We Need to Stop Treating Mental and Physical Pain Differently

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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.

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Thinkstock photo via Archv.

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To My Old Friend Depression: I Don't Need You Anymore

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Dear Depression,

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.

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

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via AntonioGuillem

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10 Songs With Lyrics People With Depression Can Relate To

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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.

1. “Fix You” by Coldplay

“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.

2. “Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato

“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.

3. “Gone” by Bebe Rexha

“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.

4. “Hold on” by Chord Overstreet

“The joy and the chaos, the demons we’re made of / I’d be so lost if you left me alone.”

Everyone has demons. Sometimes they are so loud it’s deafening. Without everyone else around, we would just be lost in our own thoughts. We need you.

5. “I Can’t Breathe” by Bea Miller

“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.

6. “Keep Breathing” by Ingrid Michelson

“I want to change the world / Instead I sleep.”

When you were a kid, did you dream about changing the world? Me too. Now the only thing I feel like changing is the TV channel. When did this shift happen, and when will it change back?

7. “Halo” by Ane Brun

“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.

8. “Breathe Me” by Sia

“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.

9. “Cry” by Kelly Clarkson

“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?

10. “Skinny Love” by Birdy

“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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Mental Illness Makes My Mind an Attic

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I decided today,
My mind is like an attic.
Everything is in here,
Somewhere.
There is not enough natural light to see,
But if you have the right torch
And balance it just so,
You flood the room.

But sometimes you can’t find the torch,
Or the batteries are flat.
Sometimes there is nowhere for it to stand,
Or it gets knocked over.
And there are bogeymen.
Mostly at night.
I can handle bats, mice, spiders.
But the opaque?

Sometimes the dust and cobwebs are cleared,
Just for a few hours.
It is still gloomy and disorganized,
But I can breathe and move more freely.
Slowly, the items are arranging themselves.
But they can be thrown or knocked
Or magically shift,
At any time.

My mind is like an attic.
Because it has depression.
Anxiety.
PTSD.
When I moved in it was already worn,
Occupied. Second hand stuff.
I’ve continued to fill it since.
And all the while I try to clear it, clean it.
Reach the window to let in more light.
It is an endless fight.
Especially with those bogeymen.

This story will not finish here.
I don’t know when it will.
Hopefully, in many years,
On a sunny day,
My attic will be clean and bright.
Organized.
Not in an accident outwitted by opaque.
Not tripping over, then eaten by rats.
Not locked in and starved.
If I disappear, please knock on my door.
Bring me into the light.

Come into my attic.
You will find treasures here.
Things to laugh at.
And the bogeymen and dark
Won’t seem so real.
So fearsome,
With you by my side.
We can make shadow puppets,
And climb to the window.
Maybe there is a view.
We’ll never know – I’ll never know –
Without trying.

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Thinkstock photo via lolostock.

 

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What We Can Learn From John Legend About Supporting a Partner With Depression

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After Chrissy Teigen wrote a heartfelt essay in Glamour about her experience with postpartum depression, her husband — singer John Legend — shared some insight about it’s like to be the spouse on the other side.

Legend told E News he was proud of his wife for speaking up.

She showed me the drafts when she was writing it and I knew it would mean a lot to a lot of women for them to see that. By acknowledging the pain that she’s going through, in doing that she also acknowledges the pain that a lot of women go through after they have a child. A lot of people don’t want to talk about it. A lot of people feel alone when they’re going through it and for her to let people know that they’re not alone, I think was really powerful.

He also gave advice for other husbands who are supporting a parter with postpartum depression.

You have to be present. You have to be compassionate. You have to understand what the reasons for them feeling what they’re feeling are. I think once you know the reasons. I think you can be more helpful in identifying what they’re going through.

To see what else people who are supporting partners with depression would add, we asked our mental health community to share their tips for supporting a spouse or loved one with depression.

Here’s what they shared with us:

“These apply to both genders, but especially my fellow men: 1. Resist your natural instinct to fix everything. Sometimes all they want is for you to listen. 2. Do not take your partner’s feelings personally or as an indicator that you did something wrong. 3. This one’s sometimes hard to talk about, but if your partner’s sex drive is lower as a result of his/her depression, do everything in your power to not let it affect your ego or self-confidence. It’s not your fault, but patience is really critical here.” — Nerris N.

“Do not ask them ‘what their problem is.’ They don’t even know half of the time. You won’t and don’t always have to understand what’s wrong/going on. Just be there, let them them know you care and they are not alone.” — Jade S.

“Be patient with them and don’t take things personally. Don’t ever ask if you’re the reason why they’re depressed. Be tender and warm, but back away when they need it. Just let them know you’re there for them, always.” — Christa R.

“I think the most important thing that often gets overlooked is that the person who loves a depressed person needs to take care of themselves, too. You will be zero help if you’re burnt out from dealing with your partner’s depression and constantly putting your own issues aside. Take care of yourself too, so you don’t grow to resent your partner. They need you more than you know. Sometimes even just sitting quietly in the same room as them will be comfort enough.” — Cass J.

