I am someone who strives to be honest. And by honest, I mean sharing the bad just as much as the good, showing the ugly and not just the pretty, being unapologetically who I am and how I am feeling. I fight against the belief that social media is everyone’s “best version” of themselves. I share when I’m happy. I share when I’m depressed. I share when I’m having a good day. I share when I’m so anxious I can’t sleep. I share so that others can feel comfortable sharing their whole selves, not just the parts people like.

I’m writing today not because I have some insight to bring or experience to tell. Rather, I’m writing because today is a Bad Day. On Bad Days, I don’t often write. Bad Days mean sleeping, fighting off suicidal thoughts, keeping the tears at bay and trying to get out of bed. Bad Days mean difficult days for the ones who love me. And I’ve realized lately that my Bad Days are only shared when I’m on the Other Side — when the fog is cleared and I’m telling people that things get better.

To me, Bad Days are only shareable when they’ve ended.

I’m stopping that now. Today, and the past couple days, have been Bad Days. I’m still in it, still waiting for it to pass, because I know it will. The hardest part is that I don’t know when. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, it could be months. This is what chronic depression feels like.

Recently, my therapist explained to me the difference between “recurrent” depression and “chronic” depression. I was under the impression mine was recurrent — I have depressive episodes that hit me every so often, and with treatment they’ve gotten fewer and farther, but never more than three or so months without at least a small one. But that actually means that my depression is chronic, so it’s sort of the opposite — my baseline is depressed, and occasionally I’ll have breaks of time where I feel better. These can be weeks or months, but they fade away and leave me with the depression. 

Chronic depression is hard. It’s knowing that the darkness is going to come back again. It’s knowing that the light is temporary. However, it’s also knowing that nothing lasts forever — the good and the bad come and go like tides. Accepting this is the key to managing chronic depression, because without acceptance, every episode is a disappointment.

So today, I’m accepting this Bad Day. Even though I feel depressed, I still got out of bed, went outside, ate food, drank water and even wrote two blog posts. Yes, a Bad Day means constantly feeling flat, crying at every miniscule slight and worrying in the back of my head that this episode could end in a hospitalization. But a Bad Day also means hope, because the Good Days are coming.

If we don’t share these Bad Days, we’re not sharing the whole picture. We’re showing a curated picture of what our lives or our disorders look like. Honesty is so important in advocating. If we pretend like the Bad Days don’t exist, or that they’re there but we don’t show them in their entirety, who is going to understand the depths of what you’re talking about? We always hear that social media is damaging because we compare our lives to the highlight reel of others’. People usually only post the good. But we can change that. With every post during a Bad Day, with every honest description of “what’s on your mind,” with even a small sentiment of the maybe-ugly truth, we can shift the online culture to be more of an authentic view of this complicated life.

Alyse is looking down, her hand over her eye. A pattern of red thread spans across her face.
Photo from Alyse’s photo series, Kindred.

Follow this journey on Alyse Ruriani‘s blog.  


Dear depression,

We’ve had a long relationship, but I think it’s about time we reviewed the terms of it. To be completely blunt about it, I’ve had more than enough of you, and I think it’s time you moved on. It’s taken me awhile to realize it, but you’re nothing more than a thief who has stolen so much from me.

I’ll give it to you. You are persuasive, and I’ve always believed the things you told me. You were always there to comment on my achievements, failures and appearance. Yet, our relationship is one-sided, and I seem to be giving more than I’m getting.

We’ve shared a lot together, both good times and bad times, birthdays, celebrations and holidays. You name it. You’ve been there. You’ve butted in on friendships and relationships with family. Quite frankly, I’ve had enough.

You’ve always seemed more reliable than anyone else and have always been there for me day or night. There’s no doubt you’ve made me a stronger person, and I thank you for that. I’m more empathetic toward others, and I appreciate the good days much more because of you.

