I Lied to You About Being Fine

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The truth is, my days haven’t been anything you can even start to imagine. I lied to you. Just like I lied to myself for a very long time. I know I look fine. But that’s because I force myself to appear that way in front of you — my family, my friends, my teachers and coworkers.

The truth is, I look fine. But I’m not. I haven’t been in a pretty long time, yet I’ve only just come to accept it. Again. Yes, again. This is not a first. Depression and I had met before. And I thought I had defeated it for good. I thought I had the tools to fight the demons. I thought I knew how to bypass all of their mischievous twists and turns. But depression is a sneaky bitch and a violent storm at the same time, and the magnitude of this earthquake is 10 times stronger than the last.

The truth about my depression is this. It’s the devil living inside my brain and my heart, on a quest to destroy all of my cells, catching every breath I take until I’m unable to inhale on my own, breaking every bone in my body until it eats me alive completely, destroys me and kills me.

It wakes me up every morning and puts these dark thoughts into my head… “F*ck… I’m still here. Why am I still here? I don’t want to be here.” And by here, it means alive.

It makes me look at the same four white walls of my bedroom again and again and again; it makes me close the curtains because the light of day would be too painful to let in. It makes me cry and it makes me ache.

It makes me harm myself sometimes, and starve myself too. When the hurt becomes unbearable, and when the tears won’t stop, pinching and punching seem to be some sort of exit doors, pushing away the constant and persistent pain inside my chest, my head, my brain, my eyes, my legs, my cheeks, my whole body.

It switches off the lights and locks me in, preventing me from just stepping out of my bedroom. It makes me lie on my bed or curl up on the floor in that corner between the window and the wooden chest of drawers, my two arms tightly surrounding my trembling knees.

It makes me stop caring. About work. About people. About anything and everything. Or at least, it makes me want to stop.

It comes crashing. At any point of day or night. Just like Dementors, it comes and reduces to ashes all the good memories and only leaves me with the obscure ones.

The truth is,  I’ve lost so many people along the way, and I feel like I’m not good enough for anyone to stay. “You feel like you don’t belong to life,” my therapist would say. The world, life, is dark, and I am not coping.

The truth is, I have depression even though I appear just fine.

Follow this journey on On My Way by Marie.

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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A Poem for Those Who Feel Like They Are Their Depression

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Here’s a poem about depression I wrote that hopefully will help you feel like you are not your depression:

I am told I have depression,

It sure feels like regression

Instead of progression.

Like I’ve relapsed,

And I’m back at square one.

This does not hold truth,

Because each time I beat an episode,

I am progressing…

 

I am like a garden

With newly planted seeds.

And each day the gardener

Comes to attend to my needs.

Getting rid of pests and weeds.

Nutrition, sunlight, water

All come to me with ease.

My roots are firm and very deep.

My stem starts to creep,

Breaking through the soil

I start to uncoil.

 

But then,

My gardener decides to stop being loyal.

 

I am told I have depression

It sure feels like regression

Instead of progression.

The sun doesn’t come out for days,

I am in a total haze.

I would like to set myself ablaze.

I guess one of these days

I’ll see the sun’s rays.

 

I am told I have depression

It sure feels like regression

Instead of progression.

 

One day,

My gardener comes back and tells me

This was all just a digression.

And that her loyalty is not to be in question.

 

So I have a confession —

I am not my depression.

 

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friends sitting against a wall supporting each other

11 Answers to ‘How Can I Help Someone With Depression?'

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The night before I entered a three-week partial hospitalization program for a major depressive episode, I invited two close friends over to my house. I explained the situation to them and asked them for their support. When they asked me how they could support me, I had no idea.

When one is in the thick of depression, it’s difficult to know what is needed, and it’s certainly difficult to reach out for support. Throughout my depressive episode, my wife had the same question: “How can I help?” She wanted to support me. Yet, she also didn’t know how.

Knowing how to support someone who is struggling with depression can be challenging. My goal for this post is to help provide ideas for those who are attempting to support someone with depression. The support for people may look different, particularly depending on the relationship one has with the person dealing with depression. For that reason, I have separated my suggestions into three categories based upon the relationship; 1) Spouse or family member, 2) Close friend or 3) Acquaintance. While there may be some overlap amongst the three categories, there are also some significant differences.

