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.

With the start of a new week, I’m reminded once again of the transient nature of emotions. In the moment when urges are high, they feel infuriatingly stagnant. However, last week was another piece of evidence that urges truly do consistently come and go.

Last week was… hard? I feel like that’s not the right word, but I haven’t publicly talked much (if at all) about my experience with depression and suicidality, so I’m still trying to find the words that fit. Two words that come to mind immediately: debilitating and terrifying.

Feeling suicidal for me means: not being able to get out of bed, crying, fear of hurting others, sadness, deep love, self-sabotage, exhaustion, apathy and isolation. It’s being stuck in this harrowing place of needing to flee but not being able to move. Suicidality is the epitome of emotional pain.

When I feel suicidal, I don’t actually want to kill myself. Rather my brain rationalizes why suicide might be the right decision, which leads to a dangerous thought spiral that gains power exponentially.

Today I’m thankfully writing from a place of reflection and vulnerability.

I’m writing from a place of gratitude for people who made me feel safe enough to tell them the truth.

I’m also writing from a place in the middle, the gray, a place that’s a cacophony of clusterfucks and cozy catastrophes.

There’s more to existing than being either sick or recovered.

There’s also missing foot holes. Yup, foot holes: those small pieces of artificial molds you’re supposed to put your foot on while rock climbing.

I’m a very new rock climber, and with that comes a disproportionate amount of focus on my arms and my hands. Rock climbing though actually requires a great deal of leg strength and mobility. Gripping the artificially constructed climbing holds with tense fingers causes pre-emptive muscle fatigue. When I get to a place where I’m not sure what my next move should be, I tend to freeze up and hold on tighter. This is not helpful.

My climbing buddy encourages me to constantly move my legs up. Sometimes it feels like I’m leaping with massive steps, missing opportunities for helpful foot holes along the way. Other times I’m stuck midair, searching for the nearest feasible foot hole, as I plot my ascension.

When I climb the wall, I’m relatively fearless. When lying at ground level in my bed, I can become afraid of myself.

When I’m stuck in this state of depression, it feels like everything around me has a cloud over it.

When I’m climbing, even when I’m stuck, gripping until my knuckles turn white, I can see the path, the finish line, if you will, clearly.

Last week when I was climbing, I lifted my right leg up and edged my shoe into what I thought was a small (but sturdy enough) ledge. As I reached up, my foot slipped off and I couldn’t quite grab hold of the rocks above me.

My partner caught me.

I trust her. I trust the rope. I trust the carabiner. I’m learning to practice trusting my own feet. Oddly enough, the more you fully commit to a tiny hold, the more even your weight will be distributed and therefore, the less likely you will be to fall. Your foot will stay grounded.

Why is it that success always seems to stem from moments that require you to trust the very thing that scares you? How come it’s required to trust the very thing that seems counterintuitive to, for instance, what the eating disorder tells you?

Right now, I’m also writing from a place of uncharted territory. It’s rocky (pun intended) and the crag has not yet been explored. For the first time, I think I’m actually sitting with the fucking discomfort (I was never entirely sure what that meant…). I’m struggling admittedly, but I’m persevering, and by that, I mean I’m eating.

Even though I missed a foot hole, I’ve found another one to ground into. I’m still working on my ascension. I can’t see the top, but I trust the constant motion of everything all the time. Suicidality is the most difficult urge I’ve had to deal with in some ways. To recognize those thoughts eventually move, just like some of the more short term eating disorder behaviors, has helped me cope.

In climbing, to fall means to make progress. To fall implies you are tackling a new challenge. We practice the act of falling with intent. I think that kind of makes it more like an art. Yes, the art of falling. I like that.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Unsplash photo via Jeremy Bishop


“I never would have guessed you were depressed. You always seem so happy.”

“Really, depression? I had no idea…”

These are common responses I get when I mention depression has been part of my life.

I hear the same reactions when we lose someone to suicide: “Can you believe it? I never even suspected he was struggling.”

