Ask me in a way that genuinely makes me feel like you want me to answer truthfully. I know you probably won’t. I know it’s not because you don’t care about me. It isn’t because you don’t worry about me sometimes. But if you’re honest with yourself, it’s because you probably don’t really want to deal with it.
If you do ask me how I am, you may be hopeful you’ll receive the, “I’m fine, how are you?” standard stiff-upper-lip response because you don’t want to know that this morning, I sobbed in my car on the way to work. You don’t want to know I’m angry because of the experiences I have had in the last few months in an abusive relationship that I’m struggling to process. You don’t want to know I’m also ashamed of what happened to me. You don’t want to know I still feel suicidal sometimes. You don’t want to know I had an anxiety attack at work the other day and had to run upstairs to an empty office so I could stifle my sobs, and it took 20 minutes to pull myself together.
I get it, OK? I know it’s really difficult to speak to someone in pain. You have your own stuff going on. You’ve got a million and one things to remember. You’re dealing with your own crap. And I don’t want to add to that, I truly don’t. I understand that sometimes all you can do is deal with your own life. You get blinkered.
But… dealing with depression, anxiety, etc., — that’s hard too. And while I don’t want to burden you, sometimes I do really need to talk. I don’t like reaching out. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and I really don’t want to take up your time with my troubles. But, once in a while, if you can, please ask me how I am. Ask me if I’m coping. Please make me feel as though you genuinely want me to talk to you. And please be prepared for the response not to be “I’m fine.” Because sometimes, I’m not.
As an English major, I take pride in having an active imagination, and for the most part use it to my advantage. This can be proven by the fact that I wrote a rather cringeworthy novel at the tender age of 12 that boasts 375 pages of preteen fuelled regret. Rereading the novel I wrote almost seven years ago makes me laugh out of pure embarrassment as I reread what I was so proud of at the time, solidifying the fact that you’re always going to know more in the future than you know now; which is something I learned very recently and am coming to gracefully accept. Now that I am older, I tend to write about how I feel looking back on hard times in my life. The only problem with that is, I’ve always been too ashamed to share these stories for whatever reason. It was only until I moved out, and discovered who I wanted to be, and stopped relying on the validation of others that I came to the conclusion that I needed to be heard.
There were days as a child where I would fake sick because I was too sad to get out of bed. I would shut myself off from people and long for the comforts of my covers because society was too draining for me to handle. I think this is why I only had a small group of friends growing up. No one wanted to be friends with the small, dorky, shy girl. Granted, I wouldn’t open up to anyone long enough to gain a friendship, but I never got help for it. I think people just assumed because I was an only child that I simply lacked social skills, and maybe that was part of the problem. But the thick of it was, I was engulfed in sadness from a young age and no one ever asked me if I needed help. So I grew up thinking it was a normal feeling. Or even worse that I didn’t have a problem at all. As I grew older, this feeling didn’t shy away, and during my high school years I did what I did best and tried to escape my pain by covering up for it. I never once self-medicated with alcohol or drugs, but instead covered it up with non-material things such as religion, friends, and work or school, hoping someday if I worked hard enough I could move out and start over. It wasn’t until my first semester of university that this ideology proved to be a step in the wrong direction.
I moved away for university and was pretty excited about the prospect of starting new. In fact, I came to college high on what I would like to call“pseudo happiness,” or simply put “false happiness.” At the time, I was so used to covering up the fact that I had mental health issues I became oblivious to the fact that they were even there. I convinced myself that moving and started new was the only option I had and that everything would simply fall into place. But as you can guess, this did not happen.
For the first month, everything seemed fine. It was only until the pressure got too much that I allowed myself to come undone. But as things seem to do for me, one issue became another and they all fell like dominos until I simply cracked. Instead of seeking the treatment I needed straight away, I tried to do what I did best: escape. I planned on moving home because I was “unhappy” staying at the university. I was so all over the place that if you asked me now what my plan was, I couldn’t even tell you. I just wanted to get out of the hard place I was in. Little did I realize I needed to eliminate the main causes, as well as come clean to myself that I had a problem that needed to be fixed.
