I have struggled with depression regularly since I was in middle school. Back then my classmates regularly harassed me, and I often dreamed of dying, disappearing, or becoming someone else. I was put on antidepressants when I was in middle school, but only later did my family learn that they were known to cause suicidal ideation in very young patients. I immediately began to distrust all psychopharmacological solutions to my problems with rage and sadness.
In high school I learned to focus my feelings and channel them into something productive. I succeeded in school and went on to university, which had always been my ultimate dream.
Occasionally at university I would get depressed. I remember one day looking at myself in the mirror in my sophomore year and saying, "I think I really hate myself." I had thought that I had forgotten those feelings of self-loathing, but they came roaring back when I was 19. They ebbed and flowed throughout my college years, and they took over again when I was 22. I was living in a foreign country and fell ill. I was so ill that I nearly died from both starvation and a lung infection. It was a very dark time in my young life, and I came home with depression and pos-traumatic stress.
The next few years were a blur of crushed dreams. I could barely get out of bed for six months, but later found a job. The boss was abusive and targeted me occasionally, which did not make me feel any better. I later went to graduate school to start a new career, but I discovered that I liked the idea of that career more than the practice of it. I failed a test that was an entrance exam of sorts into that career, and that's when I sank completely into a prolonged depressive episode.
I stayed depressed for about 18 months after that one event made me lose the will to live. I don't remember too much about them now, though those months weren't too long ago. Right before I turned 26 my mother suggested to me that I seek therapy, and she was shocked when I actually agreed with her. She found me a therapist and had to drive me to the appointments for the first two months; I felt that I wouldn't be able to make it on my own.
And that therapist changed my life. She listened to my concerns, encouraged me to fulfill my potential, and repeatedly told me that I deserved to live. She treated me with just talk therapy, and with her encouragement I left that depressive episode, found a job, and learned to dream big again. I still see her occasionally, much less often than the previous 4-5 times per month that I did back when I started with her. She listens to my concerns still and reminds me how I should treat myself in order to be happy.
I sometimes wonder what will happen to me at age 45 or so, or when some horrible event happens. Every story of a suicide elicits sympathy from me. I remember thinking when Alexander McQueen killed himself right before his mother's funeral that I could meet the same fate if I didn't try to stop it. I remember wishing that I could stop existing all the time, and I worry that someday those feelings will take over once again. In the meantime I do my best to take care of myself in order to prevent, or at least dampen those feelings when they do come back.
I feel that I will always have depression. I know how my symptoms manifest though, and that is my greatest coping skill. I still sometimes wish that I could stop existing forever, but when I feel that way, I remind myself that that feeling is temporary. It shouts the loudest, but it actually has the smallest voice of all. As long as I stay mentally ready, I think I will be able to resist that feeling and continue living on despite what my depression might want. I don't think of it as a battle that I win or lose, but a coexistence that when kept peaceful, is difficult but harmless. Depression will always be there, but it won't get to be my defining characteristic.