Man speaking into megaphone; symbols coming out other end

Talking about the darkness that lives inside me hasn’t always been easy. It took years for me to tell anyone other than my parents. When I was first diagnosed with depression, I felt so alone. I was surrounded by people who didn’t understand what went on in my head every day, and it was a difficult thing to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it.

Looking at me and my life from the outside, you’d never know. I work hard to slap a smile on my face every morning. It’s never easy, but it’s necessary. I greet everyone I pass with that same smile and a “hello” hoping to make their day better than it was before. It reassures me I’m still needed on this Earth. I try to be as upbeat and as chipper as possible, even though I know it will completely and totally exhaust me for the rest of the day.

From the inside, you’d see the darkness that dwells in my soul. You’d see the hurt that creeps into my heart and shatters it into a million pieces. You’d see all the tears I hold back on beautiful, sunny days as I lay in bed, too exhausted and sad to greet the world. You’d see the terrible things I think about myself held behind my tongue and bouncing around my brain fighting to escape my lips.

One day, I decided to let the light in. No one would ever choose to live in darkness. I started telling people who were close to me about my diagnosis. I then talked with extended family members, classmates and coworkers. A funny thing happened once I started to share my story. I found out I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was. I heard the phrase, “Me too,” come out of many people’s mouth. I found out that I wasn’t the only one who struggled.

It is an incredible feeling to know there are people just like you in a world. We cried together about the bad days and celebrated the little victories we accomplished.

When it all comes down to it, I share my story for two reasons. The first one is for awareness. Mental health needs to become a priority in our country. We cannot be afraid to talk because with more awareness comes more support. With more support comes more programs and professionals who can really help people in need or in crisis.

I also share my story to shine my light for others. For the people who can’t navigate the high seas of sadness, I am the lighthouse. For people who can’t find their way through the depths of depression, I am a flashlight. I shine the way because others have shined the way for me. We cannot be afraid of this light. You must shine it for others to guide them through this confusing and terrifying journey. It is a beacon of hope on cloudy days and a sign that we are never alone. Collectively, we will bring light to this condition and make sure no one is afraid of the dark ever again.

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Depression is like a thunderstorm that strikes at the heart of our body and soul. It ravages our personality, massacres our behavior and twists our thought patterns. Many who have survived the storm of depression would guarantee one thing. Once the storm was over, they were not the same person they used to be. The mark is imprinted on our mind and soul forever. Our lives change forever.

Though that sounds so pessimistic and chaotic, the change caused by depression may not necessarily be a liability. There are some changes that can brighten up our life in ways we have never thought of. There are always silver linings that can decorate our injured soul and replenish what we lost.

1. You feel everything deeply.

Now, some of you might regard that as a disadvantage. Feeling emotions has always been considered as a flaw in personality. A flaw that affects relationships and careers alike. Yet, believe me, there is a silver lining to that as well. Just as we feel anger and guilt deeply, we would also begin to feel deeper happiness. Even the sight of a flower booming or the sunrise could inflict a sense of tranquility upon me. A survivor of depression is never satisfied with superficiality. They dig deeper to get a better knowledge of their inner self as well as the world around them.

2. You have enormous amount of empathy.

This one factor is enough for me to justify the struggle I go through in depression. When the storm ends, we are left with enormous amount of empathy for the struggle of others, a quality that seems rare among humans these days.

We can feel our hearts break at the sight of suffering, be it the suffering of our loved ones or of any living soul. Since we have been through pain, we know what is like to be the person who’s struggling. A survivor of depression can empathize with any person and help reduce their pain. And in turn, we achieve an inner peace that can replenish our soul.

3.  A chance to rebuild your life.

Every storm leaves a whole lot of destruction in its wake and depression is no different in that aspect. And surviving the storm of depression is the most difficult part of all. It might last for weeks, months and maybe, even years. It requires patience, love, empathy and kindness to survive it. So, if you are going through depression right now, be patient. Go easy on yourself. Outside the bubble of struggling you’re stuck in, there is hope. Remember that.

Remember that if you survive, you have a chance to rebuild. A chance to rebuild your life on a very strong foundation made of struggles, pain and tears.

The feeling of wanting to die is overpowering. I kneel on the floor, body caving inward as I grasp my head between clenched fingers. I slam my eyes shut, open my mouth and scream without sound. Numb, my mind is frazzled and frenzied, accelerating out of control. The world is building far too big and far too fast. Its weight is crushing my mind.

