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:
NOT EVERY DAY IS A BAD DAY
I repeat! Not every day is a bad day. My joy isn’t circumstantial. I am beyond grateful God has gifted me with a beautiful life including the most supportive humans armed with text messages and phone calls right when I didn’t know I needed them, with distractions and powerful quotes and songs and memories jumping out to catch me when it gets to be too much, and with the beauty of His creation to find peace and delight in.
I enjoy a good laugh. I still get freak-out-excited at new scenery, hiking views (just ask my adventure buddy) and even a good pineapple cider (the entire Whole Foods Windward Bar can attest to this!). I feel the feels — the bad AND the oh-so-good.
IT’S NOT A CHOICE
While some say, Just choose joy! Just be happy! I sit here wishing it was that easy. I sit here wishing my depression was a choice, a light switch I could flick off and on when I wanted to feel the feels and when I didn’t.
Some days are hard days. They take en extra amount of super-human strength to get out of bed, to put real clothes on, to make my breakfast. I am not choosing to keep myself in this cycle just like others choose to be happy — it’s way deeper than that.
The truth is, I am tired of feeling this way. When I thought it was all over at the end of last year, a new wave hit me when I least expected it to. And on the cycle goes, once again, and I must try something new to bring me back home to myself. Treatment and recovery can be a doozy.
I DON’T NEED YOU TO FIX ME
I may suffer from depression, but I do know this — I am not damaged goods. I’m not broken beyond repair. I’m not a wine glass shattered on the kitchen floor.
Depression is something I experience because some chemicals up inside my head need to figure their sh*t out. But depression isn’t me. And the burden of my healing does not fall solely on your shoulders.
LITTLE THINGS COUNT
Having seen both sides of depression and experienced some of my dearest friends’ suffering as well, I know that it can be very difficult to know what to do and how to act. For me, it is near impossible to ask for help — my pride likes to get in the way, along with the truth that sometimes I plain don’t know what I need from others to bring me back. I shut down. I wall up.
What I have found is this: small, helpful things count the most. Whipping up a dinner (or ordering, no judgement!) when I can’t rustle an appetite or energy to prepare a meal means more than diamonds to me. Dropping off groceries, running an errand, or even simply cleaning the kitchen makes a huge difference. Taking the pressure of seemingly simple, every day tasks off my list help lighten the load.
DON’T BE SCARED TO TALK ABOUT IT
I’ll tell you this: I may not understand depression any more than you do. Sure I’ve been researching and talking to any health professional under the sun. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty why and how, I am not entirely sure. While some may choose to keep their story private for now, I welcome discussions. Engaging in empathy, even simply trying to empathize, shows me my story matters, I am heard, and you truly care.
Ask questions. Open the discussion. We both have much to learn from one another. But when we tip-toe around the issue, sweep it under the rug, and pretend it doesn’t exist, it festers. It hurts. It halts authenticity, dissolves relationships, and delays true healing. When we suffer silently while others pretend She’s just fine! or She’s crazy, a liability, it keeps the very stigma we are trying to change alive.
Joining Project Semicolon to promote mental health awareness & suicide prevention
I HAVE HOPE
Here’s the thing: I am blessed beyond measure by a support system of both friends and professionals. I have access to medication that let’s me feel more like me. I can call my therapist and schedule an appointment when I need it.
I consider myself strong, brave. I have to remind myself this daily. Because of this tenacity and my recovery thus far, even in my darkest moments I know there is a purpose, that my life matters.
This week I was drawn to the books of Hebrews and James in the Bible with a challenge to “look for the repeating things” (thank you, Lindsey Eryn, you gem of a human you!). What I saw? a call to have radical faith, bold prayers, and trust God’s promises will come into fruition for me, even if not in this lifetime.
As my heart continues to grow and transform and my ears open to the Lord, I firmly believe I am facing these challenges not to just “make me stronger” or whatever cliché ya wanna throw on me.
I believe I am swimming through the waters of depression (or whatever the heck this is) so I can share my story, my authentic recovery, my hope and my healing with others. There may be stormy clouds in the sky, but God’s light shines through anyway. (And the sun. So wear your SPF even on gray days, ok?)
For when music speaks louder than words: