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What ‘Just Keep Swimming’ Means to Me as Someone With Depression

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Rachel Hill and her 'Just Keep swimming shirt'

I wanted to share a photo of my new t-shirt with you because it is significant to me and my recovered health. I thought you, a fellow chronic and/or mental health patient, would understand why. The people who don’t understand the battle we have with thyroid problems and/or mental health conditions like depression will think I’m weird for wearing a kid’s shirt, but I feel like you guys will understand me. So here it goes.

Last year, hypothyroidism plunged me into a deep, dark place called depression. I’m not ashamed to say I was suicidal. Heck, of course I shouldn’t feel ashamed, but I once was.

I was in physical and mental pain 24/7. I was beyond fatigued constantly, and I had next to no quality of life. I couldn’t bare the thought of living this way for the rest of my life, and I felt my life had been unfairly ripped away from me. I was 21 and felt like a 91-year-old, but every doctor told me I was “fine” and it was all in my head. I was made to feel “crazy,” which only made my mental health and physical health worsen. At this time, I was inadequately treated for my hypothyroidism.

Scrolling through Facebook one evening, I stumbled across an image of one of my favorite old quotes from the Disney film, “Finding Nemo.” It said, “Just keep swimming.” The quote was sung by a blue fish named Dory, and it was a line I loved. I used to annoy people with it when I was younger, but hearing it again now meant something different.

Its message was simple: When life feels like it’s too much, just keep on going. People around me were already telling me this, but for some reason, a little blue fish from an old children’s film was getting the message to me better than they were. It really hit home for me.

It was hard to keep on going, but it gave me this new found hope. I suspect there is some psychology behind it, with it being a film and line I loved so much as a child. It really helped me, now an adult in despair, to see things a little more clearly and give me some hope. It’s amazing what helps us when we’re at our lowest.

I would read this quote and say it to myself when I felt like giving up, and it gave me hope. I don’t know how exactly, but it helped me. “Just keep swimming,” I’d say to myself when I felt like I couldn’t handle going to work, getting out of bed or even answering a phone call. It made things a little bit less dark, a little bit less hard and not so heavy.

I don’t expect the same thing to work for everyone, and this simple quote didn’t exactly cure me of all my problems. It took a lot of tests, trying different medicines and persistence to make improvements in my mental and physical health. However, the message here is this simple thing others probably find odd gave me hope in the darkest of times. It was unexpected. It made sense to me, and I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else because I was going through the rough ride of depression and thyroid disease. Not them. Besides, our journeys are individual to us.

So when I received my  “Just Keep Swimming” t-shirt in the post recently, I was a tad emotional. It’s a simple quote from a children’s film that helped me through some tough stuff. It helped me make it through a really horrible time, and it gave me hope. So I’m wearing it with pride.

Only those who have had a condition like hypothyroidism (or another chronic illness) and/or depression (or another mental illness), will really know what I’m describing and understand how important something like this is to me. Other people can think I’m silly, immature or odd for wearing a child’s character on my shirt, but I really don’t care. The things thyroid disease can do to us is vastly misunderstood by those who do not have it, including causing mental health effects.

I’m happy to explain to them why I’m wearing the shirt and what it means to me, if they ask. They likely won’t understand, but you know what I’ll do? I’ll just keep swimming.

For anyone else here who is struggling with their thyroid condition and/or mental health: Just keep swimming.

Image via Dory Facebook page .

This post originally appeared on The Invisible Hypothyroidism.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Originally published: October 11, 2016
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