Hold on.

My brain slips, my fingers tightened around my skull trying desperately to hold my world together as my thoughts race. A panic starts to build, I clench harder and harder. I squeeze my eyes tighter, burrowing my state of conscious choice deep behind my lids, hoping the mere pressure of my tightly sealed vision will hold my mind in place. But it is slipping.

Hold on.

I open my eyes and drop my hands, leaning back I gasp for air, just now realizing I haven’t been breathing. The yellow light bulbs inset in the ceiling above me looked vile in their filthy, penetrating presence. I stand up quickly, flicking the light switch off and letting the calming darkness pour down around me. Though I have taken a shower an hour before, I feel uncomfortable, dirty and unclean.

My skin crawls and I can’t escape it. I want to be washed clean. With the moonlight shining through it, I opened my window and take the screen out, resting it gently against my bedroom wall. I climb out and onto the roof from the first floor extending out below me. I stand with my arms wide open on my rooftop. I close my eyes again, feeling the rain wash over my skin, soak my hair and calm my mind.

As the night wraps her darkness around me, I felt a stillness begin in my head. I open my eyes, step forward and stand with my toes touching the edge of the roof, two stories up. This isn’t enough to kill me, is it? I think, looking down. I shut my eyes again. I take a deep breath, as the rain cascades down along my body, fighting everything inside of me to jump.

Hold on.

Is life really too precious to lose? The thought draws pangs inside of me. It has to be. God, it just had to be, even though it doesn’t feel like it. The pain spreads, starting in the core of my chest, outward through my torso as it punches a gaping, raw hole in my chest. I feel the freedom to cry. Wrapping my arms around myself, on this cold November night, I weep and whisper a prayer.

Depression, please, be still.

That is how I often felt, when dealing with the depression before I stabilized. It was an unending pain. I couldn’t make it stop. This symptom is often belittled or misunderstood about depression or the depressive side of bipolar disorder.

Many people want to say depression isn’t sadness, and they are partially correct. Depression isn’t solely sadness. It can be rage, depravity, numbness, cognitive dysfunction and so many other horrible things. Yet, sadness is definitely part of depression for many, many people.

It isn’t your typical sadness, though. It isn’t something that has a clear end or a, “Once I cry it out, I will feel better,” type of sadness. It is an immeasurable, unending grief. Sometimes it focuses itself around a physical thing, loss of a loved one, failure in life or something of the like. Other times, the sadness of depression centers itself around the people with depression themselves. They are grieving the idea that they aren’t lovable, they aren’t worthwhile or their life is pointless. Sometimes, the sadness has no grounds. It just is.

Mental illness can be masked for many different reasons and in many different ways. Not everyone who has clinical depression develops that incredible sadness, and not everyone with incredible sadness has clinical depression. Yet, that symptom of either life or depression can be one in the same and requires the same reaction.

Just be there. I can’t tell you how many times I wished someone was just there when I was struggling with undiagnosed depression and even before when life hit me particularly hard. When you are there for someone who is weeping or unbelievably sad, you open up their ability to confide in you and get help if they need it.

There was one defining moment, in the heat of my first depressive episode that lasted for months. It was one kind act by one old man who helped me in ways I don’t even know if I can explain. I was in a parking lot, sitting in my car and wringing the steering wheel in my hands, sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn’t do it anymore. Life was too much. The depression was just too much.

Then, I heard a tap on my window. I wiped my eyes quickly and looked up into the kind eyes of an old man. He motioned for me to get out of the car. I wanted to drive away, but I didn’t. I got out and stood there. He reached out, put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was all right.

He then squeezed my shoulder and told me not to give up. I looked up into those eyes, old, wrinkled and wise, and I felt OK, even for just a moment. It was enough to get me through that horrible day. I still think of that man sometimes. I don’t know if he is even on this earth anymore. He is an angel either way.

All it takes sometimes for someone to hang onto life a little longer is for someone to go out of their way and care a little more than everyone else seems to. All it takes is compassion. It isn’t hard, and you can save someone’s life.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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I’ll lie in wait. When the door is closed and the lights are off is when I emerge. You are alone. But you have me. I sneak in and you reveal your deepest worries and regrets. You confide in me. I reaffirm and show you reasons why these worries are true. They are fabrications and I love to spin stories, but I have your trust.

