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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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What My Depression and Mania Look Like

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My depression isn’t cute. Depression is five days without a shower or a change of clothes. Depression is eating anything in sight and ordering even more. Depression is skipping classes, ignoring emails, not answering concerned texts and phone calls. It’s feeling alone when you’re the one who isolated yourself. Depression is a raft in the middle of a river with a greasy, sore and exhausted me clinging to it. Depression is not looking in the mirror because I don’t even feel like I exist. Depression is forgetting my birthday or my family’s names or good memories. Depression is leaving my three bedroom apartment when I dropped out of school. It’s finally getting out of bed, because somebody threatened to come check on me, only to step onto a scale I keep close by. Depression is heavy — heavier if you could measure the pounds of fear, agony and regrets I carry around. It’s agreeing to karaoke but I didn’t get to pick the song and they don’t put up the words. It’s embarrassing and feels hopeless. Depression is not catching a boy’s eye in class or on the street or in a bar. Depression is noticing that you don’t get noticed anymore. It’s not cute. It’s disgusting, it’s invisible, it’s hell.

Sometimes, it’s “crazy.” I’m “crazy.” It drowns my bank account in less than 15 hours. I scream and cry and imagine things and hate people I normally love and love people I normally hate. It’s a run-on sentence. Mania is breaking up with a high school boyfriend for no reason, other than he didn’t call me pretty when I was 17 and still wanting to fix it five years later. Mania is signing up for a new school and new classes I’m not capable of completing. It’s taking part in every committee and not ever finishing my jobs. Mania is surfing adoption websites to take care of children when I can’t even take care of myself. Mania is buying a plane ticket in the middle of the night to visit somebody you haven’t spoken to in years. Mania is deciding to move to LA to become a famous comedian. Mania is pacing the apartment at 3:45 a.m., scaring my roommate as she leaves for work. It’s crash diets and fad diets and sick amounts of exercise to lose the weight depression gained. Mania isn’t fun. It’s not a roller coaster. It’s a Tilt-a-Whirl I can’t get off, even after telling the operator I’m going to throw up.

On my 14th birthday, I wrote in my journal that it would be my last birthday. I wasn’t trying to be morbid; I just couldn’t picture myself growing up. It’s not that I didn’t want to drive or vote or get married, it’s that I didn’t see it happening for me. That thought eventually worked itself deeper into my subconscious. What’s the point in good grades if I won’t be here for college? Why should I save money if I want ice cream and shoes now if I don’t have to save for my first house? Why fall in love with him, if I’m leaving soon? Depression took a lot from me. It took away the future. I couldn’t let it keep it.

So, I’m here. I can see a future. I can almost imagine getting a real job. For the first time, I see myself growing up. I finally can understand a five-year plan. It took a lot of going through the motions, but I’m here. I learned to drive. I graduated high school. (Still working on the good grades thing). I’ve fallen and failed in love a couple times. That may be the last thing I’m focused on, though. The last date I went on, I told him “I didn’t use to be fat, it’s just the antidepressants,”  so I might need to up my game. Get a little bit healthier before I engage with boys. I read a quote the other day that “you have to want to spend the rest of your life with yourself, first” and I loved that. It’s my focus now. Sometimes, I think about going to my friends’ weddings. Those are the really good days because I think about friends and I realize I have them. I realize that I’m not alone. Plus, I have my dog — he’ll live 15 years and I’ve thought about being sad when he dies. That means I’ll be here 15 years. It’s weird sometimes, to think about being here longer than the next few months. In the middle of the night when I’m all alone thinking about how I haven’t been touched by another human in days, I just tell myself that I’ll high five a co-worker at work. Optimism is weird, but I like it.

I’m still dizzy, I’m still stumbling, I’m still too tired to go on sometimes but I’m here. And sometimes, I’m even OK.

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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What Are the Signs of 'High-Functioning' Depression and Could You Have It?

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If I were to ask you to picture and describe a depressed person, what would you envision?

Someone having trouble getting out of bed every day? Someone who’s calling into work sick because they can’t leave the house? Someone who’s isolated from friends and possibly sleeping 10 or 12 hours a day? Someone who can’t stop crying and who’s feeling hopeless?

Or would you envision a popular, college-educated professional living it up in the big city with a great job, a good group of friends and a long list of accolades to her name, but who wakes up each morning with a gripping sense of anxiety and an internalized pressure to continue to be “perfect” and “keep it all together?”

Would you picture a successful Millennial startup employee who you admire for his discipline and drive but who inwardly is devastatingly self-critical and relentlessly demanding on himself and who, after work, copes with his life with a drink or two and several hours of gaming?