However, it’s taken me awhile to realize I can’t count on my judgment when you’re around because you’re a bad influence. I don’t like the person I’ve become when you’re around. I know it’s gonna be hard to break the bond we have, but it’s time we both moved on.

I’ve asked you nicely many times to leave. So this is my final time to do so. Could you kindly f*ck off and leave me alone?

Yours sincerely,

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I’m grateful for my battle with depression.

I know it might sound bizarre. Who would be grateful for a mental illness that wreaks havoc on the mind, body and soul? A disease that has a stigma so stifling it makes those suffering from it feel alienated in our world and lost and alone in their own existence.

Let me tell you why.

Depression ravaged my life for years. Although I know there’s always a chance it’ll come back knocking on my door, for the past year I’ve been mentally sound and at peace, free from its toxicity.

It was not easy by any means. It took years to even recognize I had a mental illness, even longer to take that first step towards getting help. Then, there was the long battle of beating depression. However, I was able to defeat it with the help of doctors, therapists, the right medication, supportive friends and family and most importantly, digging deep inside myself. I had to go places in my mind I had long buried and forgotten about, unearthing pain and grief that for many years I suppressed hoping it would disappear on
its own.

So now here I am. After years of running, hiding and fighting, I’ve finally taken back my life. I’m finally free from depression’s grasp. I’m back in the driver’s seat of my mind and once again in control of my life. I find myself feeling a large range of emotions, but one that I’ve recently come to discover is gratefulness.

I’m grateful for so many things, people, experiences and opportunities in my life. But I’m also grateful for my battle with depression.

Being depressed caused me to hit rock bottom and forced me to re-evaluate my life and my priorities. It forced me to cut ties with toxic relationships and made me learn who truly was there for me through thick and thin.

Beating depression allowed me to reflect on my life and rediscover who I am as a person. It made me realize my passions and gave me a profound appreciation for everything in life, the good and the bad.

I believe it’s out of these battles this appreciation for our existence flourishes. After its destruction, out of the rubble, I was able to grow into a new and better version of myself, much like new trees sprout out of the ashes of a devastating forest fire. In beating depression I was finally able to fully appreciate life, but I could never have beaten it if it had never come into my life at all.

It made me a better person, a stronger person, someone who is comfortable in their own skin. Before my battle with depression these things did not exist.

Yes, it was hard. Yes, it was painful. And yes, I suffered. There were days where I thought I wasn’t going to win, days I felt powerless to it and days I thought I was going to succumb to this disease entirely.

But I didn’t.

Depression entered my life without my permission and it tore me apart mercilessly. I wasted years being angry and dwelling on the past, but the past can’t be changed.

Depression will always be a part of my life. Even though the worst of the storm is over, I work hard every day to keep it at bay. All I can do, all anyone can do, is continue to move forward from your suffering and try your best to take something positive away from it. Which is exactly what I’m trying to do.

So you heard me right. After it is all said and done, I’m thankful for my battle with depression, and for all the struggles I’ve experienced in life, because the bad moments matter. It’s these moments that make you stronger. It taught me that there’s always hope.

For that, I’m forever grateful.

It’s that time of year when all the magazines and posts on social media talk about “Be who you want to be,” “Now is your time to shine,” “This is your breakout year,”and the list goes on.

I would read these articles about making lofty goals, being the best me, making a million dollars, traveling the world, and it would start to take me on a downward spiral. I would feel like such a failure because those types of things were nowhere in my mind. My goals looked a lot different than all of those things.

What goals do I have in mind for myself for 2016?

1. To be totally 100 percent honest, to just get out of bed in the morning would be really nice.

2. To make it through an entire day (12 hours!) without wanting to go back to bed and hide from the world would give me a huge sense of accomplishment as well.

3. Make plans with a friend and actually show up without my anxiety stepping in and causing me to come up with an excuse.