I have convinced you that you are alone; I have you convinced you are the root of the problems around you, I have played on your deepest fears and I have even caused you to hurt yourself physically, just to gain relief from my constant onslaught of darkness.

Some have been inspired by listening to others talk openly about me, and some have confronted me head on and sought help themselves. But I’m confident I have you. You don’t know any of this. You don’t even know my true name is depression. I’m comfortable here lying in bed with you. You continue to mindlessly sift through YouTube. All the while I do my work in the background.

It’s starting to dawn on you what I am, but you haven’t named me, probably out of fear. We’re in bed again and you’re in so much pain, you’ve forgotten about the rest of your body. I have you stuck in one of my favorite stories. Your misery is inviting.

Ha! You are having that thought again; I have reduced it to a tiny thought. I’ve done my work on it: “Seek help.”  You’ve wanted to go to the toilet for three hours now and you haven’t even made a move… do you really think you can walk all the way to the student counseling services?

Shit, I need help. Anxiety wake up!

It’s only 3 a.m., Depression. He’ll be alone even longer if you convince him to skip lectures and stay in bed. Ah, depression – what have you done? You’re supposed to keep him stuck, not piss him off.

Look kid, you will have to get dressed to go there, otherwise people will look at you weird if you arrive in a tracksuit and a wrinkled hoody. The counselors will probably only laugh at you and tell you you’re wasting their time. Imagine if everyone you know in college finds out! That’s it — stay awake thinking about that. It’s really not worth it.

Nice anxiety, I think you have him.

Man, he’s still thinking about going. That’s all he’s focusing on.

He’s held on to this thought all night. Jesus, he looks exhausted.

So am I.

Me too.

Damn, he’s moving. What do we do?

What can we do? He’s going to the counseling center.

OK, while he’s waiting in reception we will convince him to leave.

They already have his information though…

We will have time to convince him to lie…

Damn, she called him in…

Shit, he’s broken down and told her…

Be strong enough to seek help. Taking on depression as part of a team is easier than fighting on your own. There are people out there who can help.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

How do you describe depression to someone who has never gone through it? How do you give them a bit of insight? Is it even possible?

One analogue I have come up with was a friend (bear with me). Imagine having a friend (your mind), Throughout your whole life you go through everything together. You take on the world. You go through ups and downs. You support one another. You trust one another and you tell that friend everything. They give you advice. You start to have accomplishments and failures. You learn and you keep going. This friend is someone who has your back. You don’t even have to think about it. It’s like breathing, like second nature, hell this friend is part of you and you are part of him/her. If you have someone in your life, like this think about that person. If you have ever had a relationship like that or close to it, think of it for a while.

You attack the world together. Things will happen but you bounce back, get up and dust yourself off. Your friend starts to suggest you should let go of some things you love to do. Starts saying these activities or clubs (whatever) are “a lot of effort to keep doing” or “Don’t you think you should spend that time on your job instead” or “What use is that activity in the real world?” Just little hints that an activity (or whatever you love to do) should take a back seat. That the world is a serious place and as such you should act accordingly. Then you let those things slide; after all, you trust their judgement. It’s so gradual you don’t even see anything wrong with it.

Then this friend you trust and have been through so much with focuses on your worries. Every worry you tell him/her about they will respond with the mentality of “That is possible and even likely” or “Yeah I know and it is even possible for [insert even more dramatic outcome] to happen,” then lists off half logical and completely fantasized reasons that it is possible.

Side note: I guess I was kind of naive in the sense that, why wouldn’t your own mind have your best interests at heart? After all, it looked out for me for so long. Avoiding things because they are difficult (even if we love them) is a way to avoid heartache in the future. Which makes sense — you want to avoid pain. Some pain is not avoidable, however, and some even necessary. The pain I avoided in secluding myself was delivered tenfold when on my own with my overly active depression.

So your friend has basically convinced you to drop things that matter to you (that make life worth living), the tough things that give you confidence or lessons to learn from. You start to spend most of your time on your own with your friend because he/she is the only person who understands why you are hold up and don’t socialize. Then you start to realize that you are unhappy, maybe even before this. You start to realize that where was once fun and life, is now just empty. When you do laugh, it is either to cover up the hollowness you feel or it pains you because it makes you realize how empty you are.

