Tumblr Artist Sam Wilman Creates Comic About Living With Depression

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Sam Wilman wasn’t planning on illustrating what living with depression is like for her class assignment, but, in the midst of a depressive episode, drawing her life experiences seemed to make the most sense to the 19-year-old.

“As I began to plan this comic, I was already in a bad state of mind, drifting in and out of productive sessions until I was at the night before my deadline and forced to finish it,” Wilman, who studies animation at the University of Hertsfordshire in the U.K., told The Mighty. “This comic was a visual representation of how my life at college was progressing, and as of now still ongoing, as the comic reflects.”

Comic featuring a girl in a yellow sweater and white dress. Panes say "I had aspirations," "Everyone believed I would be successful," "Somewhere along the way."

Wilman took the assignment, to draw a 6 to 12 page comic showing narrative and character design, and used it to show what living with depression can look like. “I always used to struggle to explain my depression to friends and family in a way that people without it could comprehend,” she said. “I’d attempted to explain it before in poems I used to write back when I was doing my Creative Writing A Level, but the closest I got was likening it to an ocean.”

Like her poetry comparing depression to an ocean, Wilman’s comic also makes use of oceanic references, comparing depression to drowning in a black tide.

[Depression is] entirely the feeling of being submerged in water, like when you’re a child in a swimming pool, and ducking your head beneath the water mutes everything going on above the surface. It’s peaceful, and weightless, but you have to resurface at some point. Your lungs may get bigger over the months, and it gets more and more familiar to hide under the progressively rough waves collecting above, but your body will always tell you to resurface.

The comic’s title, “Pâro,” also references Wilman’s experience of depression. The word, which was created by writer-artist John Koenig, describes the feeling that no matter what you do, it is always somehow wrong.

Keeping with the reality of living with depression, Wilman chose to end her comic on a darker note. “I couldn’t bring myself to write about a happy ending when I haven’t yet found one myself,” she noted. “I could’ve closed with death or with some ominous ending but that seemed too obvious, since most people seem to link with depression is death, and purely just death, not the struggle. I found it more upsetting to state the actuality of depression, where most struggle with their own thoughts for months or years without finding comfort or resolution.”

Wilman said she hasn’t received a grade for her assignment yet, but has heard from others on Tumblr, where she shared the comic, that they can relate. “I, myself, hope that I, and others that have commented that they feel similarly, find some sort of purpose to carry on,” she added.

You can view more of Wilman’s artwork on her Tumblr

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

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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Why It's Hard to Be Kind to My Past Self's Mental Health Struggles

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As a person who struggles with both perfectionism and depression, I’m not very good at being kind to myself. I speak to myself in ways I never would to another person and I’m pretty great at beating myself up for basically any offense, big, small, real or imagined.

I’m getting better at this, but I’ve realized I struggle a lot with being kind to the person I was in the past. One of the ironies of working through your mental health issues is it can honestly be kind of depressing. Yes, you’re learning how to correct your faulty thinking patterns and tendencies and where they came from and it makes your life going forward much better. But that doesn’t change the fact a lot of hard things happened in the past, things that maybe could have been avoided if you knew then what you know now.

For example, I’ve learned I can be extremely codependent, denying my own legitimate needs in an unhealthy way because I feel responsible for other people’s happiness. When I look back at my life now, I can see far too many decisions I made that were influenced by this tendency. These choices usually made me unhappy, but at the time, I was OK with it because I thought it was the right thing to do. I thought I was being a good Christian by putting other’s needs ahead of my own, but really, I was acting like I didn’t matter as a person.

It’s painful to realize this, especially because the unhealthiness of it all seems so obvious to me now. How could I have been so ignorant? Why did I waste so much time doing things I hated when it was completely unnecessary? How much happier could I have been then and how much less regret would I have now, if I hadn’t been influenced by those wrong thought patterns? I feel the loss of what could have been and it makes me really sad. And then I feel angry because feeling sad stinks and I’m being forced to experience sadness when it could have been prevented. It’s hard.

Feeling this sadness and anger is normal and even healthy, I think. But what isn’t healthy is when I go a step too far and chew out my past self for messing up. Instead of showing my past self grace and compassion for struggling for legitimate reasons, I feel shame and blame myself for not handling things perfectly. (Not that we can ever do anything perfectly anyway, but that’s the perfectionism talking.)

