Living with a lifelong depression, I often wonder if I’m doing it wrong. Because obviously things are going so right for me in spite of what I do in my brain.  Many traps I set for myself fail, even if it takes a long time for me to realize that.

I’m a dream-y sort of person. I work off of what if’s and maybes more than most. I smile at new faces more than shifting eye-contact.  I collect and re-read my journal entries. Often, I am astounded at what I’ve set down. The “negative” entries are profound. They go so deep I do not understand how I even have the strength to put them on the page. Rereading them, the one thing that comes to my mind is that I feel so very sorry for that girl.

But I don’t let her run me.  She takes so much from my life. It’s easy to go with it, like she’s a mother who doesn’t tell her kid to go to school, and the kid grows up not knowing what to do with the world.  I never let her get the upper hand.

I see the good side when it comes to this depression, without embarrassment, and the hard side without retreating.  Most people who deal with depression might be familiar with that: dreams of embarrassment and retreating. They may or may not be dreamers who can also see the good side of things. It’s hard. I don’t do it readily. And there are times I fight against it still.

Because my dreams can be ferocious.

Water rising to the top of my mattress, where I get up knowing I’m dreaming, only to walk to the front door through even more water. Success as an author, without an agent or any major marketing. Fires burning my house down around me, leaving me bereft.  Being known (and accepted) as a damn fine writer in the company of my peers. The roof caving in, where I’m trapped with no means of escape. Dogs coming at me and tearing at my legs.  Reviews that astound me. Earthquakes. Landslides. Succeeding in spite of myself. Finding old people, babies, and kittens who will perish without my help.

Funny thing? Every dream I have, good bad or indifferent, involves guilt.


Me, who smiles at new faces. Who sees the good side. I have no idea what’s up with that.  Maybe it’s the guilt that I’m living with this depression which makes me fight it?

I collect and re-read my journal entries. Because here’s the thing:  I’ve spent most of my life alone. It’s hard dealing with me. And I don’t want to give anyone my burdens to bear. Still, every life needs a witness. Even if it’s only a pen and notebook.

I unearthed a journal entry from August 1997 that reads

“Very wonderful dream. I saw my future ME. Writer, Software Developer, Teacher (workshop leader), Lecturer (as published Author)”

Here, in 2017 most of that has come true. Three-fourths of that dream is a reality, but I never give up on any of my dreams. I dig through the awful ones looking for learning, for answers.  I break down the good ones and take what I need to make that happen.

I could ask,

“How in the world would it take 20 years to make your goals come true?”

And maybe shake my head, considering myself a failure.

Or I could ask,

“How did I dream so well? While battling a life-long depression? What is it in me that I have? That I give? That allows for wonders like this?”

That is to say, how did I know in my dreams that these things were capable of being reality?

I always believed dreams were set in unreal places where you longed to be. You wore faces that you’d never show to the real world. You did things you hadn’t the strength to do in waking life.

Another entry from 2010 reads:

“I’ll be spending the Fall semester, working 1-on-1 with an instructor, in an Independent Study grad course: building educational apps.”

I have absolutely no reason why, but in the end, I turned this opportunity down. I’d been assigned the program coordinator’s position on a University grant I helped put together for mentoring workshops and creating tutorials/curriculum. But in the second semester in the program, I crashed and burned. Bad circumstances, yes, but also me against myself.

My life is a series of excellent times within intermittent awful periods.

As of today, my fifth book will be released this year, and my query for the sixth is being polished right now. Another, for a different publisher. I got the green-light just last month.

This was all supposed to be a dream, and it’s turned into my life. I did most of it without life-partners. I was isolated yet at the same time surrounded with people who supported me in my goals. What further dreams will I dream? Which ones will I end up crushing when depression gets the upper hand? What future battles are in store for me when faced with the simple question, yes or no? Perhaps that’s not so simple a question after all.

I live between the realms of success and failure. That is my secret.  Depression doesn’t run me. That’s where I get work done. If I am frozen in my chair and cannot move, so be it. If I am making my life happen, so be it. There is more to my life than two opposite poles.

I can’t wait to see.

EJ Runyon wrote ‘Tell Me (How to Write) A Story’, and four fiction works to date. She also runs the website, Bridge to Story & coaches writers online.

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