watercolor painting of eyes

The Thick Fog of Depression

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Depression, like a fog that descends in over the sea, starts out slowly. It is still kind of clear; you can see to the other side. Then gradually it becomes thicker and thicker, and you wake up one day and discover you cannot see the other side. It is so thick and heavy; the fog is sitting on every part of your body… as though there are weights. You feel as though you are dragging yourself through.

The loss of sight of the other side starts to suck all hope out of everything you do. Once the hope is gone, your brain starts to turn on you as well. The only things you start to hear are how much of a drain on everyone you are and that you are like the fog in their lives. You are a drag, useless, worthless; if you weren’t in their lives they would have sunshine and rainbows.

In the midst of the fog you start to suffocate. Breathing becomes hard, you start to feel sick in the stomach, a lump develops in your throat, your hand tingles and the thoughts start to race in your mind that you will never see the other side again.

You start trying to frantically clear the fog, but it doesn’t work. The harder you try to push it out of the way, the more your mind starts suffocating you and the harder it is to breathe.

To the outside world you put on the smile because how can you possibly explain that you are drowning in fog? The last thing anyone else needs to hear is about the fog you are living in; you don’t want to burden him or her. You smile so they think you are OK, when really every day the fog gets heavier and the anxiety that you will never see the other side again gets more frantic.

You feel a little like a duck: cool, calm and graceful on the surface. Meanwhile underneath the water where no one can see, your legs are moving faster and faster, but you are getting nowhere. You can’t see which way to turn or even know which way is up, and the more you spin the harder it is to breathe until it feels like you might drown.

The pain of the emotional fog gets harder and harder to endure. If only there was a way for a light to shine its way through the fog — for you to find the edge, for you to hang on. Until then you keep fumbling your way through, trying to drown out the voices screaming at you that you are useless, worthless, unlovable, a failure and will never amount to anything. 

It is scary there in the darkness of the thick, suffocating fog, with all the noise. It hurts, and it is so lonely. But you keep holding on because you don’t want anyone else to feel like this.

Then one day as the fog starts to lighten. You remember how to breathe again, you can see some lights in the far off distance. Maybe, through the fog, you even see a rainbow that gives you hope and the promise of a new day.

The fog, no matter how thick, never lasts forever, and it comes and goes like a ghost in the night. You never know why it came and can’t predict how long it will stay, but if you can hold on, it will pass. It is the holding on in the dark, with the noise, through the loneliness (even in a room full of people) all the while fighting for breath, that is the hardest of all.

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 by Sillier Than Sally Designs.

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Dear Kid Cudi, You Have Nothing to Be Ashamed Of

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Dear Cudi,

I woke up early this morning. Like earlier than usual. Why? I’m not sure. I got on Facebook because I couldn’t go back to sleep. I saw one of my Facebook friends tagged me in a post you’d written. When I read the post I understood why I was tagged. (You can read the transcript of this post below).

kid cudi's facebook message


Your writing literally brought me to tears. I understand where you’re coming from. I’m sorry you feel you’ve let people down and that you’re feeling ashamed. I’m sorry you have been dealing with this illness for so long. I know it can feel frustrating that you haven’t found the light at the end of the tunnel yet (I say yet because one day you will).

I want you to know you have nothing to be ashamed of… nothing at all. Depression and anxiety can be a nightmare. They can swallow you whole to the point you feel no way out. I also know how judgmental people can be when it comes to mental illness. Some people make you feel like you don’t even want to even bring up your struggles. Some try to make you feel weak or ashamed when you should feel neither. You’re “sick” or “weak.”

I just wanted to let you know I’m proud of you! So very proud! What you wrote was not easy — especially now, when you’re in so much pain. In spite of that pain you still spoke up. You realize that right now the pain is too much and you can’t deal with it on your own. That takes strength and courage. You’re a fighter!