What I’m trying to do now is be kind to who I was and respect the choices I made in the past, even those that were influenced by poor mental health and caused me unnecessary pain. Even though I disagree with them now and wish I had done things differently, those decisions seemed like the right ones at the time. I was doing the best I could with what I had and fortunately, I have a lot more now.

I can also acknowledge the bravery it takes to face the hard realities of the past, precisely because it entails feeling regret, sadness and anger. And finally, it forces me to deal with the fact my feelings of sadness and anger probably wouldn’t be so intense if I wasn’t such a perfectionist who thinks that my life has to be perfect to be any good. It’s like the fun never ends! But I’ll try to break the cycle. Instead of beating myself up for being a perfectionist, I’ll try to be kind to myself instead. Baby steps.

This post originally appeared on The Beautiful Place blog.

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Thinkstock photo via bignoze.

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My Depression Leaves Me Feeling Lost at Sea

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I permanently reside on a makeshift sailboat in the center of an endless sea.

It is always nighttime where I live. Although my compass has broken and my destination is unknown, I sit and wait anxiously for a miracle. All is not still, though. Rain pours down from above as the foundation of my raft rocks back and forth to its own unstable tempo. I unwillingly inch closer and closer to the center of a nasty, raging storm and before I know it, I am overturned and submerged. With the only support I once had sinking straight into the depths of this unrelenting ocean, I am left beyond terrified.

The water is frigid and dark, and there is no telling what lurks hidden beyond my feet. There is no life vest and there is nothing to hold on to. Gasping for air, I battle to keep my head above the waves, but they feel far too powerful to combat against. I may see other ships sailing smoothly in the distance. I cry out for their help but hope is bleak. Surely they can’t see the state I’m in from so far away, right? After fighting and flailing on my own for so long, all of the muscles in my body become tired and weak. My chest clenches as water spills into my lungs. I am now left to wonder if I even have an ounce of strength left to pull myself up for air once more, or if it would be easier to surrender to this unforgiving force and let it effortlessly pull me under.

A lot of times for me, living with the symptoms of chronic depression can be best comparable to perpetually drowning in a lonely sea of hopelessness. The good days where I can finally catch a “breath of air” are what keeps me sailing in the right direction. Those times are the crisp sense of motivation that screams out to remind me my life and well-being are worth fighting for.

To all those who struggle with me, please stay strong — and no matter what, keep your head above the waves. You may not see the shore as fast as you would like to, but your determination will guide you to freedom and the storms you’re up against will pass, I promise.

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

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.

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

Thinkstock photo via ysbrandcosijnexclusive.

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When People Don't Understand the Good Days With Depression

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Those of us living with depression can be good at hiding it. We can seem “normal” during the day but cry at night because we feel too “different” than everyone else. We can have loving families and steady jobs, but still feel utterly useless.

Then there are the actual good times when we’re genuinely happy, maybe even over the top. We might annoy you because we talk too much or laugh too loud. This can make it harder to understand the darkness we live in; however, just because we struggle with depression doesn’t mean we can’t experience joy. Yes, even we have good days.

If we annoy you by our spurts of energy and laugh at every joke or say “good morning” to everyone who walks in the door, it might just be because we haven’t felt this good in a long, long time. We still see you rolling your eyes and whispering to your friends and we try not to let it discourage us. (It does.)

It’s ironic how people who can feel so empty can sometimes be “too much.” Trust me, we get your confusion. At least you don’t have to live in it all the time.

We know how to hide and we know how to pretend, but it’s hard for us to realize life can be good. Sometimes things actually are OK, and we need to recognize that. So if you think we’re acting “crazy,” know we’re just trying to embrace and acknowledge those good moments because we don’t know how long they’ll last.

If you struggle with similar issues, then you know what I’m talking about. You’ve had those days when you ask yourself, “Wait, why am I feeling so happy right now? I thought I had depression.” Yes. It’s confusing.

I’m far from a professional, but I’ve lived with depression for years. I’ve learned it doesn’t have to limit our range of emotions. Every thought and feeling we have is real.

Maybe your story looks similar to mine. If so, I ask you to give yourself permission to enjoy the good days. Don’t let a diagnosis define your joy. Savor your smiles and let go of anything that gets in the way.