When the truth emerges about people who struggle with mental illness, others are usually shocked. However, I’ve come to expect the disbelief and surprise. After all, as someone who hid depression and anxiety from the world for years, I know firsthand how hard we often work hard to hide mental illness from others. I wipe away my tears before walking out the door of my home and I try to keep my head lifted high in public. I wear a superhero mask and put on Emmy-worthy performances day in and day out. Though every person has unique reasons for sharing or not sharing struggles with depression, here are the top six reasons I don’t tell others I’m depressed:

1. It’s awkward.

This is sad but true. I remember the first time someone shared with me her struggle with depression, and I bumbled through an awkward response of: “I’m sorry… I um, I have to go.” At the time, I didn’t understand depression and knew very little about it. I had no clue how to engage in a conversation in something I didn’t understand. It made me uncomfortable.

Since then I have gained plenty of firsthand experience about depression and have a much more caring, empathetic response. I’ve also experienced those bumbling, awkward responses from the other side of the conversation. I’ve been the one to witness others stammer and blush and suddenly forget how to talk when depression comes up. Though the awkwardness doesn’t bother me much anymore, I do think twice about how someone will respond before mentioning depression.

2. I don’t want to come across as “needy.”

Unfortunately, the stereotypical “depressed person” is weak, needy and perhaps clingy. In an effort to avoid this stereotype at all costs, we keep our struggles to ourselves. We strive to keep up our reputations as strong, independent individuals. Isn’t this the American ideal?

Yet herein lies the misconception that strong means not needing others — and furthermore, that neediness is equal to needing help. For a long time, I avoided talking about depression because I believed needing help made me less-than and weak, in the end only to discover true courage is practicing vulnerability and asking for help.

3. I’m afraid there’s something wrong with me.

Ashamed. Horrified. Scared. These are the emotions that plagued me in the pits of depression. Because depression is difficult to understand and has no cut-and-dry medical explanation with a formula to get better, it’s easy to fall into the lie that depression is an inherent flaw within me.

Depression carries the critical inner voice causing us to doubt our sense of value and our sense of belonging. “A freak. A failure. Of no value,” it whispers in my head. With the pressure to conform and my natural aversion to vulnerability constantly weighing on me, of course I choose to keep my depression from others.

4. Some days I can’t even admit to myself I’m depressed.

Given the fears discussed above, it’s no wonder I try to convince myself I’m not depressed! On my best days in depression and on my worst, there is almost nothing I have wanted more desperately than for depression to be gone. I have wished for a magic cure, I have prayed and begged God to “take it away,” and I have spent hours on the internet looking for solutions to this mood disorder.

I have wished depression never existed, and I have wanted to forget about it altogether. I have tried to ignore it, to run from it, to numb myself to it — and on these days of denial, hiding depression from others simply comes as a byproduct of trying to keep it hidden from myself.

5. When I’m with you, I genuinely may be happy.

This may sound odd, but when I greet my friends and see co-workers in the hallway, I genuinely am happy in that moment — happy to see them, happy to know them, happy to spend time with them. In those moments, I am happy. I want to hear about their week and tell them about my day. I smile and crack jokes and do more than my share of laughing because I truly enjoy their company. It simply isn’t the right context to mention my depression, especially if I’m not feeling the full weight of it at the moment.

Because most interactions with others happen in these more superficial, 30-second conversations, it makes sense that many would view me as a generally upbeat and happy person. The truth is, in the moments I interact with others I may be genuinely happy, but these moments do not necessarily represent my overall mental and emotional well-being.

6. I don’t want unsolicited advice on how to get better.

Well-meaning friends have suggested everything from antidepressants to praying and reading my Bible more. They have told me about their Aunt Milly and what cured her depression and the miraculous recovery of their friend Billy Bob.

For obvious reasons, this can be very annoying to those with depression. Everyone’s experience of depression is different, and what helps one person will not necessarily help someone else. It can also be exasperating because it can unintentionally imply that we aren’t already trying everything we know to get better. We probably already googled that therapy or pill or herbal supplement you’re telling us about, and we probably read about five articles on it while we were busy avoiding people!

