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When 'I'm Fine' Means 'I'm Too Scared to Tell You How I Feel'

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As a person who has major depressive disorder, I sometimes experience difficulties when asked how I’m doing. Several thoughts go through my mind. Do they really want to know? Well, most people don’t want their day ruined by my thoughts, right? Just say you’re OK. Tell them something positive. Don’t ruin her day with your troubles. Everything in my racing mind tells me to smile and give them good news.

Simply put, I can’t muster more than just “I’m fine.” Sometimes I wish people knew what I mean when I say I’m fine. I wish they’d dig deeper. My voice says “I’m fine,” and though I give a weak smile, my face must give some indication I’m lying. What does “I’m fine” really mean to me, anyway? Well, it means lots of things.

I’m fine means I’m too scared to tell you how I feel. I’m afraid that what I’m thinking will make you judge me. I’m afraid you won’t really care. I’m afraid you’ll think I’m weak. Most of all, I’m afraid that when I tell you how I feel, you might give me some comment about how everyone feels the blues sometimes. This isn’t sometimes for me. This is almost all the time. This has been my entire life. I’m afraid you’ll minimize my feelings and sum it up with a kind-sounding, well-meaning equivocation.

I’m fine means that what goes on in my mind sounds scary and all too sad. My mind races from one negative thought to another, and I don’t think you really want to hear it. When you watch people on television, especially on comedy shows, talk about people who say how they really feel, all that really comes up is sketches like Debbie Downer from “Saturday Night Live.” I don’t want to be Debbie Downer. I don’t mean to feel how I feel or always come up with the downside to everything. I fight daily against pessimism and hopelessness. I fight against the feelings that the world would be better off without me. Depression makes you feel like you can’t cope with even minor stresses. Just as much as I don’t want to feel this way, I don’t want the people around me to know about my feelings.

In short, “I’m fine” means I’m really not fine. It means that I need someone, anyone to help get me out of my own mind. Sometimes it means I need help. I’m not OK, OK? Can’t anyone see the pain in my eyes and the hurt behind my smile? While part of me gives you this “I’m fine” line just to push you away, another part of me wants you to see that I need help. And it’s not that I think no one cares, but it’s hard to believe anyone would want to know about these horrible feelings. Feelings I still cannot adequately put into words. When I say “I’m fine,” it means my feelings are so awful that I can’t even tell you what I’m thinking.

Only those who identify with these feelings can truly understand the agony behind the words “I’m fine.” If you recognize when someone isn’t really fine, know that we really do want you to help us. Our instincts tell us to push you away because we’re either protecting ourselves from rejection or we’re just plain scared. For me, it’s easier to write out how I feel than to say the words out loud.

Deep down inside, I know there is hope, but it’s hard to see the silver lining through the clouds. Maybe you can show me where to find it.

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.

Follow this journey on Embracing the Spectrum.

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I Won’t Let the Monster of Depression Win the Battle in My Head

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Yes, a monster is in my head.

If I have to describe it for anyone, then I will describe it like this. I heard the monster growling at me. It was creeping up on me, but I didn’t bother to give him the time of day. Simply for the fact that I was so invested in my studies, I didn’t care if I fell ill. I just had to push through it.

That is until the monster caught me. It has this way of climbing in your head. It gnaws on all your insecurities. It digs through all the pain you ever felt before. I fell sick. Everybody brushed it off as the flu, then asthma and then finally, “You’re just a student trying to cut class.”

Something made me incredibly ill, and I couldn’t understand what was going on. I seriously thought at one point I might have cancer. Little did I know, it’s this monster in my head, growling, scratching and ripping apart all of my positive thoughts. I skipped class, didn’t give in assignments and I just couldn’t care about my academic future, let alone my future.

The monster tore me down to a place I never thought I would be. A dark and numbing place. A place that made me feel like a failure, a reject of life. Eventually, a doctor figured out I might have depression and gave me some stuff to drink. She wanted me to be hospitalized, but I didn’t want to go because I refused to accept I have depression.

