by Ellie Bartone

Depression is a monster and no joke. No joke at all. My neurological conditions only worsen the depression I had long before I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Depression doesn’t care one bit how much I long for a “normal” life, or at least a life free from being a prisoner in my own brain.

Depression is a disease too. No one chooses to live this way. I have MS. Stairs and walking without falling over are my biggest physical challenges, but depression and anxiety dominate on the worst days. I know I’ll reach the top of that staircase or make it to a chair to sit down, because real stairs are easier to conquer than the ones in my head. Chairs are everywhere in real life. There’s no chair in my mind. There’s nowhere to sit and take a break. If I could pick a disease to get rid of the first to get the boot, it wouldn’t be the MS.

Depression and anxiety are the tallest staircase in the world. It feels like a never ending escalator. I’ll never reach the top until the day I’m finally free from this messed-up brain of mine. These stairs end in Heaven.

As a result, happiness is a strange emotion for me. I feel it sometimes, but it isn’t the dominating emotion in my life. You wouldn’t even know I’m depressed and anxious if you met me in public. You might even see me smile or hear me laugh. The combination of my physical and mental health issues can take up every ounce of God given energy I have in a day.

My depression is called ‘smiling depression’ because I appear to lead a functioning, happy life most of the time. Few people get to see the tears, anger, and breakdowns that come with my depression and anxiety. Even if I’m having a bad mental health day and don’t look happy, you most likely won’t be able to see the extent of the anguish I’m in. No one will see me sit on my bedroom floor and cry because I have to get dressed for the day. It sounds easy to most, but there are times it’s too much for me. No one will see me internally beating myself up because in my mind I did, said, or even wore something wrong.

When I was in my twenties and thirties, I tried to end my life five times. I barely survived my last attempt and to this day still have physical limitations because of it. I spent months in the hospital and then an extensive stay in the mental health wing.

Now that I’m in my forties, I’m still not free from the monster that is depression. Every single day I climb that moving staircase. I take my medication, along with another med meant to supplement antidepressants. I attend therapy weekly. In the last few years, I’ve even revisited the mental health wing and had an outpatient stay as well, all to want to keep on living.

Living a full, happy life is the ultimate goal, but it is the biggest fight of my life. I no longer want to end my own life, but I fight this monster almost always.

My friends, can you please pray that I find an appropriate balance between my physical and mental health limitations? Could you please join me in prayer that the good days soon vastly outnumber the bad ones? If you have a loved one fighting depression and anxiety please check in on them often. It’s a hard battle to fight. We need to know, sometimes often, that we aren’t in the battle alone.

Please remember that suicide is never the only way out. Pray, reach out to loved ones, and know that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7. The number is 1-800-273-8255.

Ellie is a cashier, freelance writer and blogger from South Carolina. Her favorite things are her family, friends, writing, cats and many other crafty pursuits. As a child, she was on a local TV kids show. She told the host that she wanted to be a butterfly or a writer when she grew up. As an adult, she is very glad she’s not a butterfly.