My grandfather on my dad’s side of the family died when I was very young. I don’t remember him. His story was told by the living, by my father, who told me about his imprisonment in Cuba for opposing Castro. And he told me about how my grandfather’s absence shaped him.
My father, who came to the U.S. by himself when he was very young, has always seemed determined to prove himself. He was always off chasing some new plan to make himself better, and as such, was absent from his own family, just as his father was before him. In some ways it wasn’t his fault, it was just the story he was written into.
Your story is written by you, but the influence of those who came before you reverberate throughout the tale. Who lives. Who dies. What is the story that is told? What is the story that will be passed onto future generations?
And now it is time for me to take a central role in this story. What will that role be? For so long I have focused on my depression, on my anxiety, on who I didn’t want to be. Yet you don’t get to tell the story of who you aren’t. You can only tell the story of who you are.
My story has major absences from my father in it, just as his did. Those absences likely contributed to my depression, though there is also likely much more to it than that. My story has been so focused on the darkness, on the depression, that I’ve missed the lights that shine all around me, and though that tragedy might be a byproduct of the depression, it is not the story I am stuck with.
I dream of a story without depression, but that probably won’t happen. I dream of Lin-Manuel Miranda not suing me for copyright infringement, and that hopefully won’t happen. What will happen is up to me. It is my story now, and though it was darkened by depression, by an absent father, and by a grandfather who was taken from me too young, I can write a brighter future into my story. So, who lives, who dies, who tells your story? Perhaps the better question is what are you doing to make sure that story is worth living.
For those of us who struggle with mental illness, there will be dark days where we don’t want to live, where we can’t get out of bed. Yet we are not alone in that darkness. And it does get better.
It. Gets. Better.
And even if you live with depression or anxiety or any other mental or physical illness, you can still live a story that is worth telling.
I’ve had days that I couldn’t even get out of bed. I’ve also had days where I couldn’t experience enough of the world, and was still hungry for more. I’ve had days where I didn’t care about living, but I’ve also had days where I’ve laughed so hard that I didn’t care if my ribs cracked, which it felt like they were going to.
Because this is the dark tales project, and darkness is definitely a part of that story. But so is the light.