Ways to Make the Conversation Easier

Though I’ve learned to become comfortable talking about depression openly, there are still ways people can make the conversation easier:

1. Create a nonjudgmental attitude/safe atmosphere

2. Focus on listening, not telling

3. Have a genuine desire to learn and understand

4. Use phrases like: “Tell me more about that” or “I’d like to learn more about depression and would love to hear about your experience”

5. Create an environment where others are vulnerable about their struggles as well (a “me too” culture)

6. Cultivate the ability to relate but not compare (for example, “I/someone close to me has walked through depression, and I know it can be really difficult” vs. “My brother was depressed but it wasn’t that bad.”)

7. After listening, ask “How can I help?” or “What helps on the hard days?”

8. Say “thank you for sharing” or acknowledge in another way how much courage it takes to talk about taboo topics like mental illness.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the road of depression, or perhaps you’re walking alongside someone with depression. Regardless, I hope this list provides some insight — and please know, we are thankful for you. We are thankful for the conversations about depression, even if they’re a little awkward at first! We are thankful for community because even though we don’t always like it, we cannot do this alone.

Thanks for letting me tell you I’m depressed.

Follow this journey on Beyond the Smiles.

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 kevinhillillustration.

Sometimes I feel my value is based on likes on Instagram. My popularity based on retweets on Twitter and comments on Facebook. Sound familiar?

I had a seriously toxic relationship last year especially when I was depressed. I’d look on Facebook, see no messages and feel no one cared about me. Post a selfie on Instagram to try and make myself feel better, and then feel devalued when it got fewer than 10 likes. Look on Snapchat and see my friends out socializing and feel left out. I’d use services like Curious Cat where people could leave you anonymous comments and I think at least 96 percent of the comments I received on it were negative. I was so low that I fed off the negative comments. I thought I deserved them and that everyone was right about me — I needed to hate myself.

I felt miserable, lonely and worthless. I thought about deleting all my social media.

Would anyone miss me if I left?

Would anyone notice?

What if I miss out on something?

But then I thought to myself, Who cares? If my friends missed me, they could pick up the phone and call me or text me. It’s the internet, what am I really gonna miss out on — a cat video? Or maybe seeing holiday photos on Facebook posted by people I don’t actually care about — people I’ve been friends with on social media for years who I just keep as a friend not to be rude.

I ended up deactivating Facebook and Twitter. I deleted my Curious Cat account, deleted Instagram and Snapchat. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. After about a month, I did return to social media with a different attitude. I reactivated my Twitter first and my Facebook after. I decided to do this so I could turn to it when I felt the need to get stuff off my chest. I was very hesitant, but I set up a new Instagram account and a few weeks later, a Snapchat. I turned off all notifications on my apps, which I still have turned off seven months later. Nothing is that important on social media that it needs my immediate attention.

My relationship with social media is completely different to what it used to be. I honestly don’t give a sh*t if people don’t like my Instagram posts. I post what I like, how I feel, etc. and if people want to leave negative comments, they can go ahead. I’ll just delete them. I have gotten a few anonymous comments on my blog, and my response is: “I’ll post your IP address on Twitter.” Trolls attack me on Twitter, and I use the block button.

I am worth more than likes, retweets, shares and comments. No one deserves hateful comments, no matter how depressed they are and how much they think they deserve it. If you ever feel this way, please know you are so much better and stronger than those people who hide behind anonymous accounts to try and bring you down. Feeling like social media is getting too much? Deactivate it, take a break. Everyone will still be there sharing crap you don’t care about when you get back. I deactivate my stuff whenever I need a break. I recently deactivated Facebook because I was just so sick of it. I do also suggest turning off notifications on your social media apps. I find myself looking at my phone way less and find myself caring less about social media.

The only time I legitimately enjoy social media now is when I get to share videos and photos of my time with puppies and fight night interactions on Twitter — other than that, it’s not helpful.

Follow this journey here.

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 Daria Nepriakhina.

One symptom of depression I don’t think is talked about enough is guilt. There are many reasons a person who is depressed might feel guilty. Here are a few of the reasons and why you shouldn’t feel guilty.

1. Feeling guilty for being alive.

You may truly feel the people around you are better off without you. You may feel like an inconvenience or a burden. You are not a burden. Anyone who says you are doesn’t deserve to be in your life. Everyone has their own individual needs. Yours may happen to be needing a little extra emotional support when you’re depressed. You shouldn’t feel guilty for being alive. There is no one out there like you. There is no one with the same talents and interests and personality. Only you can be you. There are things in your future for you to accomplish. There are things in your future for you to stay alive for.

