I had never heard of Avicii until he died. I remember I was watching a video on Facebook about depression which referenced the musician’s struggle with mental health, and his eventual death by suicide. The video referred to the statement Avicii’s family made after his death, which has haunted me ever since.
“Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. An over-achieving perfectionist who traveled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress. When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and be able to do what he loved most — music. He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace.”
I didn’t know at the time who Avicii/Tim Berling was; all I knew was I resonated with his deep existential struggle to find meaning and peace.
Except for him, the struggle killed him.
Depression has used Avicii’s story against me, like a ghost whispering that his death is my ultimate fate, too. No matter how hard I try to work through my issues, take care of my mind, or come to terms with my identity and purpose, depression wants me to believe these dark clouds will eventually take me captive as well.
Anyone who’s experienced depression can probably relate to what I’m talking about. Depression is not just a period of sadness that eventually goes away. It’s a long-lasting mood disorder that impedes virtually every area of life. You feel hopeless, empty, and tired. Things you used to like aren’t as enjoyable anymore. And there’s no simple answer to just make depression “go away.”
I have struggled with depression on and off for 8 years, and every time it returns my worries feel more and more validated. What if I never get over this? What if I’m doomed to always come back to feeling depressed? What if one day I can’t handle it anymore?
It’s scary as hell to read news reports of increasing numbers of people dying by suicide. I imagine it’s how people battling cancer feel when they hear news or see statistics of cancer fatalities. You feel a sense of doom. It’s hard to be optimistic when you’re suffering from a disorder that is literally characterized by hopelessness and negative thinking.
The fact is, life gives us no guarantees. Yes, each time my depression returns I remember Avicii and I’m flooded with worries about whether I’ll eventually lose my struggle with depression, too. But I also have to remind myself I’ve survived every time depression’s come back so far. Those of us with depression may be its prisoners, but we’ve not become its victims yet. Not until our breathe ceases to fill our lungs.
Not everyone wins the fight against darkness. But remembering times you’ve felt the light can help you keep going, even if it’s just one day at a time.