Today I Decided to 'Show Up' for My Life

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I’ve lost count of how many times I have found myself shattered, lying on the floor. I’m often unsure the length of time that has passed, and why I fell to the ground in the first place. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve fallen. What matters is how many times I slowly pushed against the floor and rose to stand. With knees trembling and a heavy heart, I rose to stand another moment. Most people that have interacted with me through the years would never have known I have lived deep in the well of darkness for over a decade. I quickly adapted and learned to hide behind the mask I created for myself. Being labelled as the girl who is “too sensitive,” I rode that wave and resigned myself to the fact people just couldn’t handle me, never truly understanding how I lived in the intimacy of my inner world. So, I remained quiet.

However, through my darkness, I have learned to honor this place and accept this is a part of me. Once I did this, slowly a voice began to emerge. My spirituality has taught me that. It taught me this type of awareness is actually innate, it is always there, nudging at me, focusing me on the present moment. And my empathic heart taught me compassion and patience towards myself, and in doing so, I’ve been more compassionate towards others. The teacher sitting within has guided me through the years to always question, always uncover the answers — or at least attempt to.

Although my depression has taken up the better portion of my life, I am slowly crawling out of it. I am turning 31 this year. A decade ago, I envisioned something very different for my life, but instead of dwelling in what “should have been,” I will look at what I have done. I have been derailed over and over again, it has been an exhausting battle, but through it, I’ve built of reserve of strength and resilience. I have accepted this may be something I will battle through for most of my life. The difference between now and then is that back then, I had no backbone. I had no way of bouncing back. I believe you get real good at bouncing back when you are kicked to the ground day in, day out.

Last week, I caught myself on the floor again. Yes, just last week. Fetal position, gasping for air, screaming at the world, so fed up with the way my life is. This time though, I placed my hand to my heart and I remembered to breathe. I called my power back and I asked for what I needed. The voice spoke back. Movement. So I pushed myself off the floor and got my ass to a yoga class. I moved and grooved and cried my way through the 60 minutes that slowly passed. I was the girl in the corner. I didn’t mind. It’s those moments that count. I believe the small victories are what teach us about how far we have come. These tiny moments hold weight in how we “show up” for our life. For someone living with mental illness, these tiny moments count. These tiny moments, in fact, are large victories. Count those victories and be proud. Always resort back to those victories when you are lying on the floor, defeated and let down. I remind myself, today, I decided to “show up” for my life in whatever capacity I was able to muster, and that is enough.

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Thinkstock photo via cienpies.

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The Cloud of Depression

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Unexpectedly the cloud moves in. I feel my mood slowly start to change. I know the storm is lingering. Will it be a strong one this time, or will it quietly pass by with little fanfare?

The storm continues to linger. It hovers over my soul slowly draining my ability to think for myself. Almost without warning the negative thoughts emerge from the darkest depths of my soul.

“I’m unloved.”
“I’m a failure.”
“I’ll never amount to anything.”
“I offer nothing to society.”

As these thoughts bounce around my mind like a ping pong ball, my mood continues to deteriorate. The storm is not passing this time; now it is growing stronger. At first, I am able to fight off some of the negative thoughts and remind myself they are not true. As the storm grows, I lose more and more control over. Feelings of despair and loneliness engulf my soul.

The further into despair I sink the more the outside world seems to fade away. Those talking around me disappear into the background. As I sink, I fall further into my own mind and the more negative thoughts take control. While only a few moments ago I was able to fend off these thoughts, the strength to fight them has waned.

When the storm emerged, I reached out to a friend asking for prayers. A Hail Mary I know but worth the try. This time the prayers don’t seem to be helping. I don’t know who is in control, but I know it’s not me and I don’t believe this could be from God. All I know is this day is only getting worse. The storm has rolled in, and all I can do is hope to hold on long enough to survive.

Before long I start to lose the ability to move. My eyes stare straight ahead at my computer screen. Co-workers walk by thinking I’m intensely working on something, but in reality I can’t see what is in front of me. All I can see are the negative thoughts bouncing around my head.