And would you picture that smiling, competent, friendly coworker of yours who always seems to be getting All The Things done but who secretly, inwardly feels like she’s a complete failure and fears time is flying by and she’s wasting it every day?

Let’s face it: you’re probably not going to picture these folks. And yet each of them could be a perfect example of someone dealing with what’s come to be known as “high-functioning depression.”

While high-functioning depression doesn’t look like the stereotype of depression most of us hold in our heads, this diagnosis nevertheless carries significant risks if left untreated.

But the uniquely tricky thing about high-functioning depression is that it’s hard to spot precisely because the people dealing with it look, from the outside, like they’re holding it all together.

This can lead to a lack of ability to self-identify (or have those around you identify you) as depressed and, moreover, a possible resistance to seeking treatment because of the stigma surrounding more “typical” depression. And this is a big problem.

So in today’s blog post, I want to explain to you what high-functioning depression really is, walk you through 11 signs of high-functioning depression and how this may show up, explain the unique risks associated with high-functioning depression, and share more about how you or your loved ones can get the help you need if you identify with high-functioning depression.

What is High-Functioning Depression?

In my opinion as a psychotherapist, high-functioning depression is a pop psychology term for what’s clinically known as dysthymia.

Dysthymia, according to the “Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition” (DSM 5), is a mental health disorder characterized by:

“Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, as indicated by either subjective account or observation by others, for at least two years,” and includes the presence of two or more of the following symptoms, “Poor appetite or overeating; insomnia or hypersomnia; low energy or fatigue; low self-esteem; poor concentration or difficulty making decisions; feelings of hopelessness.”

And yet, while these symptoms may look diagnostically similar to the symptoms we think of when we envision major depressive disorder (MDD), individuals dealing with dysthymia may not have the same severe levels of impaired biological and mental functioning that can make major depression easier and more obvious to spot.

In other words, someone struggling with dysthymia may still be able to get up and go to their demanding, prestigious job, be in a romantic relationship, post the believable smiley photos on Instagram, regularly get together with their girlfriends for happy hour and generally handle all the logistical adulting stuff of their life — passing for someone who doesn’t “look depressed.”

But inwardly, this same person may be gripped with a challenging set of symptoms invisible to those of us who love and know them.

Symptoms that may greatly diminish their overall quality of life, their career, their relationships, and bloom into more challenging mental health concerns if left untreated.

11 Real-Life Ways High-Functioning Depression Can Manifest

Above, I provided you with what the DSM-5’s clinically indicative dysthymic symptoms. Now let’s talk, in layman’s terms, about 11 ways that some of these symptoms may manifest in your real life.

1. Difficulty experiencing joy.

With high-functioning depression, the things that used to bring you pleasure — whether this is a cherished yoga class or a monthly ritual of getting together with your girlfriends — these same things don’t bring you joy anymore. They may feel like burdens or events you want to avoid because it feels like more of an effort than a support.

2. Relentless criticality — of self and others.

You may have a relentless and invasive internal narrative that’s critical of yourself, of others and of the world in general. You think you’re a failure, you think your boss is an idiot, your partner’s the most irritating person to have ever lived, and life’s just one big slog. This chronically negative thought pattern may feel like something you just can’t turn off.

3. Constant self-doubt. You may constantly doubt whether or not you’re on the right career path, whether you’re in the right relationship, doubt what you’re doing with your life and if you can even handle being an adult. This pattern of constant self-doubt may be situational or pervasive but it’s something that feels like you just can’t get over.

4. Diminished energy. If it feels like getting through each day is like walking up a mountain with a backpack of rocks, if you feel like you barely have the mental, emotional and physical energy to handle your life anymore, if your overall energy levels are greatly diminished, this could be a sign of high-functioning depression.

5. Irritability or excessive anger. If you find yourself blowing up over small things — your partner says something wrong, your co-worker messed up a project, your kid just broke your favorite coffee mug, if you find yourself exploding in a way that feels disproportionate to the event, if irritability and excessive anger are something you’re wrestling with, this may be a sign.

6. Small things feel like huge things.

Similarly, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or greatly stressed by an event that happens that maybe wouldn’t have felt like such a huge deal in the past (a friend cancels weekend plans, the grocery bags break when you’re carrying them in, your darn trackpad stops working because you spilled some coffee on it) and it feels like the End Of The World instead of the annoyance that it is — if you find your stress responses disproportionate to the event itself, this may well be a sign of high-functioning depression.