And for you “normal” people out there, I ask you try not to judge. Maybe you’re confused by all of the different emotions, but please understand. We never know everything that goes on inside another person’s mind.

Our struggles may be different than yours, but we still need kindness and support. Everyone deserves to have good days every once in a while.

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Unsplash image via Alexander Shustov.

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Addressing the Final Taboo That Is Talking About Mental Illness

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To my wonderful family and friends,

As some of you may have personally experienced and many of you have come to realize over the years, our mental health needs a great deal of attention. It’s the final taboo and it needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety are not signs of weakness; they are signs of trying to remain strong for too long.

We are often asked to explain what depression and anxiety feel like, as others sometimes struggle to comprehend our illness. In a great number of those who live with mental illness, the pain we feel can’t be seen or explained and often goes unheard. It can feel like we are fighting an ongoing persistent war inside our heads — one that envelops us to the core and leaves us struggling for a purpose, for reasons that are often foreign to us.

We seek professional help in various forms, confide in friends and family, try medications, meditate, exercise and above all else, try to tell ourselves we each have a purpose — that were put on this earth to make a difference, however small or insignificant we may feel our contribution to be.

As someone once said, we must accept what we can’t change and change what we can’t accept. For those of us who have accepted our mental health struggles and are actively trying to engage in the recovery process, daily life can often be a constant, perilous struggle filled with an overwhelming amount of pain and anxiety. When the fog clears, we are often only left with short bursts or periods of satisfaction and enjoyment, waiting with fear for the next installment of debilitating pain and overwhelming sadness. For those of us who manage to resurface from the binding constraints of mental illness to live a meaningful existence, we are often forced to live a life of prevention, whereby we must do our best to avoid inducing any kind of stress or danger to our psyche for fear of relapse.

My 20s have been a tumultuous time, filled with highs I never thought I was capable of feeling and experiencing, and lows I never thought I was capable of surviving. It has been an ongoing battle between what the OCD and anxiety feed my psyche and what I, myself, know to be true. This internal battle materializes in uncontrollable physical symptoms, whereby I am often unable to commit to anything, often cancel plans and more often than not, leave others wondering if I’m OK. Thankfully, the support and understanding of both my wonderful friends and family has helped me to feel less alone and has provided an avenue of understanding.

As I approach my 30s, my outlook on the world and the part we all play in it has changed dramatically. In order to survive, we must pave our own path based on our individual needs, morals and values. Instead of overextending and committing ourselves to a life built around societal expectations, take the time to really think about what’s important to you and what will make the most difference to your life and overall recovery. In my case, that means investigating and exploring the range of options available to those struggling with anxiety and OCD, as well as being more gentle and attentive to my mental health, instead of always pushing it to the sidelines.

Although it may sound cliché and tiresome, happiness really does depend on ourselves. If your mental health and quality of life is greatly affected by your current circumstances, consider revisiting what’s important to you and reassessing your priorities. As we all know, life is full of moving parts, most of which we can’t control. However, it’s important to remember we can only do our best in the time we are here.

Sarah

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Thinkstock photo via Staras.

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How My Depression and PTSD Make Me Question My Faith

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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.

The current thing my doctor is insisting I work on is finding it within myself to believe I am worth loving — by myself, by others, even by God. It seems to be a simple task, right? Not too much to ask of someone. The fact faith and religion has been a huge part of my life for as long as I have been able to remember should even make it an easy thing to do. Correct? After all, what kind of Christian doesn’t have faith that at the very least God loves them? It is the explanation of Christianity in its most basic of forms — “God loves you!”

Yet for me, there is a deep sense of guilt and shame I am feeling right now, the hypocrisy of myself — admitting to myself, to others, that for the 32 years I have been raised in faith, and made it my own, I have never once felt God could love me. Others, yes. Me? No. I feel too worthless, too broken, too sinful, too unlovable. I do not feel God wants me, yet I personally share my faith with others because I am so convinced God can indeed love them, to forgive them for their sins, to help them to endure their trials, to bless them with a hope for a joyous life beyond what the world of today can offer them. Deep in my heart, there is nothing that shakes my faith in the love of God for other people.

There is an illustration in the Gospels of the Bible that talks about sparrows; they were regarded by the people of the day as being of the most little of value. In fact, they were almost worthless. Jesus was telling those he was speaking to that not even a sparrow drops to the ground without his Heavenly Father seeing it, and that as humans, we are more valuable than even many sparrows to God. It is to show that a life, any life — but especially that of a human — is valuable to God, that He cherishes it. No matter who we are, we are worthwhile.