I went back to university and everything around me crumbled. I just couldn’t cope. This monster likes the taste of my salty tears. I cried a lot. I found myself thinking of ending it all. Thinking of quick and easy ways to take my life. I simply couldn’t handle this unknown pain in my soul.

Then, the self-harming began. Every cut I made on my arm made me feel well feel again. I don’t even think my family thought I was this unhappy, sad and in pain. Once, I got back at university, I started to see a psychiatrist. She started to explain to me what is happening and advised me to get hospitalized. I didn’t agree. Again.

Maybe the monster took over my way of rational thinking. My lecturers could see I was in a bad place and urged me to get help. At this point, I was an island. I didn’t have as many friends I used to. Yet, I just kept on going, drinking more, trying to drown the monster in my head, trying to go to class. There were times I had to run out of class because the monster was thirsty for more tears.

On one of those teary days, I decided to end it all. I couldn’t bare the numbing and indescribable pain.

Somewhere in the middle, one of my lectures called me, and for a brief second, rationality defeated the monster in my head. A bit too late. Luckily, I didn’t do enough to cause serious damage. I just felt like crap.

I realized I was losing the battle in my head. The next week, I got hospitalized for three weeks. I felt better in there, less like an outcast. I was supervised and made really good friends, friends who understand the monster in my head. I have been on “the outside world” for two weeks now. Right back into my hectic schedule and so focused on not letting the monster win. Trying to finish my honors year in one piece.

In the hospital, I learned how to cope with the monster, but I find myself feeling like a dark cloud. I am just not happy. The hospital helped, but I realize there are no quick fixes to get rid of the monster. I take my meds. I am still seeing the psychiatrist and am trying to put myself above my studies. Sometimes, I still think of suicide. Sometimes, I still get the urge to harm myself, but there is change. I am fighting back. I have major depressive disorder and it sucks. I am far away from being able to live a normal, happy life, but I know it’s in my future.

It is easy to think about depression and think weakness, but, honey, I am still here. I am in the battle. Depression makes me feel like I have no future, but I decided I will have a future. Maybe one day the monster and I will become friends and help others in similar situations.

Just don’t give up. Don’t refuse medical care. Don’t harm yourself. Loving yourself is the only way you’ll get through this. That, your treatment plan, therapy and support groups. Don’t let the monster steal your joy. There is always sunshine after the darkness.

You might not feel better today, but one day, you will be the victorious warrior of your own story. For now, I am fighting my battle against depression. You know what? That’s fine. There is treatment available to help me fight this monster in my head. I will be fine and so will you.

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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Why You Shouldn't Be Jealous I Spent All Day in Bed

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Here I am, lying in bed. I can’t get up. It’s literally taken all I have to roll over and grab my laptop. I’ve spent 18 of the last 24 hours in bed, staring at the wall. I’m in and out of sleep – at war with my mind while trying to convince my body to get out of this bed. I also haven’t showered in four days.

I have major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

Sometimes this is how my days go.

When having conversations with people, I’m generally pretty open. For example, “Hey, how’s your week going?” My response: “Oh it’s alright. I spent all day in bed yesterday, I just couldn’t get up.” Almost every time I say something like this, I get a response that sounds like this: “Oh man! I’m so jealous! You’re so lucky! I wish I could have stayed in bed. But I have work and [insert other responsibilities] I had to take care of.” To me, this is beyond frustrating. I didn’t want to stay in bed all day and I didn’t enjoy it.

I don’t enjoy spending all day in bed. I’m just not lying here in hopes of wasting my entire day. Yes, sometimes when my brain is balanced and functioning normally, I can enjoy a day to catch up on sleep. But today is not that kind of day.