Spouse or Family Member: When supporting a spouse or family member, it is incredibly important to practice patience. (Note: From this point on, when I use the word, “spouse,” it is to include “or family member.”) Your spouse will most likely seem quite different in many ways while depressed compared to when they are mentally healthy. He/she may seem sad or emotionless. He/she may not be able to do simple tasks around the house they had normally done. In my case, I found myself sitting on the couch, resorting to my bedroom or following my wife around the house not knowing what I should be doing. Practicing patience, understanding and being empathetic will go a long way.

1. Offer to join your spouse for some of their appointments.

My wife joined me for several appointments with my psychologist, hoping to gain some insights into what was going on with me and to learn how she might be able to support me. In addition, my wife and sister joined me for at least one of my psychiatrist appointments, particularly when I knew I was going to need their support. My wife was also at my side while at the intake meeting for the partial hospitalization program I entered. Having her with me was hugely beneficial. She supported me morally and emotionally, as well as providing the support team with accurate answers to the questions we had to field. Being severely depressed, impacted my cognition and memory, so her support was indispensable.

2. Gently “push” your spouse to get exercise.

I remember one bitter, cold evening, my wife suggested I go for a walk around the block. It was highly invigorating (relative to the major depression). Fresh air and exercise are both beneficial in overcoming depression. It may be nice to offer to join the person for a walk. Understand exercising, or even the idea of exercising, may feel like a massive chore for someone who is depressed. So there is a fine line in how much to push this piece. Consider asking him/her to walk to the store for an errand, if it’s not too far. Asking to support with some of the chores around the house may be another way to get your spouse off of the couch or out of the bed.

3. Ask if there is anything you can do to support your spouse.

Simply asking shows you care and opens the door to a conversation. Do not be offended if the person is not conversational. Engaging in conversations can be challenging when depressed.

4. Provide resources for your spouse.

If he/she is not yet a part of one, then seek out support groups for him/her. If they are not seeing a psychologist, then help him/her seek on out. Ask your spouse if it would be all right if you asked your friends or family members for a referral to a psychologist.

Close Friend: There are several ways to support a close friend who is going through a challenging time of depression. The first thing is to make sure to have the conversation. If you are concerned a friend may have depression, then ask the question. Let him/her know you are concerned and worried. It is really easy to isolate oneself when dealing with depression. There’s a good chance your friend, particularly in the case of males, may be masking his/her depression and may not be the one to broach the topic. Ask the question.

5. Ask if there’s anything you could do to support him/her.

Your friend may not have an answer, but there is a chance they do know and are able to articulate this for you. It is well worth asking. Ask if he/she has the resources to support in their recovery. If not, then offering to find resources would be a great way to help.

6. Reach out to your friend.

Ask if he/she would mind if you check-in with him/her weekly or so. Ask him/her what the best way to reach out would be. In many cases, simply sending a text once a week or so to ask how he/she is doing is enough. Perhaps, they prefer a phone call or an email. In any case, many people who are dealing with depression tend to isolate themselves and avoid friends. It’s important to take the initiative to reach out to your struggling friend.

7. Invite your friend out.  

Again, this is a great way to prevent a friend from remaining inside and isolating him/herself.  It is not wise to drink alcohol when depressed (as alcohol is a depressant). So consider inviting your friend out for coffee, breakfast or a lunch. Perhaps you could invite your friend to a movie. One to one would most likely be the best scenario for any of these outings, as people who are depressed often do not want to be with a large group of people. Consider inviting your friend to join you in an outdoor activity or a walk. This would provide fresh air and a bit of exercise. If you know a hobby or something your friend typically would enjoy doing, then offer that suggestion. I was really able to enjoy myself with a friend who invited me down to the river on a brisk winter day to take some pictures, as he knew we both enjoy photography. He had to twist my arm gently, but this was a really positive day for me in the midst of my depression. You may also consider having your friend over to your house to watch a movie or a favorite television show.

8. If your friend is married, then consider checking in with his/her spouse to see if there is any support the family may need.  

Many times, when someone is ill with cancer or other serious illnesses, friends and neighbors create a rotation for bringing over a meal for the family. This rarely happens for one living with a mental illness.

Acquaintance: Just as with a good friend, if you’re concerned an acquaintance may be living with depression, then it’s worth asking the question. Be sure to ask in private and to let him/her know you are asking because you are concerned.

9. Ask if there is anything you could do to support him/her.

Ask if he/she needs some resources. If possible, then offer to seek out resources for him/her.

10. Ask if you could reach out once in awhile to support him/her.

As mentioned above, a friendly text message to check-in to see how the person is doing weekly or so may be very supportive.