This all clicked for me a few short weeks before I was set to move back home for Christmas break. These moments proved to be pivotal when I realized that an entire semester had gone by and I had nothing to show for it. I spent most of my days in my single dorm room as I felt like I was “too far gone” to make friends — so I didn’t try. I missed a total of 15-20 classes because I couldn’t get out of bed to make it on time, whether they be set at 8 a.m. or 3 in the afternoon. I’d be lucky if I ate more than once a day, most of the time the meal being pizza or garlic fingers that I would order to my room so I would be able to avoid questioning from my peers.
Everyone around me had all these wonderful college stories to tell. They were all growing up and blossoming before my very eyes. I so desperately wanted that, but I felt so alone. I was scared to admit to myself and others that I was struggling and had been for as long as I could remember. But at the same time, I was sick and tired for feeling so emotionally detached.
Instead of dropping out like I had planned during my depressive state, I decided to book an appointment with the campus psychotherapist. This in and of itself was terrifying to me. It made me feel as if I had become defeated by my demons. That I was “crazy” (as if there truly is such a thing) or unloveable. I thought those who I chose to open up to wouldn’t accept me or would find me overwhelming to be around. It wasn’t until I began taking control of my life that I discovered it’s for the best. Yeah, when I came back from the first round of therapy, I did cry a little. Because it was real. The proof was in the pudding, so to speak, but it was the best decision I had ever made and the first major decision I made for myself that was a healthy one.
It’s been roughly about two months now, but I am happy to say I feel better than I ever have. My quality of life has improved so much, I can’t even put it into words. I’ve made new friends in university. I don’t feel lonely. They’re friends whom I can talk to about my issues, who don’t make me feel like a parasite for having depression, as most of them do as well. I’ve started planning my next summer trip, writing my next novel (which is arguably better than the first). I’ve festered a newfound confidence in myself I never knew I had. I know every day isn’t perfect, and during the past two months not every day has been sunshine and rainbows; but now I have the means to know how to deal with my depression, instead of letting it define me and everything I do.
I know for a fact that during the darkest days of depression it’s hard to find a silver lining. Hell, I’ve lived through it. But as a writer, if I didn’t struggle I wouldn’t have anything to write about. And if I didn’t have anything to write about, I wouldn’t have anyone to share it with.
One thing I’ve learned, if anything, is that everybody has a story that’ll break your heart. It is only until you decided to share that story that you will be able to deal with it properly. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than silence when you’re struggling, and I wholeheartedly believe if mental illness was something more widely discussed, I would have gotten help much sooner.
So, with that, say what you have to say. To whomever you want. If you’re happy, shout it to the void. If you’re depressed, cry out for help to whomever you’re most comfortable with. All I wish for in life is unlimited happiness, and for me that will come when people try to understand and accept each other for who they are and not who they claim to be.
Although not all I’ve encountered have the ability to understand, I can try and understand myself better instead of forcing that upon others who clearly lack compassion. This hurts — depression has a way of making it feel like it drives people away, but I can take it in stride and can say that given the proper dose of medication and therapy I don’t have to feel the way I did for almost 19 years, for 19 more. This isn’t the end of my story. It’s just a new chapter, or even better, a whole new novel.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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It was the third day of not showering and not getting out of bed. It was also the third day I didn’t go to work and kept my phone on airplane mode so no one could reach me. It was the third day of staring at the ceiling, crying, falling asleep, waking up and crying some more.
Like the previous two days, that day I opened my laptop and browsed for news and funny memes. That is when I found an article titled “To the People Who Mistake My Depression for Laziness.” I read it and couldn’t stop crying. It was like the author was telling a story of how I’ve felt for the past few months.
