Stumbling through the day. Depression’s darkness bleeding into daylight.

And they say, “Try harder.” So I do.

A monster project for work, the weariness bone deep. I tell myself, “Push through. Just keep going.”

My genuine smile is miles away, but it’s time for church. It’s the people at church who told me, “Fake it till you make it.”

[Insert your choice of expletive expressing frustration.]

Granted, sometimes I must dig in and fight forward, teeth gritted against the pain. But not constantly.

There’s a time for retreat, saying “I just can’t” without shame, and letting soul darkness show on the outside.

At heart, I have always been a coper, I’ve mostly been able to walk around with my wounds safely hidden, and I’ve always stored up my deep depressive episodes for the weeks off when there was time to have an abbreviated version of a complete breakdown.—Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

It’s not a cop out; it’s reality. It’s acknowledging the invisible matters. Sometimes I won’t progress until I catch my breath. My therapist often reminds me “the slower you go, the faster you’ll get there.” Pretending can be both occasionally necessary and long-term avoidance. Pushing forward too hard has set me back countless times.

When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. . . . and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.—Elizabeth Gilbert

Don’t put on your “I’m fine” mask too often. Don’t push so hard your mind or body shut down just to survive. For every person accused of wallowing in depression there are survivors ignoring the labels and choosing to admit “now is not a good time.”

Survivors tend to attempt conquering the world as soon as we feel remotely okay. Sometimes the sudden exertion sends us back into a crisis place. Recently I finally gained relief after months of debilitating vertigo and immediately left on a big trip, submitted a book proposal, and tried to make up for five months of illness. A week later I’d caught a cold. Two weeks later I was in the emergency room struggling to breathe because of pneumonia.

My point: if you don’t feel like conquering the world, it’s okay. If you do? Take it half as fast as you want to so you don’t run out of reserves at the first speed bump.

World conquering takes time; it’s a fine art.

And if you’re like me and feel you’ll always be labeled the Broken One no matter what future successes come? Whether our family and friends realize it or not, just by staying alive you prove them wrong. Broken people don’t make it in this business. Survivors have to fight when it’s wise, retreat when it’s needed, and remember their successes and triumphs may be mostly invisible.

No matter. Our hard-fought battles may not put us in a lucrative career with big bank accounts. But our souls show the truth. Like an archer has strong arms and calloused fingertips, our internal strength will be there when it matters. When it comes to fighting I would always choose to face those wars with survivors by my side. When it comes to collapsing and gasping for relief, no one else will help me like them.

To the survivors.

Life as a Survivor

A Survivor's Life, Depression, Suffering