A lot of men feel like they aren’t suppose to feel emotional or go through this kind of pain. Many men are taught from a young age to always “be a man” and not cry or show any weaknesses. That has made many men suppress their thoughts and feelings. This is perhaps why men die at the hands of suicide at such higher rates than women. Many don’t know how to ask for help in these situations. Never feel ashamed because you asked for help.

Cudi, you’re allowed to go through things. You’re allowed to not be OK right now. You’re a human being just like the rest of us. You haven’t let any of us down. You’re actually a hero in my eyes. The fact that you spoke up has more than likely saved some lives. Just like I mentioned earlier, many men go through this in silence. The fact that you used your platform to address you’re getting help will make others want to get help as well. Again, you should feel proud and not ashamed. 

I want to let you know one more thing before I close out this letter. It was not long ago that I wanted to die too. That I felt ashamed just like you. Now I know my illness was never my weakness. Going through major depression and mild anxiety never made me weak. From 2007 -2014 I had moments I wanted to die. I also had a close call with death during those years. Now in 2016 I’m telling people why they should keep living, why they should never give up. Your recovery is possible. You’re going to make it! I’m rooting for you, and I’m so very proud of you. I know this letter may never reach you, but I mean every word I’ve said.

With all the love in my heart, Jasmin

*Kid Cudi’s full post reads:

Its been difficult for me to find the words to what Im about to share with you because I feel ashamed. Ashamed to be a leader and hero to so many while admitting I’ve been living a lie. It took me a while to get to this place of commitment, but it is something I have to do for myself, my family, my best friend/daughter and all of you, my fans.
Yesterday I checked myself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges.
I am not at peace. I haven’t been since you’ve known me. If I didn’t come here, I wouldve done something to myself. I simply am a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday of my life. Theres a ragin violent storm inside of my heart at all times. Idk what peace feels like. Idk how to relax. My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it. I cant make new friends because of it. I dont trust anyone because of it and Im tired of being held back in my life. I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling. Why not me? I guess I give so much of myself to others I forgot that I need to show myself some love too. I think I never really knew how. Im scared, im sad, I feel like I let a lot of people down and again, Im sorry. Its time I fix me. Im nervous but ima get through this.
I wont be around to promote much, but the good folks at Republic and my manager Dennis will inform you about upcoming releases. The music videos, album release date etc. The album is still on the way. Promise. I wanted to square away all the business before I got here so I could focus on my recovery.

If all goes well ill be out in time for Complexcon and ill be lookin forward to seeing you all there for high fives and hugs.

Love and light to everyone who has love for me and I am sorry if I let anyone down. I really am sorry. Ill be back, stronger, better. Reborn. I feel like shit, I feel so ashamed. Im sorry.

I love you,

Scott Mescudi

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

This post originally appeared on AFROPUNK.

Image via Facebook – Kid Cudi

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When Depression Tells You Everything You Thought About Yourself Is True

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Before I had the vocabulary for it, I didn’t think anything of what was going on inside my head. If I wasn’t palming it off as quirkiness, I was sweeping it under the ever-growing rug of social awkwardness I was apparently weaving. My sister and I shared laughs over my borderline frantic calls to stop the car, followed by my flinging myself out and running up to the door to check if I’d locked it. My mother wondered offhandedly if I was spending too much time reading instead of socializing and whether it was doing more harm than good. I recognized her concern but could never find the words to tell my protective, fearless mother that books were infinitely gentler than my schoolmates could be. 

Almost every parent-teacher interview I sat through in elementary school involved some form or other of, “She’s a very bright girl, but… very quiet. We worry about her on the playground.” Mortified, I would assure everyone I had friends, close friends, few though they may be, and that was that, case closed. “Quiet” and “smart” became adjacent puzzle pieces of me-on-the-outside. The me-everyone-else-saw.

The only problem was, those characteristics became the bedrock of me-on-the-outside, and back then, I didn’t know how to change any of it even if I had wanted to. It created an intense amount of pressure. I started spiraling in a low-key destructive cycle of worrying incessantly about everything and anything. My anxiety was nameless and consuming, and all I could do was comment laughingly about how my chest seemed too small for the amount of air my lungs wanted to bring in. 