7. Feelings of guilt and worry over the past and the future.

You worry that you chose the wrong career in college, you question whether you’re in the right grad school program, you worry about paying off all those student loans, you worry your biological clock is running out, you worry that you married the wrong partner, you worry about who’s going to care for your folks when they get older, etc. We all have these worries from time to time, but if feelings of guilt and worry over your past and future feel pervasive and dominant, this may be more than “normal” worry.

8. Relying on your coping strategies more and more.

If you find yourself needing extensive zone-out time after work and on the weekends, turning towards your coping mechanisms more often than not — such as substances or behaviors like using alcohol, drugs, excessive gaming, constant Netflix, etc. — all in an effort to escape your life, this could speak to underlying depression.

9. Generalized sadness.

If you find yourself feeling a generalized sense of sadness you can’t seem to pinpoint the cause of, if you drop your mask and armors of smiling competency when you close your door behind you, if you feel a subtle sense of hopelessness, this could speak to high-functioning depression.

10. Seeking perfection.

This one’s a tough one. In a way our society condones perfectionism — getting good grades, getting into the Ivies, landing that amazing tech job, striving, striving, striving. But perfectionism has a shadow side where striving turns into unrealistic demands of yourself and psychologically beating yourself up when you fall short of the bar you set for yourself. If you find yourself doing this and it’s causing you distress, be curious about whether this a sign of high-functioning depression.

11. Inability to rest and slow down. If you need to clean up, tidy and organize the house after you arrive home from an exhausting day of work before you even consider letting yourself rest, if you find yourself uncomfortable with slowness, stillness and fallow periods of time because of the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings you come into contact with when you do actually slow down, this could be a sign of high-functioning depression.

The Unique Risks To Being Someone With High-Functioning Depression.

Mental health struggles come in all shapes and sizes but, as we undo the stigmatization and globalization of mental health scripted over these past few decades, most of us likely still have an unconscious image in our heads of what a depressed person looks like.

And while this internalized image of someone who can’t get out of bed, who can’t hold down a job, and who has constant suicidal ideations may be one form of depression, it doesn’t mean that someone who sees themselves in the list above or in the clinical descriptor of dysthymia isn’t also dealing with depression.

But these folks may not be willing to see themselves as depressed. And this can be a big problem. Because, in my clinical opinion, there’s a unique set of risks to being someone with high-functioning depression.

First, because you’re still “holding it all together” it may make it harder for both you and others to spot the very real mental and emotional strain you may be under because you pass. You fly under the radar. You and those around you doubt the seriousness of what you may internally wrestle with because, after all, your life still looks pretty great from the outside, right?

Second, as someone who is high-functioning, you may grow up believing that with enough effort and willpower, you can achieve, gain or fix anything that life throws at you. Not so with high-functioning depression.

High-functioning depression isn’t just a bad attitude, and you can’t just “will your way” out of it. High-functioning depression is a biological and psychological disorder that requires adequate and clinically appropriate treatment. Arguably, the more you push and “will yourself out of it” instead of seeking proper support, the worse your symptoms may get.

For example, if left untreated, high-functioning depression, or dysthymia, can potentially bloom into major depression or major depressive episodes where your biological and psychological functioning is more severely impaired.

Or, perhaps in your attempts to deal with your high-functioning depression on your own, comorbid disorders — such as eating disorders or substance use disorders — can develop from your attempts to manage your intolerable feeling states.

Bottom line: Dysthymia, or high-functioning depression, requires adequate clinical treatment as much as the most stereotyped version of major depression does. And the good news is that with proper clinical treatment, dysthymia can be managed.

Treatment and Supports for High-Functioning Depression.

While there is no single reason why someone develops dysthymia or high-functioning depression and while there is not necessarily a way to prevent it, there are several evidence-based effective treatment modalities to help you manage and support yourself if you deal with it: Psychotherapy and/or medication.

In fact, according to a paper from “The Canadian Psychological Association,”

“Psychotherapy is as effective as medication in treating depression and is more effective than medication in preventing relapse. For some patients, the combination of psychotherapy and medication will be more beneficial than either treatment on its own.”

So if you see yourself in this article today, I strongly encourage you to seek out a therapist and/or speak to your doctor or psychiatrist about what treatment options may be available to you.

The reality with high-functioning depression and moving through your days is that it can often feel like you’re attempting to build a castle on a foundation of quicksand. Get the help you need to build a solid, stable foundation for yourself — whatever that takes! — so you can build and craft a life in a more sustainable way. You’re so worth it.

Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: Did you see yourself in this article? What’s one piece of advice you would give someone resisting seeking out therapy or talking to their doctor about possibly being depressed because they’re afraid of the stigma, believe therapy doesn’t work or that they can just handle it on their own? Leave a message in the comments below so our community of readers can benefit from your wisdom.

And until next time, take very good care of yourself.

Warmly, Annie

Additional Resources:

1. 5 Important Things to Remember If You’re Experiencing Depression.

2. Four Effective Tools For Managing Anxiety.

3. The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness.

4. DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D.

Follow this journey on Annie Wright Psychotherapy

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Why I Struggle With My Identity as a Person With Anxiety and Depression

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I don’t want to be that person — the one you look at when they’re having a panic attack and think, “I feel so sorry for them.” Or, “That must be awful.” I definitely don’t want to be the one you think of every time you see a panic attack portrayed in any sort of film or television show.

I don’t want to be that person — the one who has to convince people that even though they have a mental illness, that sometimes gets the better of them, that they’re usually doing OK. I’ve done the work and continue to do the work daily to ensure I am getting myself healthy.

I don’t want to be that person — the one you think of as soon as anyone says the word mental illness. It’s not that I’m ashamed, it’s just that it’s such a small part of me and who I am.

The one who struggles daily to tell people they’re having a really rough time. The one who doesn’t want to say anything for fear that people will get overly worried. The truth is that when I struggle, I’m telling you because I just need to get it out.

I’m more scared for when I stop telling people.

The one who’s too scared to let someone see the vulnerable pieces of them. I don’t want to continue to believe my anxiety and depression are too much of a weight to put on someone else, so what’s the point in even falling love.

The one who feels like people have started putting them into the breakable category since admitting that this is something they struggle with daily. I don’t need to be handled with kid gloves. I can handle a lot actually. So can everyone else with mental illness. We just need a little more love some days.

The one people think uses their mental illness to get them out of things. I’m not trying to be flaky. I’m not trying to ditch last minute. Trust me, letting you down is something I’m going to think about for months and months. That’s not an exaggeration. I’m also going to apologize profusely and try to make it up to you.

The one who gets angry sometimes, thinking about how much their anxiety and depression has ruled every part of their life. Sometimes I get so angry that I can’t just do something without overthinking. Everything in my life is overanalyzed and I wish that sometimes I could just let it go.

The one who struggles to fall in love fully for the fear of rejection. I don’t want to be so scared to let someone see the darkest parts of me and feel like they’re going to leave. I don’t want to make them think they have to constantly reassure me that we’re going to be OK. I don’t want someone to feel like it’s them when really it’s me.

The one who can’t get out of bed sometimes. The feeling of anxiety is so paralyzing that the days I spend in bed aren’t ones to envy.

They’re scary. They’re heartbreaking. They’re moments I don’t wish on anyone else.

The one who is always in therapy. While I’ve learned so many tactics, I just wish sometimes I didn’t have to ask for time off in order to get these appointments in. I wish I didn’t have to go to work and explain to my manager why I need weekly reoccurring time off during business hours.

The one who sometimes has to convince themselves that life is worth living. That even though right now things are not going according to plan or not perfect, that I’ll be all right. I know logically that nothing in my life is that deep but I can’t pull myself back sometimes and remember that this too shall pass. But every time I do, I celebrate the fact I made it through another day.

The one who talks about their mental illness so openly that people often question its validity. Out of respect for all people living with mental illness, when you tell us we’re faking it or we’re exaggerating, you’re hurting us. You’re making it feel like it is something we can’t talk about. And that really sucks.

The one who just feels like they’re not “normal” because the stigma around mental illness is still there. We’re still not talking about this enough. We’re not educating teenagers that sometimes it’s not hormones. We’re sympathizing where we should be empathizing. We have made some amazing leaps and bounds in creating safe places for everyone with mental illnesses, but we still have a way to go.

Don’t stop talking about mental health. Don’t stop fighting. Just don’t stop.

I don’t want to be that person but I am that person.

I am a person who stands up and talks about their struggles with mental health. There are times it gets to me that people belittle my illness or make it seem like I’m inflating a scenario in order to gain attention. There are times when I really, really don’t want to be the girl who has anxiety or depression.

I don’t want to be that person but I am that person. So I will continue to be that person. When things get tough, I remember that I am a warrior and I will forever be open to discuss my struggles with anyone.

Let’s keep the conversation of mental illness going and let’s crush the stigmas together.

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.

Unsplash photo via Alex Jones

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Having Depression With No Support System

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I’ve had depression for almost five years now, and every single time I have a “bad mental health day,” it seems as if it’s gotten worse throughout the years and prolongs for a longer period of time. The feeling has almost become too familiar, and it’s times like these when I would long and wish for support — from friends, family, anyone really who can tell me it’s OK and that I will get through these difficult periods in my life.