It was the third day of doing nothing when I don’t even know why I didn’t do anything but also blaming myself for not getting anything done. It was the third day of arguments between me and myself, bringing up tons of things I should be doing but also the fact that I don’t think it matters if I do it anymore so I chose not to do it but stare at the ceiling instead. It was the third day of whispering, “You’re such a drama queen,” “Can you just get your act together?” and “I hate you” over and over again to the woman in the mirror.
After reading the article I decided to read some other similar stories. Each and every one of them brought me to tears as they hit very close to my heart. I reached for the phone, and for the first time in three days, turned it on. I called every psychologist office in the city, trying to get an appointment for the day. Unfortunately, they are all fully booked. The closest slot was two days away, and I didn’t think I could bear another 48 hours without talking to another human being.
I read some more articles and cried some more. Most of the stories, I realized, don’t really have happy endings, or any endings at all for that matter. They just tell stories of how people like me feel. And that’s OK.
And so I reached for the car keys and headed to my husband’s office. I tried my best to blocked out the thoughts of, “You’re going to be a burden for him,” “He’s going to leave you if you keep being this way,” and “He’s going to love you less.” I was tired mentally and physically, and I just wanted him to know my story.
“Hey honey, can we talk? I’m at the parking lot.”
“Sure, darling. I’ll be right down.”
I don’t have an ending yet, but I’ll start by talking to the one I love.
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During my childhood, after a certain point, I made it my mission to be tough and never show pain in public. Even if I twisted my ankle, sprained my wrist or cracked my shin, I was calm and I never showed I was in pain.
I did this because I knew if I had the proper medical attention, as soon as it happened, my injuries would be a thing of the past and I could move forward with my life without a second thought. However, if I did not seek help right away the effects of the injury would linger. Yes, the pain might decrease but it would never fully heal for the rest of my life.
We often separate physical and mental pain because we see ourselves as having a stronger pain tolerance in one field of pain over the other. But the truth is, we don’t.
The same rules follow mental pain. Given proper treatment, we will heal. If we wait, well, the pain will stay with us and indirectly lead most of our actions for the rest of our lives. Now, I know I need to focus on “letting people in” because, quite frankly, it sucks trying to act like you have everything together! It’s exhausting acting like you have everything under control when on the inside, you are sobbing. It’s OK to not be OK.
It has been nice to get to know you as the years have gone by. After tragic events you seem to be the only one there. It was nice to know I was never really alone, but wherever I went and tried to be happy you reminded me that I couldn’t. I am honestly over it, “old friend,” if I can even say that. You are toxic. You bring up all my wrongs, my imperfections and make me feel weak. I need to go away; we can’t be like this anymore. I tear myself apart from the inside trying to get over these fears you have put in my head.
Why can’t you leave? I do not want to live through the countless days of feeling like I’m nothing. My old friend, you made me believe no one liked or would ever love me, so it could just be you and I. All the 3 a.m. tears have now built to suicidal thoughts. My old friend, you make me believe that suicide would be the best option; you make me believe that no one would miss me. My old friend, I have lied for you countless times saying, “I’m fine,” so you wouldn’t be found. I’m sick of this feeling, of not being worth it. I’m done with the tears; if you loved me you would leave me alone, but what would you be without me?
I can now hardly eat because of these feelings you have left with me. People wonder why I don’t seem to smile, why I can’t eat more than five bites without wanting to puke. I have kept quiet for you but I can’t do it anymore. This wall of emotions is breaking and I do not want you around; when it has fallen I need to be stable. I can’t do this with you here. Please just go. I can’t ask nicely, you have left me with no choice. I’m done crying, I’m done with your physical harm, that has left these scars all over me.
You showed me the contrast between the dark and light, and harmful ways to deal with the pain that has left permanent scars on me today. I’m ready to call it quits. Thank you for being there, my old friend, but I don’t need you anymore. I just want to be happy like everyone else, is that too much to ask for? I know I’m not worthless anymore, even though you still make me believe in these lies.