2. Feeling guilty for getting help because you’re not “depressed enough.”

There is no scale. There is no measure of depression. There is no point where you can say, “OK, now it’s bad enough. Now I need help.” If you feel you need help, then you deserve help. Don’t wait for it to get worse. Don’t feel guilty for getting help because everyone needs a little help sometimes.

3. Feeling guilty because you believe you “shouldn’t be depressed.”

You may feel like you’ve had a good life. You may feel like other people have it much worse. You may not understand why you feel depressed. You may feel like you don’t deserve to be depressed. You may feel like since your life has been OK so far, there’s no reason you should be depressed. There are two reasons why you shouldn’t believe those things. The first is it doesn’t matter if someone else has it worse. You’re hurting, and your feelings are valid. There’s a quote that says, “Telling someone they shouldn’t feel sad because someone else has it worse is like telling someone they shouldn’t feel happy because someone else has it better.” The second reason is there doesn’t have to be a reason you feel depressed. Some people know their triggers. Some people don’t. Some people don’t even have specific triggers. Depression affects everyone differently. Although it can be triggered by outside events, it is not dependent on something bad happening. You are allowed to feel depressed for no reason.

As for getting rid of the guilt that comes with depression, I’m still working on it. The important thing to remember is none of this is your fault. Guilt implies you have done something wrong. You haven’t done anything wrong. Therefore, you have nothing to feel guilty for.

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 marcogobbi0.

What the hell do you have to be depressed about?

You don’t need no therapy. Telling white folks all our business ain’t gonna help nothing!

After all our people have been through! You don’t know depressed!

Go to church. Talk to the pastor.

Black folks don’t get them fancy mental problems.

You ain’t depressed. You’re just a little sad.

This is just a tiny snapshot of what is thrown around the black community in reference to mental illness. We do not accept it at all. If you mention it, the conversation will change quicker than a blink. This is why so many of us are struggling. Mental illness is often a taboo in our homes.

I can speculate as to why we’re so quiet. Mental illness is a sign of weakness to some. The expectation seems to be that black women must get it done! All of it! No one has time for being “down.” Bills need to be paid. Kids have to be cared for. Home has to be perfect. Be depressed later. Wanna hear a secret? I used to time my medicine around my kids’ school schedule. I’d drop them off in the morning, come home and take my meds. Pick them up at 3. Do homework. Make dinner. Clean house. Then take meds again. Who cares that I slept all day and accomplished nothing? I was a functioning depressed mom. And this is after I stopped working.

Now I’m a rare bird. When I was in my 20s and realized something was wrong, I sought help. I wasn’t afraid to go to therapy. But I didn’t share it with my family and friends. Definitely not my co-workers. So I was aware there was a stigma surrounding therapy. I was a new mom obsessed with my baby. That was my motivation. Still is. I had to be better for her. For them. This would begin an on and off process for the next 20 plus years of my life.

But I can’t tell you how many friends, family and co-workers I knew who were struggling quietly. We wore “the mask.”

“Hey girl. How are you doing?”

“Fine.” (Insert fake smile)

I couldn’t tell you how many of my sisters were dealing with issues like emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, spousal problems and just plain ole being a black woman in America. Child, we put on some makeup, a good girdle and kept that sh*t movin’! #Aintnobodygottimeforthat family reunions and family gatherings — I’m fine. You want some potato salad? Yup. That’s how we rolled. Quietly exploding. Quietly dying.

