To the People Who See 'Me' Through My Depression
As someone living with mental illness, I find it easy to separate myself into two different people. There’s the person everyone else sees who has rough days every once in awhile, but who, for the most part, keeps it together. In my case, I have a list of academic and workplace achievements to back up the successful persona most people see. It’s not a mask or pretending to be someone I’m not, it’s just not the whole story.
We all have our more private personas; the things we don’t share out of fear of rejection, ridicule or shame. The other person, the part of me I keep hidden, is the part of me that is strongly affected by depression. My failures, my fears, the anxieties I’m ashamed to have and the lies depression tells me are all closely associated with this “other person.”
I have always thought of myself as a private person, but lately I’ve started to realize there’s a huge difference between not sharing parts of your life and hiding pieces of yourself out of fear. The last few weeks I’ve been working to understand my fears, and I’ve realized that sometimes life teaches you lessons through interesting channels. Recently, three of my most daunting fears have been exposed: the fear of connection and losing the people you connect with (thanks, Lego Batman), the fear of vulnerability (thanks, Brené Brown), and the fear of close relationships (thanks, Donald Miller).
Depression constantly lies to you about your worth; that’s part of why depression is so debilitating when it comes to being open and vulnerable. It might convince you that you aren’t worthy of love from others, that you’re just a burden, that it’s better to fight alone. Depression can make it hard to talk about your fight. It can make it even harder to pick up the phone and reach out for help when you already feel like a burden.
But sometimes you reach a breaking point and you don’t have any other choice but to reach out, and this letter is to the people I call when I hit rock bottom. When I find myself in depression’s grip, I know that as long as I can get myself to send a text or pick up the phone, they will be there to walk with me and support me in my fight. When I let my guard down and show them the uglier parts of my struggle, they don’t shy away. This is my attempt to explain what their support means and to thank them.
To the people who truly see me,
Thank you. Thank you for not running away. Thank you for embracing every part of me. You see my depression, you see my struggle and you don’t use it to belittle me. You don’t make every conversation about my illness. You don’t define me by my depression. And when I do call you and I can’t even say anything because depression has its hands on my throat, you don’t forget the days when I can’t stop smiling. You don’t forget that depression is not me. You remember the days I am filled with joy, and you are patient until I can get back to that place.
You see every side of me: the good, the bad, and the really ugly. I know it isn’t easy for you to see me breaking, but you accept me anyways. You do more than accept me. You are patient with me, you support me and you love me through it all. You remind me who I am and what I can do when I can’t see past depression’s cloud of lies.
You remind me that I am strong. You remind me that I am powerful. You remind me that you believe in me. These are all things I tell myself, but sometimes these truths get poisoned by my depression and I need someone else to remind me of my strength. Not to fight for me, but to remind me that I can fight and that I won’t be alone.
I am not alone.
Your words, your love and your support all help shatter depression’s greatest lies. Lies of inadequacy, lies of fear, lies of weakness. Lies of being alone. Lies that destroy the core of who I am. Lies that tell me I should give up, that the fight isn’t worth it, that I am not worth it.
When you truly see me, not just parts of me, but the whole me, and choose to stay; to love me through my struggle, it’s incredible. I don’t have the words to describe how transformative it is. You remind me I am not my illness. My depression does not define me, and I know this, but sometimes I need someone outside of my own head to remind me. And so often when I hear those words coming from you, they break through the fog. Sometimes the truth coming from your lips is easier to believe than the same truth coming from myself.
You remind me of the truth when I can’t see it myself. I am known and loved and never, ever alone.
Thank you. Thank you for truly seeing me. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for choosing to stay, even though it isn’t easy. Thank you for giving me a safe place to share my hardest moments and my greatest joys. Thank you for doing this mess we call life with me.
To the people who truly see me, thank you. I honestly do not know where I would be without you. I love you from the bottom of my heart.
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Thinkstock photo via criene