I don’t know whether there is or not; I haven’t found one yet.

More than nine years ago, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and soon after, Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Both diagnoses were a long time coming, probably since as far back as high school. And here I am, more than nine years in, and I still rail against them. These twin demons define my every day, and I’m bloody tired of fighting against them. Even though this battle drains me and drives me crazy (ha!), I haven’t yet found the way to stop.

All my life, I have been a go-getter. An over-achiever, a person who could do anything she put her mind to. For many years, it never even occurred to me that there were things that were beyond me. What an ironic slap in the face to find out that I really can’t do everything I put my mind to, that many things are just not possible for me.

I always had a pretty clear vision of what my life was supposed to be: fulfilling career, travel, achievement. Comfort. Contentment. Home ownership. But here I am at 36: disabled from work, agoraphobic, actively uncomfortable. Likely to be spend the rest of my life renting rooms from people who are kind enough to accept less than market value for the space, because that’s all I can afford. My best achievement most days is getting out of bed and getting through the hours without completely breaking down. I wanted to make a difference in the world, but most days I can’t even get outside of my own chronic conditions to make a difference in my own life.

The lingering image of what I expected my life to be like is probably part of the reason that I cannot accept that my life just is the way it is. Perhaps I fear that by giving up on my dreams and my vision, I will be giving up hope. Hope that I could ever achieve those dreams, that I could ever have the kind of life that I always wanted.

Acceptance would be far easier than the hell that I live with, but it is harder than anything else I can imagine to actually attain it.

A dear friend told me today that in her opinion, I am working harder now than I ever have before. It is a feature of the depressive mind to see the negative aspect, and here it is: If I am working harder than ever and at best only keeping myself afloat, what does that say about the years ahead? It is true that keeping myself going is a momentous task, and I guess the fact that I’m here writing this is proof that so far, I’ve succeeded. I’ve been fighting for my life for more than nine years; I don’t know how many more years I can do it. And there are many days like today, when I question whether it is even worth trying.

Before you jump on that statement, just indulge me a moment. Imagine that every day for years, you are lost at sea, struggling to keep your head above water. Treading that water every waking hour, every single day. Over and over, year in and year out. Wouldn’t you be tired? And what if you had no realistic reason to expect that the years ahead were going to be any different? That is to say, you will be treading that same water indefinitely? Never gaining much ground and in fact often losing ground, drifting further away from shore. How excited would you be about the prospects for that life? How long could you keep treading along? (And let me warn you: It’s easier to say that you could do it for as long as it takes, than it actually is to do it.)

That’s life with chronic illness. Life with Major Depressive Disorder, particularly when it’s treatment-resistant (as mine is), is one big struggle to keep treading that same water. It often seems hard for people to understand unless they’ve been there, but living with this kind of depression requires a tremendous amount of work. To just survive the moments strung together, to simply make it through the day, is a huge chore. And I’m talking about a day where you don’t accomplish much beyond surviving. I’m not talking about a day filled with activities; often, to even do the simplest things that most people take for granted is impossible. I long for a life where I can regularly keep my house clean, where I can do laundry when it needs to be done, where I can cook dinner every night. It has become my new dream: being able every day to walk the dog, to get dressed, to shower. A far cry from the dreams of my youth, that’s for sure.

And I won’t even go into the stigma that people like me face all the time. Or the fact that so many people cannot understand that this is not a matter of willpower or strength of character. If it was, I would be queen of the frickin’ world by now. Excuse the bitterness; the title should have warned you.

All this negative spew was spawned by finding out that a friend from my past has achieved a huge milestone in her life – and despite the way it probably sounds, I am very happy for her. It just brings crashing back into focus the fact that I won’t ever reach that milestone. That I cannot reach that milestone. Even if I find the magic medication and take all the therapy and rehabilitation on offer, it’s not in the cards for me. I haven’t accepted it all yet, but one thing that I have realized is that there really are some things that cannot be done. No matter how well I someday may become, there are concrete limitations that my illnesses place on my life. And should I ignore those limitations and forge on ahead, I will find myself right back where I started. God knows, I don’t want to end up back there again.

So, is there a statute of limitations on bitterness, anger and grief? Perhaps there is. At any rate, the hope that someday I can let them go is the reason I’m getting through today.

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