoffed at my impulse. Ridiculous, the voices would have said, as if I didn’t know it already. I would have poured myself coffee, curled up on my sofa, and scrolled the day away.

But today was a good day.

I managed to step out before the exuberant mood passed. And I made it all the way to the lake park nearby. In just five minutes, beads of sweat started to form under my hair. A clear sign of how out of shape I am, I thought. But immediately, I gave myself a mental rap-on-the-wrist. Why be negative? I blew that dark thought away. It disappeared, leaving me feeling powerful. 

Will I be able to run? I wondered.

Last year, I had tried running and loved it. The sights zipping past me as I moved forward. The feel of the wind on my face. The pulsing of my heartbeat in my cheeks. The sweat rolling down my chest. But after each day’s run, my leg muscles took a long time to recover. And the intervals between the runs just kept getting longer.

On a bad day, this question — will I be able to run? — would have sent me spiralling down a bleak, black hole. I don’t follow through. I give up on things.

Have I held onto any passion (other than books) ever? At 31, I am tired and bloated, and out of shape. The thoughts would have kept coming and whirled around inside my head, the way my dogs’ fur does when I switch on the fan. 

But today was a good day. I stood at the edge of that black hole and looked in — but I didn’t fall. I stepped back and walked away.

Along the pathway around the lake, there were many walkers. Young people, old people, couples, parents with toddlers. It was pleasantly busy but not crowded. I started to walk slowly at first, then briskly. Along the far side of the lake, I got a clear stretch, and I felt the urge to run, to hear the wind buffet against my ears. 

So I did. 

On a bad day, I don’t know if I could have. I would have noticed how people older than me were able to run longer, faster, more easily. How the waists of women with children were slimmer than mine. How I could have started years ago but hadn’t. But today, I noticed the ducks in the lake. The storks taking off and landing. The reeds swaying in the breeze. I looked down at my feet thump-thumping on the uneven ground and was glad I’d missed stepping on a black ant that scurried out of the way.

I finished one round around the lake, alternating between speed-walking and short sprints, then dropped onto one of the benches, panting. My calf muscles were seizing up. My heel was chafed and burning from the unaccustomed friction. I did some stretches. Tried some toe touches. But my legs protested. I felt wobbly, spent. 

So I sat back and let my thoughts wander.

On a bad day, they would have floated around and rested on the man doing amazing things with his body on the patch of grass behind me. Headstands. Planks. Side planks. Others I don’t know the names of. The voices would have begun making their sharp, thin cuts again. You can barely touch your toes. You can’t run for more than 30 seconds. You are never going to make it to a yoga class. You are never going to get to where he is.

On a bad day, the voices would have said, you did this today, but you’re not going to keep at it, are you? This will be one of those days you’ll look back on wistfully and wonder what would have happened if you’d continued. 

On a bad day, I would have walked back home with a weight in my chest and the beginnings of a headache.

But not today. 

Today, I got off the bench and started to walk towards the gate. Then I sped up a little. I jogged. I ran that last two hundred metres, my chest pounding, my lungs bursting, and collapsed by the gate, grinning like an idiot.

Today was a good day.

Note from the author: I have struggled with depression since 2017 and was diagnosed with Recurrent Depressive Disorder in 2019. With medication and therapy, I am doing really well now. 

During the tough years, I read many narratives of people who suffered from depression in its scariest, most severe forms. I read these with a mix of fear and incredulity (“Oh my god, it can get that bad!”) but also a bit of self-reproach (“See how bad some people have it; why are you whining?). 

At the time, I wondered: are there enough stories of people who live with a moderate, persistent form of depression? It’s like a tap drip-dripping onto a stone. There’s no devastating rush of water, but over time, the stone wears away. For me, some days were good. Others, not so much. This reflective piece was something I wrote in 2019, on one of the good days.

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