My entire body aches. I feel as if there are anchors tied to my core and every limb of my body preventing me from lifting myself off of my bed. Everything is daunting. Everything is too much. Thinking about getting up is anxiety-inducing. Even the most minuscule of tasks feel absolutely impossible. My dishes from last night? That will take energy I don’t have. Brush my teeth? Yeah, right.

I feel weak. I feel so weak because I should be able to do small tasks like dishes and brushing my teeth. I feel ashamed because it is 7 p.m. and I am still in bed.

I know I am stronger than this. I have to be, right?

But today, depression and anxiety are winning. Today, I can’t fight.

I feel guilty because I know I shouldn’t be spending my time like this. I feel guilty for the unanswered text messages and canceled plans.

This morning, I called in sick to work 15 minutes before I was supposed to be there. I fought. I wanted to go. I told my manager I had a fever and I was throwing up. The truth is I am sick today. But calling to say my brain is sick is not a socially-acceptable reason to not show up to work.

I was supposed to go to the gym and hang out with a friend I haven’t spent time with in a long time, but instead I sent a text message that read: “Hey, sorry I can’t make it. I’ve been throwing up and in bed all day.” Its feels awful to cancel these plans.

My mind is a battlefield. I tell myself I will be OK. But the shame and the guilt are demons in my mind telling me I am weak and not good enough. They tell me I am a bad employee and coworker. They tell me I am a bad friend. You can’t even get out of bed! They scream at me. This only makes it harder and harder to get up.

It may seem like I’m not fighting. Like I am weak today. But when I can quiet the demons in my mind, I know I am strong. I am fighting. I hope for a better tomorrow.

Please, please don’t tell me you are jealous I got to stay in bed all day. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

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When Shame Is a Goliath in Life With Depression

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Mental illness, in my experience, is like a phantom fly that perches on your back. You may not even know it’s there. If you do, then you swat at it, ineffectively swing your angry arms at it, slap at your back, asking, “Is it gone? Is it gone?” Followed by a breathless, “Oh, what was that?!” In truth, you are not quite sure of the answer. You only hope it will not land on your back a second time, but it does. It somehow always returns.

Mental illness. My own “fly” is major depressive disorder (MDD). I was officially diagnosed at age 45, symptomatic since age 15, but did not start medically treating symptoms until age 30. I was symptomatic for 15 years before I ever dared ask for help. I was fearful. I didn’t even know how to ask for help, what would happen if I did or how others might react if they knew. Plus, the hope that “maybe it’s just a phase” perpetuated itself inside my head, over and over like a never-ending game of jump rope.

Shame is an enormous obstacle, a Goliath, and is often inherent to those (myself included) who have a mental illness. It has only been in the past decade (maybe two) that I have noticed efforts being made to broaden society’s understanding. For years past, however, mental illness has been steeped in myth, ignorance and fear. As a result, many want to ignore the condition, or worse, hide it completely, opting instead to isolate themselves and the problem. Without the appropriate care, however, without an acknowledgment of illness, many people end up turning to destructive forms of self-regulation.

I know what it is to rage against an unknown enemy, my metaphorical fly. Before my diagnosis, before I even had an inkling of what “it” was, I developed an eating disorder, anorexia, and at times had thoughts of self-harm, wanting to claw at and/or cut my arms because this unknown thing was warring inside of me.

I know what it is to live in the foreboding shadows of an ever-looming darkness, to feel the bell jar descend, if you will, the terror of being trapped in the narrow, empty places, the suffocation of the soul. All of this for 30 years. It is a fairly long time, long enough, perhaps, to flip reality on its head and send it spinning. Years of hidden anguish and pain. Years of unnecessary anguish, unnecessary pain. All because I feared.

I am not proud of my diagnosis. It is not something I especially enjoy talking about. It is no badge of honor. MDD does not make me special. Neither, however, is it something of which I or anybody else should be ashamed. Mental illness is simply what it says it is: an illness. It is an illness that affects the brain.

I am not a doctor. I do not know if every mental illness is treatable, but I know many of them are. Many are treatable and can be successfully managed with the proper support structures.