My family had taken the opposite approach in their interactions with me. While everyone outside our bubble of a home saw me as “smart,” my parents routinely told me they didn’t expect me to do anything but try. They still wanted me to keep on trying my best. Failure, it seemed to my pre-teen and teenaged brain, was already written into my blood, and it was inevitable that I was going to disappoint everyone I knew. Either people were going to realize I was a sham and the reputation they’d helped me cultivate was groundless, or I was going to try, and try, and succeed for a handful of moments, only to be brought low by something insurmountable. Failure, in that case, wouldn’t even mean failure-of-the-task. It’d be a failure-of-character, because I’d been lazy and hadn’t worked hard enough. 

As I grew up, all of my idiosyncrasies grew with me. They ballooned inside me, taking root within my body, until I woke up one day and found I had somehow morphed over time into a living greenhouse, in which everything I hated about myself was allowed to flourish. 

I’ve heard depression being described most often to me as a weight — an anchoring, exhausting heaviness. But to me, it’s always been a particularly needy friend. It slides its hand into mine. It walks inside my shoes. It wants to tell me of the world, to show me life, and people, and myself. It tells me it understands me more than anyone else because how could anyone know me better? We’ve grown up together, you and I, it’ll whisper and soothe, never so intimate as when I can’t sleep. I can’t shake its hands off my body because it seems to think this too is a possession. It is a fist; it is a slide of a palm against mine, it is stretching fingers that snag at my sleeves and render me still. 

It lingers beside me, hooking its ankle with mine, and even when it’s quiet, it never lets me think, not for a second, that it’s gone. 

Let me tell you what a day looks like for me in this life I’ve been strong-armed into sharing. 

It’s dark when I wake up, with the gradual change in seasons pitching my room in half-shadows. My curtains are drawn, the daily rumble of traffic has yet to start, and the tinny pop song that is my alarm is cutting through the silence. My eyes are heavy, and my limbs are puppet-taut. My fingers ache in solidarity with my back, though I grasp at the covers and pull them back anyway. The floor is cold, and I shiver. (The shivering doesn’t stop.)

My hands curl around a butter knife as I listen to the coffee wheeze through its morning brew. There is a taxi waiting outside my window, like clockwork, and I think of how somewhere, someone is leaving. I wonder at how they can be so brave, when I can’t even get my toaster to be on the right setting. 

There are splashes of coffee on the counter. I inhale, then exhale, and find my hands steadier than I’d expected. I glance at the dark screen of my phone and debate whether I should go into work or not. Somedays I do. Somedays I don’t. There is a 50/50 chance of either at this point. 

Scenario 1 — If I Do: There’s a rising jealousy in me as I think of my future self, already on the way home. I smile, though, shaking out the creases in my optimism and pulling it tight around me. The only one who can drive you away is you, I tell myself, walking through the front doors. I’ll greet my coworkers. I’ll be useful and helpful. I’ll see someone and feel my stomach drop, though I won’t care to know why. I’ll turn a corner, see faces and lips freeze, a conversation abruptly silenced, and I’ll smile. Someone will ask me if I’m OK, or how my evening was, or if I had any plans for the weekend. I’ll smile again and read insincerity in place of interest. I get ready to go home, wondering why I’d bothered to come. 

Scenario 2 — If I Don’t: I tell myself I’m a useless lump for being unable to do something so simple as going to work. I think about all the other times I’ve been a bad investment. I might eat if it’s going to be one of those days, or I might not if I’m intent on punishing myself. I avoid the texts and emails I see lighting up my phone, until the guilt gnaws at me and I turn it face down. I’ll curl into bed, and behind my eyelids are pinpricks of light. I’m old, and getting older still. 

