When I visualize my depression, I like to think of a block. A large, muddy cube that stands between me and everything else. I like to think of my depression this way because it captures it in a visual, it gives it a physical identity despite everything trapped up inside of the block being so abstract and hard to put to words.

I’m sitting in my room, lavender oil filling the still air from my rainbow-shifting diffuser, a cat resting calming at the foot of my bed, and yet an emptiness in my core. I have everything that makes me happy, and yet I feel so numb, so out of my body that I feel as if I’m looking through the eyes of another person. I think of doubling up on my antidepressants, a measure I’ve never taken and fear the consequences of after witnessing several overdoses from various chemicals in other people. Instead I try to ground myself, yet I still feel so distant from everything in my concrete present.

Part of the spiral comes when I remember all of the horrible things said to me by others, and how I’ve handled situations concerning professors, strangers, family members, and people I call my friends. I replay them in a loop, like a broken record unable to stop, each time casting a different spin on the words said. “That vague comment really served to say they hate you,” my mind wonders aloud, “But they’re just too nice to say it to your face.”

The block prevents me from moving forward. I’m stuck in the past with my bad memories crammed beside me like gridlock. I think of what I would say when I confront these people in my future, but it’s still from the lens of the past. Frustrated, I try to distract myself with listening to music and talking with friends until the inner-dialogue drifts downstream.

The block also traps me in the present. I write as a hobby, mainly fiction, fanfiction, and honest blogs like these. Last night I was so inspired I felt like my insides were a swarming hive of bees, but the minute I put my ideas to words, the vision lost its glory. I felt if I had to force my creativity, I would only serve to shatter it. My best friends who share ideas with me were unsure of what to do – my ideas were great, they said, they wanted to see more. But the block prevented it. They halt all forward progress.

And still the block keeps me trapped in the future. I’m always looking toward my career – what will I do with my last year of schooling? What will I accomplish? Where will I live? Who will I work with? Where will I work? Will it be enough? I should start looking now, but the entire tasks seems so daunting that the thought of rejection only fills the muddy block with power, increasing in size. It sits on my chest, suffocating me, reminding me of my responsibilities and obligations.

Today, I decided I was through with the block. I was tired of it restricting me for the past eight months, tying my hands behind my back and demanding I work as if I had six arms. I reopened a story I had given up on and I wrote nine pages of material in four hours. I was stunned. It had been years since I had written so freely. The words fell out of my fingers like a cascading waterfall. It felt so empowering to simply say ‘no’ and force myself into the deep end of something I had been dreading for months.

I took hold of my present – I began packing for the trip back to school, eight hours away from my family I’ve had only 45 minutes away from me at any given time. There’s something so daunting about boxing up all of the material possessions from my nomadic life and separating from my family, but I believe I’m ready to get back into action. I’m ready to start a routine and get my life back. I’m ready to talk about my issues and allow others the peace of mind to know they are never alone in their struggles. My work with Breaking Taboo has placed me on the path towards ending the stigma around mental health and suicide, and allowed me a reflective period where I can look within myself and coach my thinking, change my self-talk, and help to change others through education and awareness. It’s opened my eyes to the fulfilling work in the nonprofit sector and how much there is to be done. It’s challenging, but that’s why I love it.

I write this piece because I know there are many out there who have blocks of their own and don’t have the resources or support network to battle it. I write this piece hoping that someone else with their own struggles will be inspired to start making small changes everyday, whether that be drinking more water, starting therapy, or even becoming an advocate for their own mental health. Small shifts in the daily cycle eat away at the block we’ve no doubt all faced, and it’s important to know that improving everything starts within yourself.

Today, I will make goals. I will set obstacles of my own choosing, not restrained by what the block sets for me. Today I will decide I am free, and when I am tired and worn to frays, I will remind myself it is okay to not be strong all the time. What I am doing means something. I’m making progress, and progress is progress.

Slowly but surely, I will chip away at this monolith in front of me and rise above this block. It isn’t much, but it is a start, and that’s all I can ask of myself in this fleeting yet precious moment.

Maria Potratz