You may be wondering where I’ve been since my last post. The honest answer is that I have spent the best part of the year wondering the same thing. I was lost. Every time I sat down to write, I simply froze. I had nothing. I felt nothing. It scared me.
I’m writing today because I want to tell you what I’ve been going through. I want to show you all of me – not just the shiny, happy side but the darkness, too. I want to show you because, for the longest time, I felt I had to hide the unsparkly side of myself because I’m the smiley one, the one who finds the good in the world, the one whose job it is to lift other people up. I hid my scars and pimples and open wounds because I was ashamed of the weakness they clearly signified and I was scared. Terrified, in fact, that should you see who I saw in the mirror, you’d surely judge me and find me sorely lacking.
Today, I’m gathering my courage and writing about my struggles because I know that there are so many women who read my words who have been and still are suffering in silence, too. So here it is, the declaration that I have been unable to make until today:
I suffer from Depression.
Depression is not sadness. It’s not melancholy. It’s not tied to circumstance. It’s not a choice.
Depression isn’t something that someone can “get over’ by thinking positive. It’s not self-pity, easily cured with a dose of “there are other people worse off than me”. It’s not laziness and lack of motivation that can be fixed by “just getting on with it”. It’s not the blues and can’t be snapped out of by ‘taking a walk’.
Depression isn’t feeling sad. It’s the inability to access feelings at all. It’s not an abundance of sadness. It’s an an endless vacuum filled with nothingness.
It’s seeing how abundantly your cup runneth over, yet being unable to reach it.
It’s knowing how incredibly blessed you are and beating yourself up with guilt for not being able to feel happy.
It’s shame, wrapped in guilt, cloaked in despair and delivered with self-loathing.
Depression came as a huge shock to me. I’m the silver lining girl. I’m the happy, count-my-blessings girl. I’m the “I can do anything!” girl.
I thought depression belonged to the weak. I thought it was a state of mind. I was wrong.
Depression is no more a state of mind than a broken limb. People with everything going for them can break limbs, catch the flu or be hit by a bus. Those same people can just as easily be hit by Depression. The difference is that neither they nor anyone else assumes for a minute that positive thinking will heal their bones or fight the virus. Depression is not a choice. Trust me. Nobody would make the choice to endlessly fight the black dog.
So, here I stand. The stigma that accompanies Depression is real and it is incredibly harmful. That people who struggle with Depression feel shame and are seen as weak and selfish is damaging. In fact, it’s downright inaccurate.
I am here to say that people who fight Depression have nothing to be ashamed of. They are not weak, nor are they self-involved. Quite the opposite. You have to be a warrior to fight through the fog and trudge through the sludge and climb the giant walls that pop up throughout your day. You have to have courage to start every day with the conviction that “Today is going to be better”. You have to be strong to continue to lift up the people you love even as you lack the strength to lift up your own heavy spirit, You have to be optimistic to believe that despite the darkness around you, there’s light to be found and you absolutely have to have determination and grit to forge forward every day to find the light you can’t see.
Right now, I’m in a good place. I’m out of the dark place and feeling fabulous. Hopefully, this is the end of an extremely difficult chapter but I know that, unlike a broken bone, Depression isn’t healed and forgotten. It has a tendency to come knocking again.
I’d like to believe that, should that day come, I won’t hide away in shame. I hope, too, that if you have fought this battle (or are fighting it right now) my words will help you to be kinder and more compassionate to yourself. I hope that my words make you feel less alone. I hope my words reach that guilty part of your heart and reassure you that you are not responsible for this darkness.
Today, I’m smiling. Today I feel strong. The thing is that this is the same smile that I wore when walking to the kitchen to make breakfast felt like forcing myself through ten brick walls.
I have one thing to ask of you: this coming week, as you pass people by, look past their smiles. Look – really look – into the hearts of the people who cross your path and ask “Are you okay?”.
“Are you okay?”
Ask the question like you care about the answer. Show the people you love that you see them, even as they hide away.
Because Depression doesn’t always look like this:
It often looks like this:
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