11. Encourage him/her to reach out to other trusted and loved ones.  

Sometimes people resist reaching out for support. Encouraging and supporting one in doing so could be helpful.

In all of the cases, it is important to remember depression is an illness. Understand it is not the person’s fault for being depressed. The person most likely does not want to be depressed and did not ask for it. He or she is not lazy but ill. Educate yourself on depression so you can have a better understanding of what a person with depression may be experiencing. Empathy and patience will go a long way! Be compassionate. Offer support.

(Note: I feel obligated to mention if you feel that someone is actually considering suicide, ask them the question directly. There is a false assumption held by some people that mentioning suicide will give the person an idea they never had. This is not the case. Asking the question will open up this dialogue the person may never be able to discuss if not asked. If they actually have a plan, then seek resources with the person immediately and call 9-1-1, if necessary.)

This post originally appeared on Al Levin 18.

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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Dear Depression, You Will Not Win

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Dear Depression,

You will not win. Sometimes you’re deceptive and it appears as if you’re winning and sometimes you are winning, but I’m known for my good comebacks and in the end I’ll win. You try to play these manipulative games where you isolate each and every one of your “players” by making them feel alone and as if they are the only ones in this malicious game of yours. You don’t fool us. We come together each and every day and there’s a certain power and resilience that forms when people come together. We are not playing this game alone, we are playing as a team. And as a person on this team who came very close to quitting this game we call life, here is what I want to say to my teammates:

I was on the bridge, very close to losing. Depression kept saying: “You’re in so much pain, this will take it all away. Just jump. There is no point in trying to fight any longer. It never gets better. I’ll keep coming back. What are you even living for? You are worthless, unlovable and can never ever do anything right. Just jump. It’s time.”

Do you think I don’t recognize these thoughts? This is you talking, not me. You are like a cloud that comes down over my brain and masks what my true, authentic thoughts are. The real, logical thoughts. Your thoughts are false, even if I don’t believe this in the moment. I still don’t always believe I am worthy, lovable and able to make mistakes because that’s what it means to be human. But I’m learning. I am not you, depression. I am so much more than you. I have so much potential. I’m beautiful. I make a difference here on earth. The journey is not easy. It’s excruciatingly hard and sometimes it seems unbearable, but believe me, other people are aware of you, other people understand you and because of that connection we have, we are going to stay around and not let you beat us. Living for each other is enough right now, so we are going to fight you together.

Just because I struggle with you often does not mean I am ashamed of you. I am not embarrassed by you or feel as though I am crazy. You are an illness. You are just like any physical illness, except people stigmatize you because they just don’t understand. But I and everyone else you plague will be OK. We are taking it one day at a time.

Sincerely,

Michelle, the warrior

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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5 Kelly Clarkson Songs That Have Gotten Me Through Dark Times

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These songs have gotten me through some of the darkest moments of my life. They have pushed me to be a better me. They have soothed me when I needed comfort, and they have given me power when I felt powerless. Since my diagnosis a little more than a month ago, I have experienced a roller coaster ride of emotions, from relief to complete and all-encompassing fear.

My immediate family has no understanding of mental illness and no desire to learn. I feel more alone than ever before, and these songs are like salve on a wound. They help me believe I will gain control over my anxiety and depression, I am strong and capable and I am worthy of love and support.

1. She makes me feel like I’m not alone.

People Like Us” by Kelly Clarkson

“Everybody loses it.
Everybody wants to throw it all away sometimes.
And hey… yeah I know what you’re going through.
Don’t let it get the best of you.
You’ll make it out alive.
People like us, we’ve gotta stick together.
Keep your head up nothing lasts forever.
Here’s to the damned, to the lost and forgotten.
It’s hard to get high when you’re living on the bottom.”

2. She says exactly what I wish I could say to my husband.

Dark Side” by Kelly Clarkson

“It’s hard to know
What can become,
If you give up.
So don’t give up on me.
Please remind me who I really am.
Everybody’s got a dark side.
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?”

3. She understands my past.

Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson

“Because of you,
I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me.
Because of you,
I am afraid…

I was so young.
You should have known better than to lean on me.
You never thought of anyone else.
You just saw your pain,
And now I cry in the middle of the night
For the same damn thing.”

