May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and I never really paid much attention to it in the past. But now, I am aware of mental health every day and how it affects our well-being. Our sense of purpose. How we view the world. Ourselves. I have experienced mind-numbing depression and crippling anxiety firsthand. The ugliness that seeps into every bone and every crevice in your body. It robs you of your smile, your laughter and your light. It’s horrible and it’s not my fault.
Depression made me feel exposed for the world to see and ridicule. To tell me what I have feared so deeply is true — I am unworthy. Someone who consumes precious oxygen and limited resources without deserving them. Someone to smite from this earth and forget she ever existed.
Depression Lies More Than Any Politician
The rational part of my brain recognizes the lie. It rails against it. Vehemently. And sometimes it shuts down the lie, momentarily. Because with depression, that lie never completely dissipates. It just bides its time. Waiting. Simmering. Putting down roots behind your back. When least expected, it will attack, viciously. And you will fall.
The reason I share this with you is not to frighten or to depress you but to rally you. You are not alone. Every time I felt better and in control, I proclaimed my depression was over and I was cured. Seriously, I would literally shout those words. And at some point, depression reared its ugly head and I fell hard. Harder every time it happened because I blamed myself. Believed I failed. That I was weak. Unworthy. Pathetic. Stupid.
I am, nor was, any of those things but I believed the lies.
Everyone Falls. Everyone. And Rises Again.
Knowing that everyone falls and depression is the king of liars helps. It makes that voice inside of me, who recognizes that I am blameless, more potent. She has more ammunition to battle against the numbness. And the dark, dark lies. She knows that I did nothing to deserve this and provides the courage and strength to fight this battle again and again.
And I will win again and again.
That belief is what I hold onto because it keeps me fighting. And living my life. Some days I live with depression firmly in charge. Those are tough days. And other days — many days — it’s me in charge. Those, of course, are the very best days. Because I recognize that depression may attempt a hostile takeover at any time, I see the signs more quickly so I can fight back before depression completely consumes my life.
My depression, which had been relatively quiet this year, made an unwelcome reappearance about a month ago. I assumed it was a case of the regular blahs. After a couple of weeks of numbness and feeling outside of myself, I realized that it was something more serious. At one time, this revelation would have made me sink further into the abyss but not now.
Instead I got mad. Mad because I had been feeling good. Strong. Hopeful. So I told my support crew — my parents and a few select friends — to rally behind me. Who would be supportive and give me tough love too, so I didn’t marinate in my depression as I am wont to do. I begrudgingly began exercising again, eating better and actively focusing on the tenor my thoughts. When they turned negative, which they did frequently, I worked to reframe and focus on my many blessings.
I’m not completely freed from depression’s claws as I still feel some lingering haze. Pity parties come easily and frequently and I find myself wanting to quit when things get hard. But I don’t. I keep putting one foot in front of the other because I have played this game before and will play it again. And I will always — always — win.
You Are Not Alone
There is much shame and stigma around mental illness and depression, even though it’s incredibly common. One of my greatest surprises when I started sharing with people my depression struggles was not only how supportive everyone was, but that EVERY SINGLE PERSON had also been touched by depression, whether they had suffered themselves or someone they loved had.
There is support all around you. Some places you can go for help, include:
- The NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) website.
- Call the NAMI Helpline (for general questions about mental health issues) at 1-800-950-6264.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255. You will be connected with a crisis center closest to your location.
- If you or someone is in immediate danger or risk of harming themselves, call 911 and inform the operator that this is a psychiatric emergency.
Do not be ashamed or embarrassed by how you feel. Treat yourself with kindness and get the help you deserve.
Living and Thriving with Depression
Depression will likely be a life-long companion. There may be long periods of quiet and peace and other times may be quite rough and ugly. But I know in the very marrow of my bones that I am stronger. And helping to create awareness, is one way I weaken it and give resolve to my embattled but still strong heart and soul.
My name is Tanya and I am a depression survivor.