Whatever your personal struggles with mental illness may be, please know change for the better is within your grasp. Do not allow the illness itself or the ignorance of others define you. Open up to a trusted friend, do some research, pray and begin your fight.

By finding the right doctors, medications and therapy, I have chosen to fight. With all my heart, I hope you will, too. You are not alone. You are worth the fight. Stand up, fight and never give up, for therein lies the honor.

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.

 If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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The Fleeting Moments of Light in Life With Depression

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I know there’s a force within me that lures me toward the light, and yet there is a competing force that would keep me bound to darkness.

When I am choosing to be in a state of fear, uncertainty or self-doubt, I am allowing the darkness to remain present.

In order to get out of this fearful state, I need to ask the Universe to dissolve these unnecessary fears and then trust that the darkness will fall away.

It’s hard to tell sometimes when I am in a deep depression or if I am in a state of fear due to my own negative perception of what is happening in my life.

I understand that fear is a choice we make, but I also understand that depression is not a choice.

I judge myself harshly when a depressive state comes on because I feel as though I must have some choice, and then I fear I am manifesting dark things my way. Everywhere you read “what you think becomes your reality” — and that can’t be so with the disease of depression.

All I can do is try my best to walk through the dark abyss, the self-limiting beliefs that are haunting my mind and keeping me from living my life to the fullest.

I want to live in the sunlight of the spirit every single day, and I know that is not possible.

When one needs to fight the thoughts in their minds on a daily basis just to keep going and showing up in the world, it’s easy to become tired and weary and filled with fear.

When darkness falls I must always keep my thoughts on the light that I know is there even if I can’t see it at the moment.

The moments in the light are fleeting, wonderful and beautiful and yet don’t last long enough.

My prayer is one day I may experience more of life in those moments than in the fearful state of darkness that seems to follow me like a dark cloud.

I am blessed because I know light. I am blessed because I know the darkness fades. I keep the Faith that all will be OK no matter what my mind tries to make me think.

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Why I Didn’t Stay Quiet After I Recovered From Depression

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I’ve been in recovery from major depressive disorder for more than a year now. I had some doctors tell me I may never fully recover. I was told I needed to be medicated the rest of my life. While medicine may be a great help for some going through depression, it was never the case for me. Every single dosage or medication change made me worse. Every single time.

I was angry. I felt no one listened to me when I told them it just wasn’t helping me. I just felt I was constantly drugged up and shut up. I’d given up all hope. This battle went on for years.

It wasn’t until I became determined to find different methods that I started to see change. Not only did I switch up doctors, but I started to pay attention to exactly what worked for me. We have to remember, even though depression has similar symptoms, the way we go through it is like a unique fingerprint. We all go through this battle differently.

No one is as surprised as me that I made a full recovery. Especially when I was basically told I was hopeless in ever really doing so. Some people would go on with their lives at this point and try to never think about the horrors depression caused them. Of course, they would be entitled to feel that way. Once recovery hits, you just want to work on staying in recovery because staying there is still a constant battle.

However, I didn’t want to just stay in recovery and be quiet. I wanted to encourage others that recovery is possible for them, too. So I became a full-time advocate and wrote a book called “A Fight Worth Finishing.”

This book is not a “steps to get better” kind of story. No. This book is based on my real life battle with depression and suicide. My depression was awful and chronic. Getting to recovery was not easy. Anyone who tells you any different is lying to you. You’re going to have your good days and hard days trying to get back on track.

You may even have people put you down and leave you because they don’t understand your illness. However, through all of this, you have to continue to fight! This is why I wrote this book. To urge everyone to keep fighting. No matter how bad your depression has gotten and how hopeless you feel, keep fighting.

You can do this. Recovery and a better life are still possible. You may have to go through hell and back to get to this point. I know I did. I won’t lie to you about that, but you can get there. My story is a testimony to that.

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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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

 

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