It can be risky to publish posts like last week’s. But lately God has been granting me more and more opportunities to speak up about my struggle with mental illness. This truth has helped tie authentic relationships even tighter, while allowing me to seek help and support, and partner with others in the hurt so they know they aren’t alone.
Well, I promised things would get real around here. So today we’re getting even more real, if you will.
There have been moments this past year when I have not wanted to wake up the next day. When I wished I could lie down for a nap and let the world slip away. When I thought my heart was literally going to explode in my chest. When I thought it was possible for me to drown on oxygen. When thoughts I never even knew humans were capable of having ran wild through my head. Like someone else was controlling my brain. Scary sh*t.
It didn’t make sense to me, and it certainly didn’t make sense to my loved ones as I pulled away or put my walls up.
I heard multiple stories this week (including my own) where family members and dear friends wanted to know what they could do to help, who wanted to understand what mental illness actually looks like. I felt the tug to share my honest experience here.
From my perspective, from my experiences, this is what depression can look like: waves of happiness and laughter followed by the crushing blow of helplessness, exhaustion, disinterest, and darkness. Even for me, who many describe as generally joyful and engaging. Who appears to be thriving. There are weeks, there are days, where I may experience this seemingly unending and inescapable darkness.
But it isn’t all just like that. There’s more to our story. Know someone suffering through depression? Here’s an insight into our lives, and how you can be supportive through it all:
Growing up I heard a saying: don’t air your dirty laundry. We were taught to handle our scandal behind the scenes, smile, brush the bumps from our ponytails and conquer the world. I believe it is a generational thing, keeping the struggles behind closed doors. But as our channels of communication multiplied and facebook and Instagram happened, so did our sharing.
All this sharing, however, can pose its own set of problems. I’m a strong believer in living authentically — but as we all know (cliché, cliché) the Internet is where we turn to paint the prettiest pictures of ourselves.
I’m guilty as well. I live in freaking Hawaii. The best beaches in the world where people travel thousands of miles to vacation at are now my home beaches. I get paid to snuggle dogs. I get paid (sometimes) to write. I hike in scenery right out of heaven. I love it. I’m living a dream.
Moments I post are filled with joy, wonder, adventure. They’re my attempt to share some of the excitement and beauty of my island life.
Yet not everyone gets a peek behind the scenes. Not everyone sees the dirty laundry before it’s hung out to dry. Being away from the hustle of the city has given me plenty of quite time to reflect and get honest with myself. And when I did, here’s what revealed itself:
It has been 3 weeks since I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket and crossed the Pacific to the little island of Oahu. WUT.
The first few days were a vacation with my sister Kendall around and Katie in town— we joined Kendall’s friends for nights out to dive bars and house parties, rang in the new year at a Gatsby-themed soiree, soaked up some sun on the beach, drank
too many mai tais, and got fresh ink on the North Shore. Our musical friend Peter even island-hopped over from Kauai for a brainstorming sesh and yes, a few more mai tais. We went out in Kailua and Waikiki. Spent too much money on expensive appetizers. Got my honorary first sunburn.
Vacay life, ya know?
But not all island living is sunshine and coconuts.
Magic. Pure magic is what I felt on Sunday afternoon as I settled into my place on the sand. The breeze was cool but the sun warm as I stretched my legs out on the wind-rippled dunes. For once the grains of sand slipping over the hills and valleys of my body didn’t bother me.
I breathed sea air in deep and melted, every vibrating particle of my being supported there on my towel in the sand. Grounded.
It’s no secret to those around me that I struggle with resting. With sitting still. With ceasing the constant tornado of thoughts. I try the flick on Netflix and numb out way we’ve been defining as “rest” lately–and I can’t even sit through The Handmaiden’s Tale (sooo gooood!) or New Girl without getting up several times.
I often feel as though I am in a constant state of motion–checking off lists, stress-cleaning the kitchen or attacking the mystery piles underneath my always-made bed. Re-examining my goals. Reading up on self-improvement. Planning my next workout, my next vacation.
I strive for order. Cleanliness. A full schedule. An outward projection of perfection. Order.
But in reality? On the inside I am a mess. I am restless. Anxiety clouds my focus, disorderly finances haunt the far reaches of my brain, worries of career paths and relationships and what happens after tomorrow? tug at my joy. Instead I opt for just one more episode of Hulu, one more Insta-scroll, one more snack or drink or plan. I try to numb out, rather than simply rest in, the space I’m in.
Can you relate? (Can I getta aaaaaMEN!)
I know I needed to change my mindset when it came to rest. So this weekend, oh this weekend, for a few pure hours I brought my exhausted soul to the beach. I laid it down. I let it breathe. I let it rest.
I heard a metaphor the other day involving a girl and her coffee cup. Hands outstretched and fingers gripping tightly to her mug, she runs. Thumb looped through the handle she is careful not to spill, but the faster she runs–and oh! how she must run!–coffee sloshes up and over the rim. Drops fly. The cup empties.
The girl sprints by her source once more for a refill–but the running must continue. She receives only drips from the Maker in passing.
On and on she goes, day after day, week after week.
We all know how this story ends: when nearing empty, one cannot survive on passing drips alone. Dehydration takes it toll long before thirst is felt,
Empty knows this. Yet Empty refuses to slow down enough to receive Fullness: There is one more thing to do! One more project, assignment, workout class. One more night we just can’t miss out on. Promotions to chase and salaries to raise. Bodies to trim and clothes to buy.
Empty will eventually stop–perhaps the only way she will stop–when she is met with a slow burn ending in a crash and fall.
I am the girl with the coffee cup. I, too, was Empty.