The Self Silent Treatment: Why I Decided to Shut Up (And Why I Came Back)

It’s been 6 months since I posted to the Winterbritt blog. I write about life, and I needed a bit of a breather to actually live mine.

I used to think that the ones who left depression behind didn’t talk about it because they didn’t want to, that they were ashamed or embarassed and just wanted to put it behind them, but as I worked my way back to happiness, I started to see it another way. I felt myself shifting into a new identity, and I couldn’t be the person I was becoming and a depression survivor at the same time. I had to let go of the last of the victim inside me.

Depression is less about how you feel in the moment and more about how you feel about how you feel. It isn’t the scary or fearful or negative thoughts that really hurt you, it’s the repulsion and self-hate and self-doubt that those thoughts cause you to feel. You have a choice in how you respond to those uncontrollable thoughts, but in order to change the response you have to change the responder. It isn’t what you do, but who you are that has to evolve.

Who you believe yourself to be determines how you react. Your identity plays a big part in how you feel about how you feel. If there’s anything that this journey of self discovery has taught me, it’s that I create my reality and my self-concept with my beliefs and my focus.

I couldn’t believe myself to be a happy person and a depression survivor at the same time. In the way I understood myself, one contradicted the other. I couldn’t write my story of happiness alongside the one of sadness. The depression part of my story colored the rest of it. It was the “but” at the end of good news.

I couldn’t enjoy the good news of happiness while I kept focusing on the story of depression. I couldn’t be a happy person who experienced a normal range of emotions while I defined myself as a depressed person on a comeback. The great battle I had won wasn’t actually won until I could stop looking back to understand where I was now. My history was defining my present.

So I decided to shut up. I decided to stop telling stories about myself full stop. Who am I? I don’t know. How am I doing? No idea. I used self inquiry to untangle reality from imagination and everytime I felt myself believe something, anything, I questioned it. Without the stories of who I am, where I have been and where I’m going, I just am. And just being solves every problem.

I shut up for six months, because every time I tried to tell a story about who I was or who I had become, my questioning mind tore it back down and set me straight. Knowing nothing is very freeing, but it didn’t put me in a position to share anything with you. I had nothing to write. There was nothing to say. A peaceful mind is also a quite empty one.

And it’s also very boring.

We tell stories to exist, to have a place, to interject ourselves into the world around us. When you don’t realize you’re doing it, that it’s actually you making it up as you go, it feels like reality. It feels like the story is writing you. If you work to realize that all the stories are your creation and none of them are actually true, you’re free from all suffering, but you’re left without a place. The unknowing that sets you free overall also makes the day to day pretty lame.

Without that story of who I am holding me back, I’m free to be or become whatever I choose. I can create the identity I choose on purpose, full well knowing that it’s my own imagined creation. I can pick one that carries me where I want to go, one that’s fun and uplifting. And I can change it whenever I like because it isn’t the truth, it’s a story.

I can also write again without being tethered to my past, because my past isn’t holding me anymore. I’m holding it. And I can put it on the shelf and walk away whenever I want. Depression isn’t personal or precious to me any longer. It isn’t woven into my being. Talking about it doesn’t evoke any emotion.

I know that nothing I can write here will ever be completely true. The greatest benefit and liability of reaching for understanding is that you can’t ever be sure of yourself. You start to understand that you aren’t telling the truth anymore, even when you’re being completely honest with the best intentions. The best you can do is point at the truth and let other people wander toward it with you.

My hope is that maybe my just being will inspire someone else’s, so I’m back at Winterbritt to point in the direction that I’m wandering myself, and to point at the path I took to get here. Writing about all kinds of different things to suit who I used to be and also who I am becoming. For no purpose other than I really like to write, and that the me of five years ago would maybe have wanted to hear what the me of now has to say.

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