Some days, I can’t leave my apartment. Imagining the open sky, and the fresh air, and all the people I’m bound to see on the street makes my stomach cramp in anticipation. Some days, I force myself to go out because staying in means facing the fact that I don’t have any blue pens, only black, and what kind of sorry excuse for an adult am I? It is inconceivable that I could be so stupid. 

I never know when it’ll start. 

I’m exhausted all the time. (It’s draining, hating yourself so entirely.) 

I didn’t go to work today

Image via Thinkstock.

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When Men Feel They Can't Ask for Help

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I recently had a guy friend tell me, “Life would be easier if I was a woman.”

Wow. Let’s all take a moment and re-read that.

“Life would be easier if I was a woman.”

It’s because he believes if he was a woman, it would be easier to find support for his depression.

Through feminism, women are striving to have the same rights as men. And while we still have a long way to go, my friend taught me there can be benefits to being female that men don’t have either.

I think that’s why feminism gets a bad rep sometimes. Because some feminists have mainly focused on gaining all the benefits of being a man, while they may seem unwilling to share the benefits of being a woman. To me, that’s not true feminism. Feminism means equality.

For instance, feminism, to me, also means I don’t expect a man to pay for me on a date. It means if I see a man I think is attractive at the end of the bar, I’ll buy him a drink instead of just expecting him to approach me. It means if a single father is the better parent, then courts should recognize this. It means not judging a man for making less money than me. It means letting little boys play with dolls, paint their nails or join ballet class if they choose, just like little girls shouldn’t be judged for choosing a toy truck over Barbies.

And most importantly, I feel, feminism means fostering previously deemed “feminine” qualities in boys. It means encouraging them to talk about their feelings, seek help when they need it, and never, ever telling them to “man up” or calling them emasculating names.

For me, I have a close-knit group of female friends who I can talk to about my problems, who will help me feel better and who will let me cry on their shoulders without judging me. If I need any emotional help, I have no problem asking for it. And I think this has saved my life on many occasions.

While some men have this kind of support, others, like my friend, don’t.

Could this be one of the reasons suicide by men is more than three times more prevalent than by women in the United States? According to an article in BC Medical Journal, “Men’s lack of social support, relative to that available to women, has been implicated as a risk factor in male suicide… Few preventive efforts or policies specifically targeting male suicide have been developed or evaluated, which further contributes to its lack of visibility as a major public health problem.”

For me, being a feminist doesn’t mean only fighting for women’s rights. It also means raising awareness of the things that aren’t fair for men. It means talking about this “silent epidemic” and working to increase resources and social support for men, just as we have for women.

Yes, feminism means equal pay for equal work. It means more women being promoted to leadership positions in the workplace. It means not viewing women as sex objects. It means women are strong and independent and don’t need a man to survive. But when men and women truly are equal, which I hope happens sooner rather than later, it won’t just benefit women. It will benefit everyone.

Image via Thinkstock.

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.

Follow this journey on Meant to Live

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The Google Search History of a Person With Depression

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Usually I hit up the Google machine for super boring reasons. I need directions. I can’t remember the name of a song. You get it. But when I’m depressed, Google goes from being my concierge to my confidant. Google is there as I move from denial to desolation, capturing my lowest moments and my most earnest attempts at self-care.

I recently emerged from three months of darkness… and my search history shows it. Some of the searches took place in my cubicle, others underneath the covers. I was feeling a lot when I typed each phrase, and their collective weight is akin to the heaviness that was in my heart.

So – before I change my mind about sharing this – here’s an uncensored chronology of my latest bout with depression:

“depression symptoms”

Because, you know, maybe my professionally-trained therapist was wrong.

“drowning GIF”

I like to keep my depression casual when drafting emails to coworkers.

“how to stop sleeping so much”

Never in my life have I been so confused about whether it was 8 a.m. or p.m

“can people tell I’m depressed”

It would probably help if I dried my hair and wore legit pants.

“dog adoption beagle”

I’m so lonely.

“short-term disability depression”

Is there any chance I could cry at home instead of at work?