4. Look in the mirror and find the beauty instead of the flaws

5. Start to tell myself I am not a failure or a waste of space in the world.

6. Answer my phone when my mom calls to see how I’m doing so she doesn’t worry too much and show up unexpectedly at my house to see if I am still alive.

7. Seek out other people who are depressed too so we can support one another on the really bad days.

8. Have the strength to sit with my scary and dark thoughts when my disease is stronger than usual.

9. Accept that this is my battle and not resist it so much that it makes my suffering worse.

10. Choose to love myself.

Follow this journey on Happiness, Love and Light

The Mighty is asking the following: Give advice to someone who has just been diagnosed with your mental illness. What do you wish someone had told you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines

It can happen in a second. One minute you’re feeling good about life and then boom, it’s dark again.

When you suffer from depression, you don’t have the luxury of quickly “snapping out of it.” You can’t just go back to before — before the disease reminded you that you’re worthless and a failure. Before it told you there’s no use trying to reach your goals because you never will.

The messages you hear from your own mind have the power to isolate you. You get trapped in a place of loneliness where you actually believe what you’re thinking; so you sink and fall back into that dark hole of despair and it feels like there’s no way out.

After 20 plus years of experiencing this “no matter what” depression, it can still take me down.

“No matter what” depression happens even if you can count 1,000 blessings. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t had your heart broken, been fired from a job or lost a loved one recently — the depression switches on and you feel doomed. Here are some actions I’ve taken to relieve some of the suffering that comes with this disease:

Before, accepting my depression didn’t feel like an option. I thought it meant accepting I’m OK with it. And if I was OK with it that meant I liked it. I now know this is my key to freedom because acceptance is an active choice. By accepting it, I feel free.

Surrendering is another action I never thought was a choice, but it absolutely is. Surrendering doesn’t mean giving up — I can be a strong person and still surrender. It just acknowledges that fighting against ourselves doesn’t get us very far. But what do we surrender and to whom do we surrender it? In surrendering myself to my “Higher Power” (God, Universe, Buddha), I realized I cannot overcome my depression on my own. When I get to the point of being 100 percent ready to surrender, I get on my knees, close my eyes and say, “Universe, I hand this pain and suffering over to you. Please give me strength to make it through this day. Amen.”

The last action I take is to actively practice self-compassion. When your mind is telling you horrible things that are temporarily out of your control, self-compassion is absolutely necessary. For example, when bad thoughts arise instead of saying, “See, you are doomed to feel depressed forever. You are such a loser. You’re isolating from people again today,” I choose to say to myself, “I love you and support you no matter what. You are not your thoughts and nothing you are thinking is the truth.” This takes such a weight off my shoulders. I choose to respond to negative emotions with sympathy, kindness and understanding.

If your self-compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” — Jack Kornfield

Just knowing there are things I can do when that “no matter what” depression hits makes this unfortunate experience a little less painful. These practices have allowed me more freedom and inner strength, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Follow this journey on Happiness, Love and Light

The Mighty is asking the following: Give advice to someone who has just been diagnosed with your mental illness. What do you wish someone had told you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines

My depression story officially began at age 16 when I first got help for my debilitating symptoms. The help I’ve gotten for my depression has been kind, gentle and compassionate; the help was from people who loved me and who wanted me to feel better.

Yet, I was never sure if the help was the right help. For 19 years, it came in the form of medication and talk therapy, designed to help my body have more of this neurotransmitter I lacked and to talk about what must have led to the neurotransmitter’s disappearance. As long as I’m compliant with the plan, my worst symptoms are at bay. But underneath the Prozac, my body was still not well. My body was still tired and weak and foggy — just with the volume turned down. What I’ve really wanted? To be alive and well.

My treatment plan forgot a basic question that no one — no doctor, no psychiatrist, no counselor, no nurse — ever asked: why does Amanda’s body not make enough serotonin? They created solutions that would alter my mind — and I knew all along that my depression was in my body.

