Here is my fifth essay, of seven, about my experiences with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as tools, resources, and inspirations. I hope they help, and that you know you are not alone. Suicide is preVENTable, so let’s vent together. Talk it out!
My Experience: Today is the day I’ve been most nervous about. Like jumping into a cold lake, sometimes you just have to take the plunge. I’m nervous about judgement, but I made a promise to myself to be brutally honest with these posts, in hopes of reaching others that may have the same experiences and let them know they are not alone.
So here goes: Today’s post is about the embarrassing/humiliating (to me) side of my depression. The side I try to hide from everyone. When my depression is at its worst, I struggle with everyday tasks, to the point of often not doing some of them at all. Getting out of bed. Taking a shower. Brushing my teeth. Brushing my hair. General self-care. Going to work. Going outside. Going anywhere. Talking to anyone. Doing anything. Cooking. Eating. Washing clothes. Everyday tasks are overwhelming. I have no desire to deal with them. I just can’t muster the energy to even try.
This is not my everyday depression, mind you. This is the darker side of my depression. These are the times when I’ve had bad moments turn into bad days, which sometimes turned into bad weeks. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen to me as often or to the extent that it used. These days, my daughter needs me and motivates me to push past it, and I’ve become better at utilizing the tools I have available to help me.
However, there have been times that I’ve had a thigh-high pile of unwashed laundry just sitting in the middle of my room. I would simply grab whatever was least wrinkled and unstained to wear, checking to make sure that it hadn’t begun to noticeably smell. Day after day. I needed to ask for help with taking care of it because I just couldn’t do it myself. The shame of what I had done, or wasn’t doing, would have me frozen. My outside world became a reflection of how I was feeling on the inside. Disorganized, dirty, trapped under a never ending pile I couldn’t begin to crawl out from under. In those moments, I stopped caring about myself and anything around me.
While this is not my every day depression, there are pieces of it that are. I have a hard time with self-care; taking care of myself has always come last. I feel good about myself when I’m taking care of others, but it often comes at the expense of myself. On one occasion, when I went off of my anxiety medication, it took some time for them to kick back in, once I started again. That left me struggling for a while. During that time, I went through the motions of what I HAD to do, and everything else was neglected. I have a hard time admitting this, because it’s deeply embarrassing for me, and I have to steel myself a bit to say it, but this included brushing my hair. My hair is very long, and I would just twist it up into my usual bun. Eventually, my hair started to become a big knot. I was mortified that I would allow that to happen to myself, so I just avoided dealing with it. I didn’t want to face what I was feeling. When I finally did, it took a long time to work out all of the knots and tangles (how’s that for a metaphor).
What’s worse, I lost about half of the volume of my hair. Every time I brushed my hair afterwards, I would feel shame and guilt. These are just some of the examples of how my depression impacts my life. As I said before, I don’t have these types of moments/incidents often… only when I stop being vigilant about the honesty of my feelings (and avoid them instead) and reaching for help. I instinctually feel deep shame, sharing and baring myself here in this way. But I’ve spent a lifetime being ashamed of myself, and if anyone here is going to judge me or think less of me, the world isn’t going to end. My world isn’t going to end. I have plenty of people around me who understand and still love me. Also, there are others out there who not only understand but recognize this type of behavior, or at least the shame, in themselves. I’m willing to embarrass myself time and time again, if that’s what it takes to help someone else know they are not alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I need to be ok with being me… flaws and all. Mistakes and all. As long as I know that I am working to do better, be better, everyday, that’s what I need to be comfortable with. I judge myself because I worry how others will judge me. That needs to stop, and that is why I said I hoped these posts would help me as well. This is my way of starting to break from that pattern. This is me. All of me. I need to stop apologizing to myself and others (whether out loud or not) for that. I’ve had people tell me they are surprised that I struggle with depression. I can be a very good actress, but I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not anymore. I’d rather spend my time and energy on allowing the person I am/want to be come out from behind the curtain.
My Tools: A support system gets me through the really hard stuff. That support system includes my husband, my brother, my therapist, and some close friends. It also includes my doctor. A support system can be made up of anyone you feel comfortable reaching out to. A pastor. A hotline. An anonymous chat room. What ever helps you to come out of your darkness can only be a good thing. Suicide is preVENTable. #talkitout.
I also recommend self-care. As I mentioned above, I’m terrible at this. I’ve been trying to rework what I think of as self-care, so that I can better incorporate it regularly into my life. If you struggle with knowing how to care for yourself, even in small ways, check out this self-care guide below, from The Trevor Project. The organization is specifically geared towards LGBTQ youth, but I think that most of their ideas would benefit anyone.
How To Give Support: If you want to help someone struggling with a mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts, but are unsure how, at the very least avoid these 15 Things You Shouldn’t Say To Someone Struggling With Depression. These phrases can isolate the sufferer further, and possibly lead them to not reach out when they need to.
Resources: AAS, American Association of Suicidology, runs suicide support centers all over the United States.
Share It Forward: I’ve spent a long time hiding my depression from others. The death of my high school friend helped me be more open in the relative safety of Facebook. The death of Robin Williams compelled me to take it a step further and really show myself. After Robin Williams’ death a new movement was created, #thisistheface, to end the stigma of depression. As Glennon Doyle of Momastery said, “People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help.”