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Dysthymia is a kind of depression that has ups and downs. It’s what my physician has down in my medical record as my type of depression. I always disliked the diagnosis, fearing it wouldn’t be “serious” enough to justify ongoing care. But as I’ve gone through treatment from various therapists over time, I’m coming to terms with the diagnosis and making peace with it in a way. I’ve never been denied coverage so far, which is reassuring.

It does have its ups, though. But, right now, I’m going through a pretty heavy down cycle, and it’s really giving me a rough time. Not only do I constantly struggle with self worth, but my work situation is so toxic that it begins to validate the negative self talk because of the way I’m treated.

The key to my survival is to tap a part of my “training” from childhood, this idea that I’m not supposed to be alive, and therefore, I’m not worthy of things that other people get, like validation, or the right to happiness, or acknowledgement. If I can absolve the desire for things like fairness or kindness, I can merely be present to the actions of others, and not affected by it. To detach is the goal, to leave it by the door when I leave, my hope. But with all things this emotionally sticky, it’s hard to get it all, and I often fail.

Part of buddhist teaching is to extinguish the ego, that suffering lies in desire, and to remove both gets you closer to enlightenment. Perhaps inner peace doesn’t feel like exquisite emotional agony, but the path there is like a fire burning the remnants of the self, and if you can still feel it, you’re not done yet. When it’s gone, maybe, the cold, emptiness that remains will whisper the secrets of the universe and I can finally smile.