Every once in awhile I snap out of it for a minute or two. I spend most of those minutes trying to remember what I was doing before I went into my trance. Today, I barely remember what I was trying to get done.

The cycle continues for a few hours until it is time to clock out. I slip out of work a few minutes early hoping to beat the traffic on the way home, knowing that stopping will only trigger another trance. Fortunately today I was able to make it home without any incident.

I stumble through the rest of my evening. My to-do list from earlier is left undone. Maybe I’ll be in a better place tomorrow. I do my best to attend to my kids and to be a good father, even though it takes every last bit of energy out of me. After they go to bed, I pour myself a glass of Scotch and head outside to smoke a cigar hoping some time alone outside will clear my head enough. Some days this helps… today it takes the edge off, but the negative thoughts are still lingering.

After an hour or so, I head back inside and get ready for bed. I reach for my sleeping pills knowing if I don’t take them I will be up all night fighting this storm. As the medicine does its job I slowly see the storm fade into the background, not knowing if it will return in the morning.

With depression not all days are like this. Some days are worse. Some days are better. Most days it takes everything out of me just to appear normal. I have hopes and dreams, but most days I don’t have the energy to pursue them. Today, I outlasted the storm. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

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Photo by Timothy Ah Koy, via Unsplash

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When Saying 'I'm OK' Gets to Be Too Much

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I find myself heading to the bathroom for much needed silence and privacy. I lock the door behind me and lean against it, as my body hits the floor along with my tears. I massage my chest in the hopes of making the awful pain go away. I tell myself the same thing over and over again.

It’s OK. You’re OK.

All this is happening, and just behind the door in another room, is my special someone — my friend, my mom, dad or any member of my family. Just behind the bathroom door is someone oblivious to the fact that I am frantically pulling myself together to make it seem like I’m OK. Having physical and emotional pain in the process.

Why? Why do I do it?

Maybe it’s because I’ve argued about something repeatedly, and the other party just does not understand me just wanting to stop talking about it. So, I have to make it seem like I’m OK.

Maybe it’s because I don’t want to offend the other person because they know I’m going through a rough time and they’re trying their best. Maybe I’m scared they might take my depression personally, or feel bad about not being able to help me.

Maybe I’ve opened up to someone before, and they didn’t take it seriously so I’ve been scarred ever since.

Maybe it’s because I don’t want to be viewed as a “weak” person for feeling things that to them, I shouldn’t be feeling.

Whatever the reason is, I know I’m not alone.

I can’t even count the number of times I had to give myself a pep talk to remind myself it’s going to be OK, because I felt like nobody was going to do it for me. I remember being in a place where I was so alone and lonely, but at the same time, felt that I needed to be independent. I needed to be OK. And I had to do it by myself.

It’s horrible. The nasty ache in my chest when people ask if I’m OK, and I smile and nod. It’s me who is assuring them, and not them assuring me that I’m going to be OK.

Twisted, isn’t it?

We’ve all been there, some more frequent than others. We’ve all faked smiles and said we were OK, when we knew we weren’t. For some of us, we have this programmed into our minds that we must be OK at all times, for various reasons.

Sometimes we get so used to this kind of attitude that when it gets to be too much, it just blows over. We keep in so much pain, anger, sadness and sorrow, that sometimes even the slightest thing could tip us off.

I’m here to tell you it’s OK not to be OK. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to be sad, angry, confused.

It’s OK to feel.

You are only human and you are allowed to feel.

It’s OK to want to think of yourself first sometimes. It’s OK to want to show people you’re mad, sad or depressed. Just be sure it’s the right person.

Be sad.
Be angry.
Be depressed.

Take all the time in the world to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling. Cry. Scream. Do it for yourself. When you’ve let everything out, you’ll be ready to conquer the world again.

Because I believe things don’t get easier, you just get stronger.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Unsplash photo via Larm Rmah.

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The Guilt of Being Depressed

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When asked the one word that is synonymous with my depression, “guilt” comes to mind. I feel guilty for having depression; I had a great childhood. No, nothing terrible has happened. I live in a lovely flat, have an incredible boyfriend and great friends. “I should not feel depressed.” This phrase turns over and over in my mind. There are people in the world who really suffer. “Not being able to get out of bed is not suffering,” I tell myself. “Surely, it’s a luxury.”

