The Mighty Logo

When Your Mental Health Is 'Hanging by a Thread'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Because we are living in a climate of racial reconciliation, members of marginalized groups are teaching other people how to understand them. I constantly see people trying to meet halfway, to try to understand what it’s like to live in the other person’s skin. As a Black, queer, mentally ill person from the South I have been doing what I can to educate others on my own experiences.

Arriving at the point of being able to teach someone what it’s like to be me has been a long, bumpy road. Now, at age 25, I am just beginning to learn how to do that.

I have been struggling with depression since age 12. The seed was planted when I first experienced bullying in school. My self-worth quickly deteriorated. I became very secretive and reserved. My academic performance suffered, which created tension between some of the teachers and myself. My relationship with my parents also suffered. Back then I didn’t know how to adequately describe what I was going through.

As an adult, I underwent several life changes that took a toll on my mental health. When I graduated college, the job offers didn’t come flooding in as I’d hoped they would. I ended up working a few thankless jobs. My well-being wasn’t prioritized by the people in my work environment. I would come to learn that post-grad depression is very real. I experienced the haunting effects of it.

At age 24 I was diagnosed as a major depressive. This diagnosis came after 10 years in and out of therapy, and a stint on antidepressants. I would soon resume medication and attend therapy much more often.

Telling someone that I had been diagnosed with a mental illness didn’t come across as I had hoped it would; not as it does when I have a physical health problem. I speak only from my own experience when I say this. The year before, I had undergone an exhausting series of medical tests and doctor visits. I even wore an ambulatory EEG for the first few days of 2019. I had been having what appeared to be neurological issues, which have since been dealt with. It seemed everyone who knew of the situation was making a fuss over me.

As soon as I said I needed support for my mental health, the tone changed. Later on, people would tell me that I had their support, but they decided not to ask specifically what I needed of them. They asked if that came question came too late. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

Between then and now I made my first suicide attempt. This was followed by a six day stay in a behavioral health facility. In a way, it felt as if I had had a surgery for my soul.

A friend recently told me, “Please forgive me if I overlook something you’re trying to tell me, but also, please let me know.” This friend would also say “I always care, even if I don’t know what to do or say.”

These words carried a lot of weight. For months, I had been walking on egg shells, leaving warning signs here and there, and waiting for someone to see these signs. I bore emotional scars that not many seemed to notice. If someone asked how I was, I would say “I’m hanging in there.” What I meant to say was “I’m hanging by a thread.” When I spoke, I wondered who was listening. I began to withdraw from activities and commitments expecting someone to ask why, but no one did.

In life there are often times when we don’t always know what to do or say. I am not exempt from that. I have found that writing is truly the only way for me to say what I need to without interruption. Slowly, but gradually, I am learning to teach people how to understand me, and how my brain works. I challenge moments when a call for help is met with silence. I want people to think about how they make me feel, as well as others they encounter after me.

Most importantly, I have finally learned how to explain what’s wrong; something I could not do as a child.

It took me a long time to realize that we all carry something with us. The difference is how we choose to carry. Whether we carry it alone, or with support from other people, we all have something. I’ve learned there is no shame in getting help. Going to therapy is just as important as seeing a medical doctor. I once saw a quote that went something like this: “Give your body what it needs, not what it wants.” I urge anyone reading this not to carry their troubles alone.

Getty image by Lyndon Stratford

Originally published: December 11, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home