My old friend, you make me sad and I can’t change it. You make me break and I can’t fix it. You’ve taken so much, so what else do you want? I’ve lost my friends to you, I’m going to lose the ones I love to you. I have lost my self-confidence to you. I have lost my way. No one notices how broken I have become because of you. I have a hard time telling what is wrong. I can’t reach out for help. This is the last time I will ask you to leave me alone. I can’t take these thoughts. I’m ready to be happy, so it’s time to let go. Maybe one day we’ll meet again, but until then we can be strangers in a world of millions.
It’s been said that music is extremely therapeutic. As someone who has been going up and down on a depression roller coaster for the past two years, I tend to agree. Some days it helps to just listen to the song as a whole, but I have also found that some lyrics in songs have helped me so much. These are just ten examples of lyrics that put my feelings into words better than I ever could.
“When you try your best but you don’t succeed / When you get what you want but not what you need … When the tears come streaming down your face / When you lose something you can’t replace.”
These might be my favorite lyrics of any song ever, because they do an amazing job of showing what depression does to you. It steals your innocence, your happiness and your will to do anything. All you can do sometimes is cry.
“You see me standing, but I’m dying on the floor / Stone cold, stone cold / Maybe if I don’t cry, I won’t feel anymore.”
On the outside, the majority of people with depression may look fine. They can maybe fake a smile and pretend everything is OK. It’s so easy, when everything feels too much, to become so numb that you don’t feel anything at all.
“Numb me down to the core / Cause love don’t live here anymore / And we fought hard but we lost the war / Without you, what am I living for?”
Depression is a war with yourself, and just like in a real war there are casualties. First goes your confidence, then your joy and eventually love is a thought, not a feeling. All you feel is numb and broken.
“A time when I / Didn’t feel like there was something missing / Now my body and mind are so distant.”
In my opinion, the best way I can explain depression to someone who doesn’t have it is this: Your body and your mind are a thousand miles apart. Your body is isolated, lost, alone and going through the motions of your day without really processing. You’re basically a zombie and instead of brains, you want sleep.
“Remember those walls I built, / Baby they’re tumbling down, / They didn’t even put up a fight, / They didn’t even make up a sound.”
A very human response to pain is to build up walls. Its like a dam. If my walls are built up then nothing can touch me and I won’t have to deal with my own heartbreak. What happens when the walls break down? Outbursts of sadness are called breakdowns for a reason. It’s because the last part of your dam has come unhinged and you are instantly engulfed by your thoughts and emotions. It’s hell. Eventually the dam is rebuilt and you are OK for a while but it’s the most flimsy dam in the world, and its prone to breaking spontaneously.
“Help, I have done it again / I have been here many times before / Hurt myself again today / And the worst part is there’s no one else to blame.”
Depression is a cyclone. It’s the constant cycle between pain and feeling nothing. The problem with a cyclone is that it only ends when something stops it. Maybe it runs out of energy. Maybe it goes out to sea, never to been seen again. Either way your time in the funnel can be a constant cycle of confusion, hurt and numbness with no end in sight. All you can do is hold on to those close to you and pull your inner warrior out.
“Is it over yet? / Can I open my eyes? / Is this as hard as it gets? / Is this what it feels like to really cry?”
A common question heard among people with depression is, “When will this end? Is it over yet? Can I feel again?” All we want is for color to come back into the world and for the shackles on our ankles to break. Right now, we keep fighting knowing that we can get better, but when?
“I told you to be patient / I told you to be fine / I told you to be balanced / I told you to be kind.”
People can tell you every morning that it gets better, but that doesn’t make it better. Imagine depression as a wild kid. You can tell the kid to clean up their toys a thousand times, but it won’t happen until the kid makes the decision to do it themselves. In the same way, you can tell yourself every day to hold it together, to be nice, don’t let them see you cry, but at the end of the day your decisions come from your heart. You won’t have full control until you make the choice to pick up the pieces.
It takes time, and I’m not saying you aren’t responsible for your actions, but no one can heal you. No one can fill you up. That is always in your control and it’s a choice that you have to make every day. It’s a hard choice to make, but it’s one that will change your life for the better.
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