I’ve had depression for many, many years now. There are times when the clouds seem to clear, when the darkness dissipates and life feels good, but right now the clouds are ever-present, and it is hard to remember those times. However, no one would really know — I should be a spy, I am so good at leading a double life. I can put on a smile, muster up a good conversation (after ignoring a few calls and messages), but the reality is, all those “normal,” happy interactions exhaust me, and for that I feel guilty.

I feel guilty that I want to scream at my boyfriend who is just trying to be understanding. I feel guilty that I cause those closest to me to worry. My parents, my partner, my family and friends, all of them try to support me, to ensure I don’t get too low. How do I tell them it isn’t them and no matter what they do often I just feel low? I feel guilty that their efforts to help sometimes just make it worse.

I feel guilty for canceling plans last-minute. I mean to go, I want to go, but often I just don’t have the strength. I am brilliant at making excuses, but the shame I feel for letting people down is ever-present.

I even feel guilty for feeling guilty. Maybe some other people understand this warped way of thinking. I would tell anyone else with depression to not be so hard on themselves, to acknowledge their efforts. But to me, I just feel guilty.

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Photo by Eduard Militaru, via Unsplash

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How 'Staying Strong' in the Face of Depression Nearly Demolished Me

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What does the word “strong” mean to me? I have spent most of my life being “strong,” and it nearly demolished me. Maybe because of the stigma around mental health, people learn to see mental problems as something to be ashamed of, and the “done thing” is to be “strong” and soldier on. What that meant in reality for me was that all my natural emotions were suppressed, hidden away and treated as “bad” things. Control, calmness and coping were my watchwords. I was known, and even admired, for it. I realize now, what I was actually doing was building a wall around my natural emotions, brick by brick.

Until one day, I woke up and knew I couldn’t carry on with things the way they were. That brick wall was going to fall down and bury me if something didn’t change. Those emotions were shouting to get out and they demanded to be heard, in very scary ways. So I took myself to the doctor and received medication and counseling.

Now that last sentence is easy to say, but within it, is a whole lot of horrid. Was it easy to go to a doctor and say, “I’m broken, and I need fixing?” Was it easy to fill out the referral form and post it? Was it easy to call the therapist and arrange that first session? Or talk to people close to me about it? Or take medication? No. No, it wasn’t, it was hell. I hated it. I put off every single part of it for as long as I could.

Over the weeks, I began to understand this reluctance to confront things was part of the problem. I couldn’t control strong emotions like that forever — the stress was killing me. But the real issue from this first experience was downright fear of change, fear that all these fine brick defenses of mine would crumble and leave a poor, frightened little thing out in the open for the first time, with nothing to protect her from all the bad stuff. So I dealt with the surface problems on this occasion, because I felt safe doing that.

But there was more to come, unfortunately.

Over the last few years, I’ve developed two nasty illnesses and their associated secondary conditions. I am now disabled, need a wheelchair or scooter to get around and have such severe fatigue and pain that I have to rest most of the time. As the physical illnesses progressed, I fought with everything I had to keep going and keep working. I loved my job and the people I worked with, but it just couldn’t be done. When I finally accepted the medical advice and was signed off, I had lost so much of my life that I didn’t see the point of me any more.

I enjoyed working, I was good at it. I was valued, but I couldn’t do it anymore. I loved walking, going to the gym, dancing madly and gardening, but I couldn’t do any of them. I was housebound and had nothing to occupy my time. Depression hit again, big time. For six months, I couldn’t see a way out of the darkness. The losses were so great they took me over, despite the love and support I had from my husband, family and friends.

But because I had been there before — learned the all-important lesson that help was out there if I asked for it — I knew there was a way out. So, I asked for help. Again, it wasn’t easy, nothing ever is with depression. It took time for me to acknowledge it was back again, and it needed an expert’s help in exactly the same way my diseases did. It was tough as hell dragging myself out to counseling when my body and mind just wanted to stay at home and keep everyone away.