Here’s the thing though — mental illnesses can lead to physical illnesses. Heart problems? They can be stress-related. Obesity? Can be stress-related. Headaches and neurological problems? Can be stress-related. And you know what the topper is? We’re too damn busy to go to the doctor! Do you know who diagnosed my first breakdown? My family doctor. She said my body was shutting down. She refused to continue treating migraines and “sadness” without the help of a psychologist. Two months later, I was in the psychiatric ward. And guess what? My doctor was a sister. She would sit with me and just talk some visits. Some days, she was the one who needed to talk. Guess how many doctors prior to that took the time to hear me? I’ll wait…

My family has a long history of mental illness. I never knew. I found out that my grandpa, the love of my life, struggled. What?! If you looked up “man’s man” in the dictionary, you’d see my grandpa. I found out I my grandparents, parents, uncles and cousins also struggled. It wasn’t until after I was sick that I heard about this. And let me tell you, my granny and her sisters, cousins and friends were some of the strongest women I’ve ever met! Honey! The world would have stopped if something was wrong with one of them. But they wore “the mask.” Smiled the “smile.” Made the potato salad.

Mental Health America points out some other common myths in the African American community:

The following statements reflect some common misconceptions about African Americans and depression: “Why are you depressed? If our people could make it through slavery, we can make it through anything.” “When a black woman suffers from a mental disorder, the opinion is that she is weak. And weakness in black women is intolerable.” “You should take your troubles to Jesus, not some stranger/psychiatrist.”

We have to start getting help. We have to start taking care of ourselves. I’m the last one who should talk, but I am. Why? Because this disorder is stifling. Seriously, I can’t even describe a day in my mind and body. Now multiply that by millions. That sister in the next cubicle might be hiding behind a mask. That sister next to you on the train might be dying on the inside. That sister in the alley might be hurting. Stop and really listen. You can hear it. When I get messages in my inbox, I can see it in the fonts! We have to slow down and help our sisters. Our daughters. Yup. My baby has more than my eyes and thighs. Our mothers. Yup. Where do you think I got it from? Our elders. Yup, there is likely a genetic component.

There are maybe 10 books about black women and depression — and that’s a stretch. Most don’t include bipolar disorderanxiety, OCD, ADD, ADHD, etc. These are mental illnesses too. One author made me so angry because she tried her best to “whiten,” I mean “lighten” up her illness. We don’t need cute. We need ugly. Hideous. Death’s door type shit. That’s the only way our sisters will get a glimpse into the real story. The words behind the words. Then they will realize they are not alone.

I have three sister friends who text me daily. One prays. One says hey. One says I love you. None of them know some days I’m on the edge, thinking about suicide. They just know I’m their sister and I may need a life jacket.

Open your window. Stick your head out and scream: “I’m your sister and I live with a mental illness too! You wanna go out for coffee, martinis, blunts, Newports or fried chicken?”

Meet them where they live. Don’t be ‘shamed. Don’t be prissy. We gotta get dirty, sistahs!

Follow this journey on Diva with Depression.

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 William Stitt.

I have the overwhelming feeling that today is going to be a “write-off” day. The self-loathing. The hoodie and hide under the covers type of day. Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes just the feeling in the pit of your stomach. I woke up today feeling like this. I have depression and anxiety and after a difficult night filled with paranoia and panic attacks, the first step out of bed was a difficult one.

Then I get the text asking, Where are you?… What’s wrong?… What hurts? And the truth is… it’s easier to say I have a migraine. Or a stomach ache. The flu even. Because then I get the comfort and advice I need.

“I’m so sorry to hear that… Get some rest, have a hot bath, keep warm, pamper yourself… Do you need anything? Should I come over? Get yourself something decent to eat…”

So sometimes saying I have a headache is simply easier than:

“You know what? I’m not OK. I feel so, so low and nothing is working. I hate myself. I feel stupid, nobody loves me, nobody understands and at this moment in time, it doesn’t feel like anything will ever get better. I feel guilty for feeling like this. I feel so alone.”

I don’t tell people because people don’t know what to say. I’m generalizing, but after being honest, so many of us have gotten the “Oh dear” response.

I was speaking to a friend who was struggling with mental illness. They were commenting that they were feeling truly desperate, but didn’t feel comfortable walking into the emergency room.

If somebody walks into the emergency room with a broken arm, then people try to fix it. Mental illness may not be easily recognizable, but it is as important as anything physically apparent.

On the days depression is more attentive than usual, it shouldn’t be OK to make up hidden aches and pains in order to get understanding. The aches and pains may not be visible, but they can be as difficult and devastating as any other illness.

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

Thinkstock photo via kevinhillillustration.

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