Due to it being Suicide Prevention Month, I'd like to share the following.
There is a beautiful George Michael song called ‘Forgiven’. The following lyrics from that song cut me to the quick, as it sums up how I feel most of the time in regards to sharing & living my true struggle with anxiety & depression.
“But like all good men who swim too well
It takes all that I have just to cry for help
Then that voice....in my head....tells me....No!”
Years ago I was taking a lengthy course that meant a great deal to me & was having a really hard time, with a very unpleasant teacher who singled me out in an aggressive way the whole time. Somehow, most of my peers didn’t see it, in fact, I was encouraged to ask less questions as a solution. The assumption being that I was too sensitive & it was all in my head. I wrestled with myself in a bid to understand what was happening & why.What I witnessed & experienced with this teacher was real, but sadly it fed into the negative narrative I have of myself & sent me into a bit of a tailspin.
My depression & anxiety is always raw, but this left me feeling SO exposed & confused down to the root of my being. As usual, I’d been trying to keep it to myself as I didn’t feel safe opening up to anyone, plus, I didn’t want to burden anyone with my stuff. Everyday I felt I was increasingly doing a sloppy job of being discreet about my flailing. I feared that I would be judged harshly & people would see this, rather than the well intentioned person inside me. But maybe that mess up was me. If others thought I was a loser, maybe it confirmed that’s who I truly was. After-all, I’m a mess, depressed, therefore unable to see myself objectively, right?!
One day I finally hit a wall & unraveled some of what I was experiencing to a classmate. They listened intently & showed some kindness & sadness at my situation.At some point they said, “Wow, I always thought you were strong, poised, & graceful. I felt sure you had your shit together. I never thought you were like ‘this’. I didn’t know you were SO all over the place”.
What was said was not done to hurt me, but they looked aghast. It cut deep & here’s why.
If a person shares that they are struggling, feeling like a hot mess &/or depressed, it doesn’t mean they are NOT strong.
Please hear me & understand this, as it is crucial.
One can still smile on a dime, whoop your butt at many things, excel in their job, make you laugh easily, be a loving & solid friend, be the life of the party, have a wonderful partner & family, a regular yoga & meditation practice, offer wisdom & great insights & STILL be depressed.
One can struggle to return calls, regularly not make it out of bed, let alone out of their home, avoid people & eye contact. Plant a smile of a mask as big as life, while drowning in pain & feel like life is a cruel lie. One can feel so many things at once. Numb or helpless, lost, stuck, & hopeless most of the time. Or feel overwhelmingly in excess, picking up on everything & everyone. Yet all the while, they too unknowingly carry a deep inner strength.
Depression is not a weakness. It is not what you see on TV or the movies. Having a mental illness doesn’t invalidate who you are, what you say, feel, think & experience. Your brain & emotions are hijacked through no fault of your own. You are not crazy, stupid, lazy, or lacking. It is not who you are, it is something you have. You are dealing with something that’s beyond your control to cope with alone.
Those who live with this are a people who are using up every ounce of their strength to be here & simply function of a day. Wrestling with an internal invisible intruder, that’s always telling us we do not belong or deserve to be here. That we are too much & unworthy. Meanwhile there is an external voice in Society that’s echoing the same message, it’s called ‘Stigma’.
I’ve repeatedly heard how important it is to be open, to share vulnerable, even pained parts of oneself, & I agree. Yet time & again, I see & hear people recoiling at a person doing just that, with the assumption the individual is less than, someone to either fix, pity or avoid. It hurts & saddens me, but this is par for the process we’re in. I continue to learn that it is more than ok to admit when I’m not ok & need help. That it’s important to take care of myself & remove myself from situations & people that will harm my well being. To choose wisely who I share sensitive info about myself with, as not everyone can deal with that kind of transparency. It’s ok, I know I can trust you. :)
It’s tough to open up, trust people & ask for help.It’s hard to find individuals who’ll see & accept you as you are, versus how we all have been taught one ‘should’ be. How many times have people been convicted in a court of law & of public opinion, for behaving in a way they ‘thought’ one ‘should’ act under certain circumstances.
For example, trauma looks differently from person to person. You & I may be given the same shocking news, but our reactions may be vastly different. Who’s to say which one of us is right or wrong.
So have an open heart & mind when you interact with others who are depressed, or when offering support to those living with mental illness. Offering help isn’t always easy. Many folks feel emotionally (& financially) spent, others are worried they’ll do or say the wrong thing. I end my commentary by offering the following:
Do nothing that’ll make you feel uncomfortable. If you can be in the company of someone who’s depressed without the need to ‘make it all better’, you’ve struck gold. Being there for them is perhaps a loving snail mail or your silent company while watching a movie, or the world go by. For me, Listening without judgement or ‘offering advice’ is HUGE!!! Just being there with the person, where they’re at, is everything.
And if you can’t go there, don’t force it. Do what you can & if it’s a no go, that’s ok too. You can let them know that in a simple & caring way. When in doubt, keep it Simple, Sincere & Respectful.
To my fellow brothers & sisters living with mental health issues & our global family who wish to reach out to us.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story”
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Know that I hear you, I see you, I feel you near, you are not alone.🦋