So here is where the analogue fails. My analogue includes a friend there with you. But with depression there is no one there. Well, a more accurate description is: it feels like no one is there. You tell yourself no one will understand your logic. Although, I think avoiding pain is the most basic of human urges. The trade-off is not worth it, though. The emptiness, the pain of loneliness and the self-loathing for not doing what you want to do. It was a hard experience for me to go through, but it can be done. It is a tough and long journey but it can be traveled.

Two things I will advise people to do if they relate to this post is: Be brave and be as honest as you can with the people around you. Talk until it is uncomfortable. Then say one more sentence. As much as you wish (well, I did), no one can read your mind. You have to be honest with people and some of them will even help you. The second piece of advice is that it is your journey and no one can do this for you, although they can support you along the way. You will learn so much. I also know that if you are suffering from this, you are incredibly strong. It is torture. But I know you can survive and thrive.

To those who have seen this in someone they love, I will give you this advice: People with depression often feel like a burden to those around them. You may not feel that way towards them but in their mind it is reality. So pity does not help. Pity is useless to them. Action speaks louder than words. You need to take action because a lot of depressed people may be immobilized. You need to tell their parents; forget about what you think might happen. If you are worried, that is a sign it’s serious and the alternative could be a lot worse. Make an appointment for them: Tell them you’re going to make an appointment for them on a certain day. If they say not that day, work with them to find a day. They may be more relieved then you think. If they react negatively you have to tell them that you are worried about them and let the conversation flow from there. Don’t shy away. I would recommend having this conversation while they are in a depressed state because it is harder for them to deny it.

Truth above all else. Take a deep breath and tell them how you are feeling. I believe honesty (as massive a cliche as it is) is the best policy.

It’s been a week since I published “Depression: 10 Things You Should Know,” two weeks since I fell into my current black hole, and in that time, the response to that article has told me that people really do want to do whatever they can do help us when we’re low. And I wanted to share with you the top 10 things that helped me.

1. Food

I stopped eating when I fell. Not an active decision, mind you, but the feeling you get when you want to eat, when you need to eat, I didn’t have it. I didn’t want food. But just because I was numb didn’t mean I didn’t need to eat. So remind us. My husband bribed me with uninterrupted fort time (hidden in my bed) for the rest of my worst night, but I had to eat first. No food, no hiding. So I ate. And I continue to make sure I eat something, even if I don’t feel like it because I don’t want him to have to remind me, and physical fatigue from lack of food only feeds my depression. It’s harder to get out when you’re actually physically tired. Also, for some of us, we eat our feelings. Not exactly healthy either. Can’t just tell us to stop (increases feelings of shame), but if you live with us, provide healthier options we can eat en masse. When you see us reaching for that new bag of snack-of-choice, maybe suggest doing something else. “Let’s take a walk” or “let’s see what’s on the DVR” are better distractions. Even, “You want to talk about it?” Doesn’t mean we’ll always do it, but sometimes it works.

2. Social Behavior

Don’t get frustrated with us when we can’t manage to be social. When we’re depressed, the process to get ready for a social engagement can be overwhelming and exhausting. If it’s been a while since we’ve interacted, people are going to ask questions, and then we’re caught up in the choice of do we explain it a million times? Or do we pretend nothing is wrong? Either option is mentally wearing, so many times we just opt out. But please continue to invite us. When you stop (and logically, we understand. After all, you keep inviting, we keep declining… it’s kind of a bum deal), we see it as a confirmation that we aren’t worthy. So on us, but it’s how it plays out. And do be happy when we come. I’ve gone to events feeling on the verge of tears when the host acted like it was inconvenient of me to show up. Or that I wasn’t acting “happy enough” to be there. We don’t want to be an obligation. We want to interact with people we like. But don’t be upset when we leave early. Be happy we made it out of our fort long enough to interact.

3. Crying

I hate crying. Despite what I tell everybody, if I’m crying then I feel like a complete and utter failure at life. So I rarely let myself do it on purpose. I know a lot of my fellow depressed folk feel the same way. So remind us it’s good to let it out. That it’s healthy. That you are a safe place if we feel we cannot do it alone.And then, let us hysterically cry. And babble. And get. it. out. Even if it sounds “crazy,” sometimes just hearing it outside of our heads during a therapeutic cry can make things better.

4. Anger

On the other end of the spectrum, depression chops our fuse really short. So we may be quicker to anger and everything may irritate us. Even ourselves! And we tend to go off on those closest to us, mainly because we’re hoping somewhere in our heads you will love us anyway. It’s not fair to you, so feel free to call us out on it. Gently, usually, but sometimes it really takes a sharp word to get us out of that headspace.