I do not feel I am valuable, though, and when I think of the future I struggle to place myself in it; it is easy to imagine a world where I am not there. While many people fear being replaced or forgotten, one of my wishes is I could be, because then there would be no obligation for me to exist anymore. No one would sad because instead of having died, I would simply not have ever existed. A world without me would not be better or worse off — it would just be.

There are very few people who I truly feel have loved me unconditionally, and I sadly admit there is even a fear I try to hide deep down. I fear my husband — a man who has stood faithfully and tirelessly by my side for more than 15 years, through all the hard times — will one day realize I am not worth it. I fear even he will wake up one day, see me how I see myself and leave. He has never for one second given me the impression he will stop loving me; in fact, he tells me multiple times each and every day that he loves and cherishes me, but I cannot believe I deserve his enduring love. In fact, there are even times when I feel guilt I have him to love me because there are other women out there who deserved to have a man like him fall in love with them more than I ever did.

Flawed. I have made terrible mistakes that led to horrible consequences. I’ve hidden sickening secrets for the greater part of my life. I feel lost and broken, and I don’t know how it is possible for anyone in this world or even (especially) in Heaven could look through my thoughts and feelings and still love me. It seems impossible to ask, impossible to believe in, selfish to expect or to hope for.

The Psalms are full of heart-wrenching poems about feelings of lowliness, guilt, worthlessness, depression, emotional pain, distress and self-loathing, tempered with assurances God loves us no matter what we have done if we are determined to repent. Assurances that he loves us no matter what has happened to us, appreciating, even more, the faith of those that love him despite extra trials they endure. All he wants is to be able to find even just a small bit of good within us.

I am a good person. I can say that with assurance because I know it is true. I have a gift of empathy and compassion; the emotions of others are deeply interesting to me. Helping and healing them is something that is of the deepest importance. There is one thing I know for sure; I am determined to make the lives of others as good as I can. I have an ability to love even those who have hurt me or let me down, and this is something that makes me feel both blessed and cursed at the same time. There is not even anger or hatred towards those who have hurt me physically in the past; I cannot hold a grudge because I do not know what happened to them to make them like they were. Maybe they are just bad people, or maybe bad events turned them that way? I forgive them for their actions to me.

How do I apply this forgiving spirit to myself? I don’t. I feel I can’t. It feels selfish to say that because I am “good” I am worthy of love. I am good because I don’t ever want anyone to feel like I have — like I do. People need someone to care for them unconditionally, they deserve to be loved for who they are. But in saying that I am a good person, I assign that to the logic of my actions. I try my best to behave in a good manner towards others. But I do not feel my soul is good; I cannot believe my worth extends beyond what I can do to try and make the world a better place for others.

And while I know that the Bible assures us time and time again God loves each of us, I question how can God love someone who has no thanks for her life? Who even at times feels ashamed or resentful of her “gifts” of love and compassion? Who has battled with suicidal thoughts since she was 12? Someone who has tried to take her life? Who has self-harmed, showing so little respect for the gift of being a living soul? How can He love someone who tells him she doesn’t believe He loves her? How could even He forgive the things I have done wrong, the secrets I have kept that I fear maybe have caused endless pain to others?

I don’t really know where I am going right now, or how I am going to work on feeling worthy of being loved. Reflecting on how I personally feel when my children say, “You don’t love me,” maybe gives a little insight into how I think God himself feels when I am unwilling to believe that His love is greater than my own heart’s lowliness. The Bible itself even says to remember, “God’s love is greater than our hearts which condemn us” in John I, but my heart condemns me with such insistence it feels unlikely to ever be silenced enough to believe anything else.

If someone else were telling me this, that these rambling emotions were their thoughts and feelings, I would be heartbroken for them. I am heartbroken for myself in some ways, but I am so scared of trying to mend this. I am terrified of becoming selfish or feeling worthy. I am so frightened by the thought I could become self-centered and hedonistic, thinking of myself more than others, expecting more than I deserve.

So can God love me? Am I worthy of being loved by Him, or even by others? That is what I need to try and figure out. But until I learn to love myself, just a little, I feel there is probably no hope I will ever believe truly that anyone can truly love me.

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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