With my therapist’s help, I was able to confront the new and the long buried issues, and have the courage to start letting the bigger and longer buried emotions out. I knew it could be done because I’d done some of it before, if that makes sense. In fact, I have come to realize the very “strength” which had built my brick wall, was in fact, my greatest weakness.

So to answer what is strength to me, it’s realizing what is popularly perceived as “weakness” can actually be the best kind of strength. To ask for help and learn how to cope better during the times when depression bites is strength to me.

This post originally appeared on Bu Bakes.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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

Thinkstock photo via BerSonnE.

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7 Ways I Help My Spouse Feel Secure During My Depressive Episodes

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Many people have asked myself and my husband how we have stayed together for so long with my mental illness looming overhead. It’s a fair question; I know many couples that have ended up divorcing because one or the other couldn’t handle the added pressure that mental illness may bring. I think in our case, that added element of pressure only served as a way to make our marriage stronger. Of course, at the beginning we struggled. We struggled a great deal, but we knew we loved each other enough to keep working on the relationship.

I don’t doubt there are some people who cope with depression or anxiety saying to themselves, “I can barely take care of myself during a bout of depression, how am I supposed to worry about someone else?” To that I say, I understand and I’ve been there. I was diagnosed nearly 25 years ago.

However, it’s essential your partner be made aware of what you’re going through. You can’t just shut down and isolate. The next time you go looking for their support, they may not be there because you’ve made them feel alienated.

I’m not suggesting you jump in to this list with both feet. Take your time, and find what works best for you and your spouse. I know from experience that when you stick together during the bad times, the good times are so much sweeter.

My husband told me the day we got married, “Well, you’re stuck with me now.” But, I didn’t always make it easy for him. Once I learned to utilize some of the methods on this list, we began to communicate better, even in the darkest of times. I understand that to some, these techniques may be common sense, but to those of us with a mental illness, sometimes it’s hard to get out of our own way and just focus on the basics.

1. Talk to your spouse and tell them what you are feeling.

Even if you’re having trouble coming up with the why and the how, as soon as you feel you may be falling into a depressive episode, let them know.

2. Assure your partner they are not the cause of your mood.

You have no idea how powerful something so simple can be. Sit down and tell them point blank, they have nothing to do with how you’re feeling.

3. Tell them it’s OK that they can’t fix the situation.

This was a big one for my husband. He loves me and he doesn’t want to see me in pain. So, he often felt as if there had to be something he could do to make it better for me. Unfortunately for most of us, we need to work through it in our own time to feel better.

4. Offer them simple options to possibly help make you feel better.

Maybe you’re having a craving for chocolate or you just really want a tuna fish sandwich. Ask your spouse to pick one of these items up for you. Be genuine when they bring it home for you. Let them know that they’ve helped even if it’s just a little.

5. Try to make sure you don’t take anything out on them.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in my relationship early on was my temper, and because my husband was the only one around, he got to feel the wrath. This goes hand in hand with communication. Even if you simply say, “Look, I’m not doing well right now and it may seem like I’m taking it out on you. I’m sorry if I do, it’s not your fault”.

6. Thank them for being there for you.

Many times the only real remedy a situation needs is a “thank you.” Once your partner feels appreciated, they’re more likely to be more supportive more often. It’s a rewarding feeling to know you’ve helped the one you love.

7. If you’re having trouble giving your feelings a voice, write them a letter.

This is valuable on many levels. It can help the situation in the present, but if your partner is anything like my husband, he’ll keep it and read it when times get hard again. If you’re truly transparent and honest with your emotions, it could be the best thing to happen to your relationship.

I hope you’ll consider trying a couple of these the next time you feel like you’re sinking into depression. You can have a strong relationship with a solid structure while enduring mental illness. It doesn’t have to be a struggle. Believe me when I tell you that having a stable partnership takes one of the heaviest loads off your back in a dark time. Depression is exhausting enough, but knowing your relationship is falling apart around you only makes it 10 times harder to navigate through the darkness. Do yourself a favor and just try. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

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Thinkstock photo by Gary Houlder

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