Do you notice the disconnect? That we even talk about the mind and body as two separate things? We accept the assumption the mind is separate from the body, in a command center miles away. No one understood that my entire body needed attention.

It wasn’t for lack of clues. I gave them clues. Every person I’ve shared my depression story with has heard the same line: “It never starts with sadness. I’m great with sadness. I feel it, I value it, I learn from it, I embrace it and I eventually allow it to pass. It always, every time, starts with physical fatigue. I’m really tired. I’m so tired in my body all I want to do is sleep. I sleep so much that my appetite goes away. It’s like I’m hibernating. I physically shut down. And going days and days like that starts to take a toll on my mind. What I first notice in my thoughts is not sadness or anxiety, but simple fogginess — like I can’t remember what I just read in a book or I glaze over when people are talking to me.  I’m zapped of energy and am physically unable to do anything of value. Everything is a chore. Within weeks of the first signs of fatigue, I’m withdrawn, lonely, unable to cope with any amount of stress. All symptoms of major depression.

At times, the symptoms landed me in the hospital. One time, a sophomore in college, I drove in the dark and turned my headlights off, hoping some other car would crash into me. I wanted someone to help me, but I didn’t want the same kind of help. I wanted help for my body. I wanted, too, a good and socially acceptable reason to be “nowhere” for a while. I wanted my body to feel alive again. And for some, it seems like a woman in a hospital bed from a car crash is more OK than a woman in a hospital bed because she’s “crazy.”

I found my way out of there only by promising I’d return to the treatment plan. So I did.  Prozac, counseling.

There are more of these stories, although they didn’t all lead to the hospital. But every single one of them begins with fatigue. Not sadness.

This summer, I tried something new. I went to another doctor — one who practices functional medicine. I told my story and said I wanted to find a way into the depression to find out what it had to tell me about my body. That I didn’t believe the old solutions really made me well. That even if it didn’t help, I wanted to try a different way — a way of inquiry instead of patchwork solutions.

And for the first time in my 19 years of seeking help, someone listened. Someone asked, “I wonder what’s going on in your body?” Someone said, instead of just treating the symptoms, let’s get curious. Let’s figure out why. And for almost three hours, this doctor and nurse team listened to my story. They mapped out my symptoms, major life events and other details. And they’ve tested my blood, my spit, even my shit. (I mean, if dogs can get a stool sample once a year, why not, right?) And my body gave the doctors all the clues they needed. It was there all along, running through my veins. My body had a story to tell my mind could never express.

I’m Prozac-free today after more than six months of this deep inquiry into my body. After about a 3-week period of adjustment off of the medicine — during which I was a mess — I’m experiencing health like I must have had as a kid. I have a healthy appetite. I eat good food when I’m hungry and I quit eating when I’m full. I don’t want to nap. I finish my days at work with energy to contribute to my family. I’m able to give baths and cook dinner and play outside. This is a miracle.

The miracle was possible because someone approached me as a woman capable of wellness and wholeness; a woman worth asking the hard questions about.

I’m most grateful for the spirit in me that would not give up — that believed there were answers worth getting. I’m grateful for the field of functional medicine that asks the harder questions about root cause.

I’m grateful that I didn’t end my life before I found a way to really live. I’m grateful the help I got was given in love.

But running on a parallel path beside my gratitude is a path of deep grief for the 19 years I believed I was crazy, poorly-designed and defective. I’m sad for the days I lived in a fog. For the moments of my kids’ lives I’ve missed. For the hundreds of thousands of people who are also living in a story that says they’re not worth asking hard questions about. For the countless adolescents, young adults, middle-age people and elderly people who are living inside a story that says they aren’t enough. For all of those who still need help. I grieve for you and I grieve for me. So I tell my story. You aren’t alone. And you are powerful beyond all the labels and cures you’ve been given.

Follow this journey on Balcony Falls

The Mighty is asking the following: If you live with a mental illness, what barriers of treatment have you experienced? What’s a change in the system you’d like to see? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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