“Remember it’s not personal. They really can’t help the way they feel. Just be there, and instead of asking how you can help, offer ways you’re available to help (for example: ‘I’m going to fix you some lunch. Does x or y sound better?’)” — Ashleigh E.

“Tell them you still love them, no matter what, even in bad days. Stand by their side and help if possible. You can only give love — but that means a lot to someone with depression.” — Kim W.

“I have depression and anxiety. My partner is so amazing. The best thing he does for me is he is patient and supportive. He will hug me when I need it. He rubs my legs when they shake. He listens to all of my anxious babble and tells me everything is OK. He uses logic to ground me and always throws a joke in to make me laugh.” — Jade T.

“Try to create the most comfortable environment possible. One thing that has also helped is attending therapy together every once in awhile. It’s helped me to better understand what he’s going through and the therapist can give us advice and direction on how to manage certain symptoms.” — Lindsey S.

“Be patient and be proud. Seemingly little things can be massive milestones. Be proud of the progress they make. And love them no matter what.” — Erika F.

“Don’t give up on them, but don’t forget to take care of yourself too. You can’t fix them yourself, but you can support them and be there for them. My boyfriend and I both live with mental illnesses, so it can be trying when both of us are going through that. But we love each other very much and we wouldn’t want to change anything about each other.” — Shelby S.

“Educate yourself. Seek out help with groups online and in-person, such as NAMI. Helping your partner is difficult, but arming yourself with knowledge and tools will greatly help yourself, and in turn help you aid your partner through your journey together in life.” — Jeff V.

“You don’t always need to know what to say and how to say it. Just being there with open arms and a willingness to listen can mean so much more than words.” — Melinda S.

“Remember self-care! Take good care of yourself, you have to put on your air mask before you help someone else with theirs!” — Jessica D.

“Just be there. Gently push them to seek professional help. Don’t let them think that depression is just something you ‘deal with.’ That’s dangerous.” — Haley B.

“Never tell them they ‘need to get over it,’ or ‘just be happy.’” — Jessica W.

What would you add?

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Cyberbullying Affected My Mental Health When I Started My Acting Career

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This piece was written by Mavournee Hazel, Australian actress on TV show “Neighbours.”

A lot of people have had a glimpse of being bullied at school and I personally experienced cyber bullying. It was horrible. I lost all my friends and I pushed people away and wouldn’t open up about it. 

Just prior to being offered my role on “Neighbours,” I was living in Sydney with no money and very few friends. I was lucky the friends I had were close friends and they still are dear friends today.

When I got offered the role, I thought, Right! Everything is going to be fine. On paper and to my audience and followers it looks like I have everything in the world as well as all the answers, but I don’t.

There are times in this industry when you are put under a magnifying glass and you’re vulnerable to criticism because you’re in the public eye.

A good circle of friends is so important. When I first moved to Sydney, I didn’t have anyone. While I have always been one of those people who liked being alone, there’s a massive difference between being alone and being lonely and feeling like you have no one. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

The importance of having a great support network is everything. Staying connected to people in your world who genuinely care about you can make such a difference to your well-being.

Now I’m in Melbourne and the cast is my other family. They know exactly what I’m going through and that is so important.

The irony with depression is that when you’re in that headspace, you really don’t want to talk to people and socialize. When I experienced depression, I pushed everyone away from me. That was one of the first signs that something was up with me. I used to love going out with my friends and then I didn’t. It’s little things like that that showed me I was struggling.

A lot of people think this is part of life and sometimes it is, but recognizing something is wrong, listening to your gut and talking to someone you can trust are key in avoiding long term problems.

If someone else around you seems depressed, be there for them and check in. Ask how they’re doing and don’t give up on them. You can be the one to start a life-changing conversation.

People think as actors, we are untouchable. But it’s the opposite. We are touched by everyone and so exposed. And then there are the expectations you need to meet and you wonder if you can keep up the façade and be a rock and even a role model. That was scary for me. A role model? I felt like I could barely take care of myself.

When I first started my role, the amount of people who would say “I want to be you!” was overwhelming. I’d be like, “No you don’t. Be yourself because if you’re striving your whole life to be someone else, you’re always going to be a second rate version of that person.” 

My life goal is to be myself unapologetically and to be happy in being myself. No amount of comments, likes or followers is going to validate that for me. It’s an intrinsic thing.

A fellow actor on the show who plays my older sister, gave me some great advice a while ago. I was talking about how overwhelmed I felt being thrust into the spotlight and I started comparing myself to others. When I said, “I’m not getting celebrated for being me, but I really want to be myself,” she responded by saying, “Stop. Comparison is the thief of joy.” That really resonated with me.

 R U OK? is a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. R U OK? Day is a national day of action, held on the second Thursday of September each year. But every day is the day to start a conversation. Conversation tips and crisis numbers can be found at ruok.org.au.

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