“what they tell you on a suicide hotline”

Seems rude to call a hotline person in the middle of the night. I’ll just ask the internet.

“makeup application minneapolis”

Getting my makeup done for a friend’s [extremely casual] birthday party will bring my self-confidence back, right? Right?

“how to move past depression”

That makeup idea definitely didn’t work.

“pinterest inspirational quotes”

Never felt more basic in my life.*

*For the record, I found one I loved. It goes like this, “At any given moment, you have the power to say: This is not how the story is going to end.”

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

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The One Where 'Friends' Helped Me Get Through Depression

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Imagine it’s a cold, rainy and gloomy Saturday afternoon. The perfect way to spend the day might be to bundle up on the couch with a warm blanket and some hot chocolate catching up on one of your favorite TV shows. Now imagine it’s a beautiful, sunny day, but you can’t get yourself out of bed. Each hour goes by as if it were a day as you think about all the things you want to do, but you just can’t work up enough energy to get out of bed and do it. You just lay there, staring at the walls, tossing and turning to no end, your mind spinning in every direction — sad, lonely, hopeless, wasting the day away. This is just one example of what it’s like to live with major depression

The good news is that depression is treatable, especially by finding a medication that works well along with the combination of therapy and the support of family and friends, but sometimes the arts can play a role in giving you that extra boost or smile when you need it most. In my experience, one thing that has helped is turning on my favorite show, which happens to be one of America’s most beloved sitcoms, “Friends.” I don’t even need to be watching it — just hearing those familiar voices I’ve known since 1994 is enough to keep me relaxed and laughing. It gives me that extra push to start the day. Whether it’s Ross’ over-reacting, Chandler’s sarcasm, Phoebe’s quirkiness, Joey’s naivete, Monica’s neurotic ways or Rachel’s clumsiness, it’s this comfort that has helped me during stressed and anxious times. Everyone’s experience with depression is different, but escaping through a TV show, movie, theater or even music with positive messages, can aid in the healing process. 

Since creative writing has always played a big part in my healing process, this inspired me to write a play, “The One With Friends: A TV Show Within a Play,” about how “Friends” has helped in my rough patches. The play takes place in a Santa Monica coffee shop where a struggling actor with depression and no confidence strikes up a conversation with a stranger — an assignment by his therapist. The stranger turns out to be an aspiring TV writer who is going through a depressed time herself, and just happens to be writing the reunion episode for “Friends” as a fun side project. As the two begin their road to getting to know each other, without the help of social media, apps or phones, they find connection and healing through the popular sitcom which leads them to becoming friends themselves, but not without conflict and struggles along the way. The play is not only an homage to “Friends,” but an opportunity to use the arts to show an accurate portrayal of major depression with symptoms such as anxiety, loneliness, fatigue, suicidal ideation and self-harm. Through the play, I wanted to show empathy and understanding for the illness and its symptoms, rather than stigmatizing it, and offer a story of hope.

Another component of the play is that we are conducting a research study to explore how the arts can promote healing, since there is little research on the correlation between the arts and mental health. For this, we’ll be giving the audience an anonymous survey to fill out before and after the play regarding depression stigma. 

If you know someone who is depressed or going through a depressed time, take the time to reach out to them and offer support. Make plans for lunch, a movie, or even just a walk to let them talk. And if you are depressed, there is no shame in reaching out for support through family and friends. Keep reaching out until you find the right friend and family member who understands. If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is available to everyone. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889. You will be helped by a skilled, trained crisis worker who will listen to your problems and will tell you about mental health services in your area. All calls are confidential. 

Depression is treatable and while it may take time to heal and find the best treatment plan, don’t ever give up. And remember, turn on your “Friends” when you need your day to be a little brighter.

“The One With Friends” will be performed Friday, Oct. 7th and Sunday, Oct. 9th at UCLA.  For more information on the play and to reserve free tickets if you are in the Los Angeles area, click here.

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