The downside is, there usually is no one. Throughout the progression of my illness, without even realizing it, I’ve pushed many people away including those who were closest to me. I lived in my own little bubble, and sometimes it feels like everyone else is moving on when I’m just stuck in the same place I’ve been in for years. This is the debilitating part of depression — it makes you feel even more alone than you already are. During my bad days, I would lay in bed and cry all day without anyone realizing what I’d been doing. I would hide rather than confront, and when I felt better, I would try and run away from depression as though it wouldn’t catch me. Downside is, it almost always does, and the bad days do come back.

It’s hard with no one there because I can only rely on myself to push myself up. I would encourage myself to keep going and tell myself it is the depression making me feel this way. Really, I could only listen to myself for so long before I’d stop believing it.

Like the tide, the feeling comes and goes. Going through adversity on my own has enabled me to become more resilient with the things life throws at me. I’ve learned not to rely on others for inner fulfillment but rather find the strength inside me to overcome challenges. It’s a tough battle every day living with depression. It’s a hidden illness where many people don’t realize how much you’re in pain. I often draw on faith and “higher powers” to help me get through a mildly bad day with the thought that it will someday pass.

I think those with mental illnesses, including myself, are highly undervalued. People underestimate what we go through internally every minute of every day. It’s important to remember that to get to the place where you are now, it has taken sacrifice, strength, motivation, and resilience. What may seem like a giant step to you may seem like a small step for everyone else, but celebrate it anyway. For me, I take comfort in the fact that I have already gone through so much because it makes every challenge I go through now not feel as hard.

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How My Dog Saves Me From Depression and Anxiety Every Day

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I have a dog that never stops smiling. hollie dog Anyone who says dogs don’t smile has never met Hollie. She always has her mouth open, tongue lolling out to the side and her head tilted. Her smile is undeniable. Hollie is my baby. She looks to me for reassurance, comfort and confirmation that yes, she really does have to sit and not just hover her butt close to the ground. She’s meant to be the family dog, but I’m her mammy and everyone knows it.

Hollie will be 14 this May, which means she has been in my life for the full length of my battle with depression which “celebrates” its 10th year in my life this year. The problem with Hollie’s age (98 in human years, in case you were wondering) is that no one has told her she is a geriatric. She continues to bounce, bound and skid through life in the same way she did when she was six months old. I love her for it, my Peter Pan dog — forever a puppy in her own mind.

I’ve been battling against depression and anxiety since I was 16. It’s only recently, however, that I’ve really recognized how destructive I was being to my own recovery. It was only after I hit absolute rock bottom in September that I started to invest proper time and effort in self-care. It is without doubt the hardest thing I have ever done – it still is. To go to the deepest parts of your very being and ask the hard questions you’ve shied away from your whole life is difficult, painful and very, very lonely.

In my experience, people look at you differently when they know who have a mental illness. They treat you differently. Even when they try to be “normal,” there’s always pity and wariness behind their eyes. And no matter how many good days you have or how much work you do to recover, that look never really goes away. It’s like the image they had of you is shattered and can never be put back together perfectly again. I’ve lost nearly all my friends because of this disgusting and selfish illness. I’ve lost my identity, my career, my sense of control and very nearly my mind. I’ve heard “get over it” and “it’s all in your head” more times than I can bear, and I’ve seen the disappointment in the eyes of my loved ones when I succumb to the darkness once again, after so many good days.

Enter Hollie. Hollie loves me when I’m smiling and when I’m hugging her too tightly, wiping my tears on her fur. Hollie looks at me with the same adoring eyes both when I have my full face of war paint on and when I haven’t showered for days. Hollie doesn’t care whether I say stupid things or talk too much. Hollie doesn’t see the weight I’ve gained or the bags under my eyes. She doesn’t see my insecurity, my panic attacks or my loneliness. She just sees her mammy. Hollie loves me because I’m her human and no mental illness, breakdowns or medication will ever change that. She looks at me the same way she always has, with love and trust and her forever young smile. All she cares about is that I’m there with her for ear scratches and beach adventures and the odd bit of chicken. On my worst of worst days, it is her unchanging view of me that keeps me going. Her love and ability to see me as the best person in the whole world makes me want to recover. She makes me want to be better. Besides, you never know, with such a loyal and steadfast and adoring companion, maybe one day I’ll become the person she thinks I am. But for now, I am enough.

hollie dog and contributor

hollie dog

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