Depression and me…
I’m sitting here in my bed writing this after a kick of depression got me tonight wondering how many of you are sitting in your bed reading it and feeling your depression if you suffer from it. I’d wager there’s more than a few of you that are. I have been stunned at the level of people I have spoken to that suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. I feel it most days but to varying degrees. I have felt that way for years and only now realize that. Some days, weeks, are better than others. I’m optimistic. I’m more energetic. I’m hopeful. I’m productive. I’m more confident. I’m not afraid to talk to people. Other times it’s not so great. Sometimes I have to talk myself into getting up, taking a shower, eating, etc. I sometimes feel alone and pessimistic. I want to talk to a girl. I want to talk to anyone. I want go hang out with friends. I want to read. I want to do everything but this subtle paralysis takes over me. It prevents me from acting on those things, from feeling any positivity. I hate those days. I hate when it goes deeper and I start questioning things like am I’m successful? Will I ever get my degree? What’s going to happen in my career? Will I have health insurance next year? What if I get cancer again? We all have worries and concerns about our life. That’s only natural. Some days, though, my depression won’t let me think about anything else. It feeds my anxiety and triggers my PTSD. I hate it. It’s such a terrible disease and something I’ve spent my life denying and wishing I’d never experience after seeing how it can destroy a family. I have hopeless days and I wonder will this get worse? Will it become so bad that I can’t handle it? I feel as if I’m a long way from becoming that bad and I think I’ll be okay. I understand, however, that this is a disease. It can get better or get worse without treatment or help. The best and most helpful thing I have done to feel better was just admitting it to myself and my doctors. Talking about it, to anyone, can be so helpful.
I never really understood depression growing up. I had denied me ever having it and my experience with it was more extreme with my grandmother. I guess I saw it as someone who was sad, crazy. suicidal or there must have been something serious that happened in their life to make them that way. As high school always does, it introduces you to things. I remember seeing for the first time people who had cut marks on their arms. I remember talking to girls and a few of them confiding in me that the had or did cut themselves. I couldn’t for the life of me understand it. Early on, I thought it was stupid…and I know how callous that sounds. Youth and ignorance do go hand-in-hand like that many times. Hurting yourself? Cutting yourself? I just couldn’t wrap my head around it, but I couldn’t wrap my head around depression much at all even if I didn’t know it. Since then, in spite of my ignorance, I’ve learned so much from the people I didn’t understand and judged. As I’ve said before, I’ve never considered suicide or hurting myself but I can see how someone could get to that point. I could see me getting to that point and that scares the hell out of me. What will happen if I lose someone close to me? What will happen if I lose a job I had? How will I feel when something bad, sometimes inevitable, happens? This is why this issue has become so important to me. It’s not just because of myself, but it’s because I know there’s so many out there that feel just like I do. I know there’s many out there that have it much worse wondering how much more they can take? Will the next bad thing be what disconnects them from our lifeline, the invisible element flowing through us called hope? I look at people much differently than I did before. Things seem so black and white when you’re younger, indifferent, or unaware.
On top of all of the burden, worry, and stress that we deal with, it’s compounded by the ignorance and misinformation that surrounds mental health issues. Many times we don’t even understand what’s happening with ourselves. To make matters worse those on the outside know so little about what we’re going through. Many times what they don’t know is replaced with an ignorance that creates stigma. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire and preventing those who are trapped behind it from seeking an exit. When others label those with these issues as crazy, something to fear, as “damaged goods”, and so forth, it makes many of us feel that way about ourselves. It makes us want to keep it all to ourself and not let anyone know how we’re feeling. This country, one that prides itself on its modernity, is still far behind when it comes to issues of mental health. We don’t treat it, we just ignore it until something tragic happens. After that, we bow our heads and think “What a shame!”. When we’re not doing that, we criminalize it. If you want to find the largest collection of those inflicted by mental health in your state, you don’t visit the nearby hospital or mental health clinic if there’s even one close by. No. You visit the prisons, jails, and juvenile centers. There you will find those who we have already failed and failed terribly. The stigma surrounding this, us, drowns out calls for help and the ignorance washes them away. We have to do better. We have to talk, listen, and help each other whenever we can.
When I look at people I think of that story that I remember reading my first year of college, one that you’re probably familiar with. It’s called “The Things They Carried”. It’s a story about a group of soldiers and the things they carried with them in war whether it be a pocket knife or grief and fear. They carried those things. We all do. We carry the clothes on our backs, the phone in our pocket. Maybe a hat, a purse, or a backpack with our laptop in it. All of us, though, carry so much more. Things you can’t see. We walk around with these emotions, feelings, thoughts, burdens, and everything else that weighs us down and lifts us up. Do you ever think about that when you’re looking at someone? I do now more than I did before. I wonder what they’re thinking. Are they stressed out and exhausted? Do they have a mountain of responsibilities that I couldn’t manage or did they just lose someone they loved? Are they being loved and if they do, do they know it? Are they being abused, and if they are, does anyone else know it? Is today a good day for them or have they lost hope and are thinking of suicide? Depression is something those of us that who have it carry it around with us every day. Remember that. Remember that every time you look at someone. Remember it every time you look in the mirror because you’re not alone. I promise, you’re not alone.
I feel better after writing this. I feel better letting you know a little of how I feel. I feel as if I’m talking to someone even though right now is one of those times that I’m afraid to try. Sometimes I can express exactly how I feel with the perfect words I was looking for to describe it. Sometimes I want to express something, maybe to somebody, and I can’t find a “hello” no matter how far down I dig. Sometimes I won’t even try or will just make excuses to keep to myself. “They’re probably busy.”, “I know I’m bothering them.”, “They won’t even notice I’m not there tonight.”…..I have a long list. I shouldn’t think like that, though. I shouldn’t do that to myself. What I’m really saying is that “I don’t matter.”, “They don’t care about me.”, “They don’t like me.” I chip away at my worth and I don’t even realize it. I also have to remember that people really are busy and maybe they’re having a tough time talking to anyone like I am. Whatever the case may be, I need to work on that. That’s what depression really is when it comes down to it, taking things day-by-day and trying to get better. One of my favorite quotes sums it up perfectly….
I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.
– Carl Sandburg