Living and loving after depression

Graphic by Alan Li

Valentine’s Day is an oddly comforting time for me. It’s a holiday that has dramatically shifted with my own personal growth over the years and I now recognize why I see it differently.

It has become more of a celebration of the relationships I have built than what it used to be — which was an ever-present reminder of my loneliness.

But my thoughts about Valentine’s Day, much like my opinions on love and relationships, are now the polar opposite.

To put it bluntly, I used to be quite bitter about the concept of love.

I fooled myself into thinking that love was a stupid feeling and that it served no purpose in my life.
   With a set of divorced parents, my faith in lasting relationships wasn’t very strong to start off.

I often recited the “50 per cent of marriages end in divorce” mantra to myself, as a reminder of why love — and relationships — were pointless to begin with.

I was resigned to the fact that I would live out the rest of my self-hating existence not needing to be in a relationship, because that simply wasn’t who I was, nor was it who I was meant to be.

Coincidentally — if you couldn’t already tell — I was also extremely depressed during that period of my life.

During high school, there were a series of factors that lead to my bleak outlook on love.

My chronic illness drained all of my daily energy and the steroids and various medications that I was placed on caused my weight to fluctuate constantly.

My self-esteem wasn’t the strongest because of it, and my late-in-the-game pubescence made me the stereotypical target — an underdeveloped nerd who was mocked for being weird and not masculine enough.

Since receiving treatment for my depression — talking to professionals, loved ones, as well as being in a healthy, committed relationship — these opinions have changed.

What were once the fundamental foundations of my personality — like the cringe worthy cynicism that I thought would protect me from getting hurt — were broken down by one person who showed me that I was actually worth something.

And it has been the best thing to ever happen in my life.

This aspect was what made me very unlikable in high school.

It made me a closed off and unpleasant person and it’s something that bothers me when I think too much about it.

But as I have been working towards becoming a healthier person overall, it has made me realize certain things about love.

What I used to think made you weak, I now understand makes you strong.  Love offers a reason to reach out to others — to connect on a deeper, more selfless level.

It gives you the motivation to wake up in the morning, to be able to give something to somebody else without the expectation of reward.

Loving, like helping someone, provides you with the opportunity to look outside of yourself for once.

Valentine’s Day has become so much more than a day of pathetically feeling sorry for myself because my high school crush didn’t send me an overpriced candy-gram.

It now gives me the opportunity to appreciate the people in my life who matter most and to enjoy the sappy occasion for the simple reason that it exists in the first place.

My depression used to hold me back from connecting with people, because it convinced me that there was no point in even trying.

I’m now in a place where I’m in a committed relationship and I have friends and family who I don’t have to think twice about showing love to.

I’ve come to realize that love is an easy choice, and that’s exactly

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