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Please Stop Telling Me to 'Be Strong' as I Battle Depression

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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 741741.

Recently, some really well-meaning friends have tried to inspire me through a particularly rocky mental health season. They’ve said things to me like “don’t let it win,” or “you’ve got to be stronger than this” and “fight harder!” And here’s the thing…I know these are meant to be very empowering, very affirming statements. And sometimes they work. There are definitely times when I feel stronger, bolder and can fight harder. But if the voices are winning, if the negative thoughts and suicidal ideation are louder than anything else, telling me to be stronger isn’t helpful.

The opposite of strength is weakness, so the indication here is that in giving into the thoughts of hopelessness or the feelings of despair, I have become a lesser person. I am no longer resilient and worse, I’ve given up the fight. But in every battle there is a winning side and a losing side. And our conversation about the losing side usually incorporates the ideas of “giving up,” or “it’s all about who wanted it more” and “they just didn’t have as much fight in them.”

But I haven’t given up or given in. I lost. Some days, I win. Some days, I lose. Not everyday, but definitely this day. I didn’t stop fighting — I fought as hard as I could. I was as strong as I could be and I never stopped. But the depression? It was strong too — and it never stopped either.

I’m not weak, but I am tired…tired of fighting, tired of struggling…tired of trying to “think positively.” I am tired of trying to find the blessings in the madness or the purpose for the pain. I am tired of searching for the right combination of therapy, pills and spiritual guidance that will make me experience some level of “normal.”

I’m exhausted. So don’t tell me to be stronger than this. You don’t know how hard I’ve fought.

Instead, tell me it’s OK to lose today as long as I get up tomorrow and fight again.

Photo credit: AndreaObzerova/Getty Images

Originally published: June 4, 2019
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