What I Remind Myself When Mental Illness Makes Me Feel Like a Bad Sister

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I love my sisters more than anything. They are my best friends and my biggest supporters. I know I can always count on them to be there for me. But sometimes, my depression and anxiety have me believing I don’t deserve my sisters. I start to believe they deserve better. I find myself believing they deserve a sister who can be there for them whenever they need.

It had been a hard week for me. Finals were coming up, my meds had not been working the way they’re supposed to, my dog was just diagnosed with a heart murmur and it felt like everything was piling up around me, smothering me. I could feel myself starting to disconnect and withdraw. When friends invited me out, I didn’t want to go. When it was time to buckle down and do school work, I was completely overwhelmed. I started to feel like a hollow shell, just going through the motions. My sister asked me if I would attend her concert (the last one of her college career), and I couldn’t get myself to go. Later that night, she asked if I would come to her award ceremony (where she won two awards), but I was so exhausted. The idea of leaving the house to go sit in a stuffy gym for two hours while I waited for her name to be called had my heart racing. I later found out one of her friends drove six hours to come, and had brought her flowers, and I felt like the worst sister in the world. I felt like I had completely failed as a big sister. I wasn’t there to support her and celebrate in her accomplishments. I chose watching Netflix over watching her perform. I had chosen taking my dog to the dog park over being there to watch her receive her awards.

But then I remember, I chose self-care. Sometimes I can’t leave the house, and that’s OK. Sometimes being around other people is just too overwhelming, and that’s OK. Sometimes I’m not a perfect sister, and that’s OK.

I love my sisters more than anything, and they know that. They know I try my hardest to be there for them, and they know sometimes my depression and anxiety get the better of me. Sometimes my depression may make it hard for me to engage, and sometimes my anxiety may make leaving the house seem like an impossible feat. But my depression and anxiety will never change how much I love my family and friends. I will never let my mental illness take away how much I care for those dearest to me. Even though sometimes it’s hard to show just how much I care.

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Thinkstock photo via kotoffei.

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How a Loved One Helped Me Eat When I Was Struggling With Depression

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Spending all my nights and days in bed took a huge toll on my physical health. After dealing with depression for a long time, I’d come to a point where I’d completely forgotten what being “normal” felt like. Depression became such a huge part of my identity that it became difficult to differentiate myself from my disorder.

I went for days without having a proper meal, or going out to eat. Even when I took the pain to get myself a meal, I realized how much appetite I’d lost in these months. Being on medicine never worked for me, and leaving them resulted in a heavy weight loss. I was at a point in my life where I’d started feeling my way of living was basically who I was. My thoughts were so clouded that I couldn’t identify how unhealthy my schedule was, even after many people came forward to point it out to me. At this point, when I couldn’t even think of having a healthy mind or body, a loved one decided to put me on an eating schedule.

From waking me up, to getting breakfast in bed and feeding me, this person went the distance to make sure I had three meals a day. This was amazing because I was formally a person who did not even have the strength to have one a few weeks earlier.

The initial days were not only annoying, but I felt my body couldn’t take so much of food, and I felt sick and heavy all the time. I felt my personal space was violated, and I did everything to push aside this help. My loved one never stopped trying to help me.

In no more than a month’s time, my body started getting used to this food schedule. So much so that I started getting up to get food for myself on the usual assigned eating hours. Instead of sleeping through lunch, my body growled and made me get up to get something to eat, a feeling so different to me that it gave me tremendous hope for recovery.

The hope of recovery was such a motivating factor that I started investing more time on myself. I started getting up early, getting out of bed, going out of my room and fetching myself good meals. In the initial days, I surrounded my schedule around food, and eventually everything started falling into own place. I started getting back at work, as I had more energy and zeal. I’d stopped feeling exhausted all the time, and my body now supported my mind to face the world.

This feeling of being healthy felt so new, like I’d forgotten how it felt. The feeling of doing things easily, which most seemed to do on a regular basis, felt like an achievement. This felt like a reward to keep myself going.

A loved one might have done a basic deed of feeding me regularly, but now that I look back at it, I realize how beautifully that brought the changes in me I feel today. I feel stronger as a person, I feel healthy, and more than that, I feel beautiful. Maybe I love myself a little more!

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Unsplash photo via Joshua Newton.

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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.

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

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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