When You're a Strong Person Struggling With Depression

How can someone so depressed be so strong?

Because I am both. I have been a patient in a psychiatric ward. I have also run a marathon. I have been to rehab for addiction. I have also competed in a triathlon. I am on sick leave because I had a nervous breakdown. But I’ve been at this job for 28 years and I am really good at it.

What does it mean, to be strong? Does this mean physical strength? Well, yes, I suppose that it could. I do, after all, lift weights regularly and shovel a lot of snow, so sure, yes, I am physically strong. Could it mean emotional strength? This, too, could be true. I do, after all, continue to rally despite a sea of negativity swirling in my head. Could this strength be construed as mental fortitude? Sure it could. I have come back from substance abuse, sexual assault, emotional and physical abuse.

It can be tempting to box it up separately; put the depression over here and the strength over there. My experience shows that I can be a depressed person who has the mental fortitude to keep going no matter what. There are many days where I am paralyzed with sadness, unable to move beyond the front door. And then there are those days where I feel well enough to get groceries, go to the gym and visit the library.

I learned to be strong out of necessity. I struggled as an adolescent and no one recognized I needed help. I was abused by family members and sexually assaulted as a very young woman. No one helped me. I was blamed. This is where I learned to stop asking for help and to just keep my head down. Because there wasn’t going to be any help.

So yes, I am depressed. And yes, I am strong.

I am strong because I had to be. 

I have to be.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

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