4. She knows what it’s like to have loved ones who don’t get it.

Catch My Breath” by Kelly Clarkson

“I’ve spent most of my life
Riding waves, playing acrobat,
Shadowboxing the other half,
Learning how to react.
I’ve spent most of my time
Catching my breath, letting it go,
Turning my cheek for the sake of this show.
Now that you know, this is my life
I won’t be told what’s supposed to be right.”

5. She knows how low I’ve been and how strong I can be.

Invincible” by Kelly Clarkson

In the first verse she sings:
“You know I was broke down.
I had hit the ground.
I was crying out, couldn’t make no sound.
No one hears silent tears collecting.
You know I had lost hope.
I was all alone.”

In the chorus, she continues:

“Now I am invincible.
No, I ain’t a scared little girl no more.
Yeah, I am invincible.
What was I running for?
I was hiding from the world.
I was so afraid, I felt so unsure.
Now I am invincible,
And I’m a perfect storm.

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What Happened When I Came Out of Hiding About My Mental Illness

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Forgive me, for I have sinned. I have been hiding. I isolated myself in an attempt to hide my illness and my shame so I may pretend that I’m OK. I have depression, anxiety and complicated grief. Forgive me for my dishonesty and contributing to the misunderstanding of mental illness.

I have recently been diagnosed by a psychologist, whom I visited mainly due to my grief. This preceded a terrifying medical scare that required surgery, but has yielded a very positive outcome. After I gave myself time to grieve and the medical smoke cleared, I knew I needed to care for myself. The last 18 months had been too much for me to process on my own. I needed help, something I don’t often ask for.

In an early session, she stated my diagnosis. Upon hearing my “judgment,” I felt sentenced. Even more so, I viewed myself as a failure. Guilty as charged. She kindly gave me my options: medication and/or cognitive behavioral therapy. So far, I have chosen the latter. I am attempting to care for myself with therapy, fitness, nutrition and rest. When time allows, it has proven effective. With time constraints and added stress, I have not yet been successful in caring for myself, but I’m still trying. A couple of days went by after my diagnosis, and it was no longer surprising. It really did make complete sense to me. I soon took ownership and began to better understand why I was feeling how I felt. Weeks passed and therapy continued. I worked on taking care of myself with a deeper understanding that I was indeed sick and needed to invest in self-care and wellness.

During my grieving process, I started a personal blog to heal myself and to provide a creative outlet of self-expression. In addition, I continued to write privately, as I wasn’t quite ready to share my most personal works. Feeling ready to branch out, I recently decided to submit my work for publication.

I submitted to The Mighty. Prior to submitting an essay, I briefly read through the posted articles. I knew I fit. What I didn’t yet realize is how much. I didn’t expect to find a community of support that also served a role in my treatment.

After my submission and prior to the publication, I found more and more essays echoing my experiences. I was beginning to better understand and sort out key characteristics of my depression and anxiety. The self-doubt despite past successes, the worry and fear stirred by over-analyzation, the insecurities, and the overwhelming weight I carried on my shoulders — all were spelled out in black and white. The paralyzing fatigue I felt nearly every morning as I forced myself to work, my impatience and low tolerance of any amount of demand were all glaring symptoms. I had been ignorant to all of the above and assumed I just needed to toughen up, put on my big girl pants and get through it. Story after story mirrored my own thoughts and feelings. I get it now. This is what it is. It’s not me, it’s the illness. It’s not me! Sadly, I’ve felt this way in varying degrees for the majority of my life.

This relieving identification has not only helped me to recognize my illness, but also to identify my triggers and my needs for treatment. Now when I have a bad day, I don’t further blame myself. I understand it’s the nature of my mental illness. I am learning that healing takes time, patience and diligence. A bad day reminds me I need to take care of myself. Eventually, I will be able to know my depression and anxiety better than they know me. I am beginning to heal. I am finding my way towards wellness.

These revelations would not have taken place had it not been for being exposed to such a community of confessions. All of the accounts and experiences helped me realize I am not alone, nor am I the only one who feels or thinks this way. These confessions shattered the rose-colored glasses of social acceptance and brought a voice to the reality of mental illness. In doing so, it also formed a community. This community is providing education and comfort, a true gift to someone who believes they are alone. Although the details of our situations may differ, the common threads of the illnesses we share weave a tight blanket of healing validation.

I send my gratitude to everyone who bravely shares their struggles to break the silence of illness. Thank you for stepping out of hiding to come forward. Silence divides. Sharing brings awareness. We are stronger together. We are a mighty community. Peace and healing be with you all.

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