When Depression Lurks In the Shadow Of Success
October 10, 2018
I felt like the epitome of success.
It was the year 2017—the year of my best life. My newborn freelancing career quickly blossomed into a cacophony of published clips, celebrity interviews, red carpets, signing my first feature screenplay contract—hell, I got to go to Oprah’s house. You read that right. Oprah’s. House. I explored pieces of the world I had previously unseen and loved up on my friends in celebration. I was fully ensconced in rooms I had only dreamt of prior and you couldn’t take the smile off of my face, even if you used a Magic Eraser. The glow-up was real.
But while things looked picture-with-Oprah-perfect on the outside—she, that Depression B-tch, persisted.
Depression donned her best Imposter Syndrome jumpsuit and polished them off with some anxiety red bottoms. Her sultry voice started telling me I was unworthy of my dreams coming true—and I listened.
Depression wasn't a new frenemy.
In August 2014, Robin Williams’ gut-shattering suicide encouraged me to finally say it aloud: I deal with suicide ideation. I think about killing myself. I’ve tried to kill myself. Once. Four months after sharing that in an essay, “once” turned into “twice.”
The year 2015 culminated in a level of “fed-up” that inspired me to take one of the greatest leaps of faith of my life: booking a one-way flight to Los Angeles without a job, home, or any security in place. My “omg I can’t believe palm trees are a part of my life” shock faded and morphed into a “wow, this is home” sentiment. I started to feel like I made it.
And yet, in the swirl of my 2017 success, depression knocked on my door again. I looked up from my Oprah-level life and suddenly realized I was surrounded by a pile of month-old unwashed clothes I meant to take downstairs to the laundry room, a mountain of dirty dishes, a pyramid of unopened mail, a flock of generic excused cancellations—and all I wanted to do was sleep. Well, when I could. Insomnia joined the “party,” too.
Overwhelmed with anxiety, guilt, stress, pressure and everything in between, I became a hermit in the worst way.
Slowly but surely, I tried to make plans to keep me from spending the entire day in bed. For every day I squandered away into alone and moody, I snatched my highest joy when I had something planned out. Even the days when depression’s mouthpiece whispered nefarious nothings into my ear to get me to back out of it (hey, sometimes it won… these are my confessions), I always felt better when I fought back and did the damn thing anyway.
Success Doesn’t Cure Depression
In the wake of celebrity suicides such as Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, fans often ask, “How can someone so successful resort to suicide?” Depression retorts, “How can they not?”
Success serves as a wide-open wound instead of the band-aid it’s purported to be. Depression can be a mental chameleon, deftly concealing itself within the threads of a metropolitan woman’s favorite designer bag or seeping into the steam of a mouth-watering dish on an international tour. Depression can envelop itself into the serial numbers printed on a wad of cash and bury itself into the credit card chip that never works, so you have to swipe it anyway.
Depression can be a mental chameleon, deftly concealing itself within the threads of a metropolitan woman’s favorite designer bag or seeping into the steam of a mouth-watering dish on an international tour.
Beneath the chubby-cheeked laugh of a woman with a fabulous Fenty beat on the red carpet lies a woman who may struggle with her success some days. I’ll be honest: I’ve also occasionally succumbed to high anxiety. My greatest fear has always been—and will always be—looking back at my life and wondering “what if?”
Fear of failure exists, but so does fear of success. Dreams fulfilled beget bigger dreams and with those comes bigger pressure. Like an anxiety-riddled coupon code. Buy one success, get a side of anxiety for free. Do I belong here? Yes, I belong here. I’m in the room because I belong here. Back-and-forth, up-and-down.
Living with depression and anxiety is, for me, an exercise in taking it day-by-day, moment-by-moment. As for personal management skills, I’ve found consolation in exercising, laughing with friends, television, movies, music, Zumba, taking a walk, meditation, watching funny YouTube videos, dancing… and my daily Shine Texts (seriously, the moment my sister-friend recommended it to me and I signed up, it changed the course of each of my mornings—especially since I’m basically allergic to mornings).
Each thing brings a feeling ranging from solace to pure joy, depending on the day. I embrace each of those moments in gratitude, and greet that sneaky b-tch when she comes back with faith in my ability to get through.
If you're struggling with your mental health, know you don't have to go it alone. Call 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741. Both are free, confidential, and available 24⁄7. And if you or a friend need urgent help, call 911.