5. Remind us that depression lies

We have a voice inside our head that whispers the biggest lies into our consciousness. It tells us we are worthless, that we should stop, that giving up and giving in are our best options. It reminds us of our failures and trivializes our successes. It reaches into the deepest parts of our hearts and rends those secrets into sharp, painful barbs that hurt every single part of us. And sometimes, if we’re in a better place, we can make that voice softer, faded, muted. And sometimes we really can’t, and it gets louder, a crescendo of self-hate and worthlessness. You can remind us we are louder and stronger than that voice. It helps.

6. Lost

Now, you can’t save us from ourselves, but you can give us safe places to wander while we’re lost. Be it a well-placed book and a cup of tea. Or suggesting we should go to bed when we’re particularly frustrated. Or suggesting we get up and sit outside. There’s a good chance we’ll decline, but when you gently suggest things, you’re planting seeds.
“If I go outside with a book, no one will bother me.”

“Hmmm, I like tea.”

“He cares enough to ask, I should be able to try.”

“I like forts.”

And sometimes that’s enough to help us out. Think of it like knots in a rope. We have to do the hard work, the climbing up, but you can tie the knots along the way to make it just a little easier for us to find our way out.

7. Medication/therapy are tools, not cures

And they almost always take time to do what they’re supposed to do. While we’re being rewired, we’re going to be kind of weird. It’s weird for us, too, but I can only imagine what it’s like for my family to watch me right now as I float through some of the side effects of my medication. So please be patient as we adjust to our new world.

As I write this, I feel like my head is a floating balloon connected by only a string. Better than the all-day nausea from yesterday, but whew, it’s hard to concentrate and to talk. Therapy, good therapy, brings up a lot of unresolved crap from our past that is adversely affecting our present. And when you try to work through it, it can leave you in a rather vulnerable space. Sometimes we want to talk about it. Sometimes we really don’t. Sometimes we come out in tears. Sometimes we come out triumphant.And you, dear loved ones, get the blowback, good or bad. Most of us try to rein it in for you, but life happens. Here’s hoping we share more good than bad.

Oh, and please do not be offended if we don’t tell you what we talked about during therapy. We love you, and we don’t mean to offend by not sharing with you, but some things are best left in a space where it won’t be shared. Don’t take it as a sign that you’re a bad person, since we have to go to therapy instead of talking to you either! Sometimes the best resource is an objective person who isn’t part of our everyday life.

Lastly, being medicated or going to therapy does not mean we are “cured.” It means we are managing our disease as best as we can. We’re still going to have bad days. But we’ll have more good ones, too.

8. Have a life

Outside of making sure we’re OK. Don’t stop your life because we’re paused in ours. Unless we’ve expressed thoughts of self-harm or suicide, we’ll actually be fine in our little bubble until you return. We don’t want to be an obligation. We already feel guilty that we’re taking up so much of your time, and we’re happier to know you’ll be back eventually to check on us.

9. Listen… without fixing it

One of the hardest parts for me, when I’m depressed, is expressing myself. I’m a writer, for goodness’ sake! But in the midst of a breakdown, my linguistic skills shatter, and I feel like a giant fool when I try to talk it out. I mean, I know talking helps, but I don’t want you to look at me like I’m being ridiculous. And I don’t want you to “fix it.” Just let me get it out. Remind me I’m going to survive this, too, just like I have every other episode before this and every inevitable episode in the future. Remind me I’m strong, that this inane moment in my life isn’t weakness. That I’ve held myself together long enough, and it’s OK for me to find myself in darkness again. And most importantly, that you’ll be there for me, whatever I need. Be a safe place.

10. Respect our disease

This isn’t laziness. This isn’t us being sad. Depression is a disease that makes how we’re wired different than non-depressed people. Respect that. Respect those of us who live with it every day of our lives. Treat us like everyone else — not fragile, sad little creatures. This empowers us to respect ourselves, and we are less likely to fall into the holes our depression digs for us. And that really helps.

These are my top tens things from the past two weeks. There are so many more. Feel free to comment on what I’ve left out, what has really helped you. Thank you, friends and family, for caring about us when we’re at our lowest.

We appreciate that more than you know.

This was originally posted on

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Image via Thinkstock.

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