Since coming out about having depression, and about my suicidal past, I’ve been lucky to have people around me who have promised to always be there on the bad days. The thing is, I’m still not quite ready to let people fully see my bad days. It’s not quite shame because I know I can’t help it, but it’s more like I don’t want to put them through the agony of seeing me so miserable. The days come and go as they please, without warning or regular timing, as if a silent storm that may not seem to do much damage, but enough in a row can cause substantial damage. Some days I may wake up fine, and suddenly I’ll be hit in the face with a ton of bricks, knocking me back and taking me utterly by surprise for no apparent reason, and other days I’ll wake up and instantly know that it’s not going to be an easy day.
One thing people who don’t have depression wonder about is how it feels to be depressed, especially on the bad days. You can’t see my depression by looking at me, and there are no measurable symptoms, so it’s difficult to explain what bad days are like. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to think about the best way to explain it and looked for other people’s explanations of what depression feels like, but I can’t find one that quite fits. Some say it’s like being weighed down, like there’s a ton of bricks on your chest or attached to your limbs, while others say everything is just dark. That’s partially true, but doesn’t really explain how it is for me. You see, my worst days somehow always happen when it’s bright outside. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and there are plenty of opportunities to have a good time. In that sense, there is no darkness – my world is bright but I’m dark inside. Sometimes it feels like I’m hollow or empty inside, but that black hole of nothingness within me is full of something I desperately want to get rid of but can’t label. I suffer through all this in silence, because other people can’t see it. They can’t feel the paradox of being filled with darkness and being hollow at the same time, they can’t hear my horrible thoughts, and they can’t see the energy being sucked right out of me by just existing. (more…)
It goes without saying that stigma surrounding mental illness is probably one of the biggest obstacles that mental health advocates face. There are countless people who spend their time and energy working to reduce stigma and misconceptions about people who are mentally ill, yet there are many more people who actually perpetuate stigma and stereotypes. When we think about stigma and mental illness, we often think of it as the unfortunate way that society views mental illness. It’s society and the majority of people who don’t understand what mental illness is, and they are the ones who make it so difficult to come out about mental illness. While I agree to a certain extent, it was my own internalized stigma that was the hardest.
You see, even though I know better, I still feel weak for having depression. I feel like I’m weak because I still have days where I’m so sad and alone for absolutely no reason. I think it’s somehow my fault that there are moments when I see no good in the world and I feel like there’s no one out there who cares about me enough to try and comfort me. I think all these things, yet I know better. I know that depression is not my fault and I only got depression by chance and circumstance, but it’s extremely difficult to let go of that shame and guilt about having depression. I’ve mentioned that I feel a lot of guilt as a result of my illnesses, but feeling ashamed and at fault for having depression is something I still have a hard time getting over. (more…)
With the tragic news of Robin Williams’ passing, many articles about his shocking suicide have been released. While I am deeply saddened that yet another life has been claimed by such a crippling mental health issue, I feel I am not at liberty to comment on it. Each person’s struggle with depression, suicide and mental illness is profoundly different, and no one can say what he may have been going through, or what caused him to take the final step to take his life. I can only comment on my own experiences, which allow me to identify with many of the comments that have been made about his suicide. One of the articles I actually really appreciated, was one on a typically comedic website that didn’t make comments directly related to his death, but rather used it as a stepstone to spark a very necessary conversation. Aptly titled “Why Funny People Kill Themselves”, the article addresses the facade that many depressed and suicidal people become brilliant at maintaining.
I was that kid; that funny, silly, class clown type that seemed never to have a care in the world. I never took life seriously, and was always in it for the laughs. Thinking back on my childhood, it was the only character I felt I fit, because it was quirky and didn’t have rules about how to act – being a class clown is very “anything goes”. I wasn’t like many of the girls in my class; I hated pink, was uninterested in dolls or fashion, and most certainly was bored by the prospect of discussing cute boys. I never fit in with the boys; for starters, I was a girl, and my awkward clumsiness and lack of athleticism made me a less than ideal candidate to fit in with the “jocks”. I was kind of a nerd, with my high prescription glasses, good grades, and need to be acknowledged positively by my teachers. Yet, I didn’t fit in with the incredibly smart kids either. I was more complicated, more emotional, more inquisitive and some may say mature, but I counteracted that by acting stupid and immature. If I was making people laugh intentionally, then they couldn’t laugh at me. I remember a friend telling me once that they thought I was such a popular kid. I responded by describing my “friends group” as royalty, with my closest girl and guy friends as the Queen and King respectively, and I was the court jester, who no one really cared about and wasn’t royal (popular), but was kept around for the laughs. (more…)
One year. It’s been just over one year since my first suicide attempt. People always say a lot can change in a year, and I don’t think I quite realized how much can change in a year until I looked back on this past one. It’s been a year of countless ups and downs – more downs than ups – but some ups nonetheless. As I think back to my first attempt, my heart immediately hurts. Not for myself, but for those around me that I hurt. My depression was not only hard on me, but I know it’s been quite taxing for my friends and family as well. I’m grateful for my incredible support system, and more specifically, I am grateful that I can recognize them as supports, which is something I couldn’t do a year ago.
I don’t like thinking about August and September of 2013; they were the darkest months of my life, yet I know without those struggles I wouldn’t be where I am today. Sometimes I have dreams about the time I spent in the hospital and wake up feeling terrible, because it is something I’m always afraid of happening again. Even a year later there are days where I think of the hospital, or something reminds me of it and I feel physically ill. If I ever have to enter a hospital, for whatever reason, I hesitate and feel more shaky than usual. I absolutely hate hospitals, ambulances, sirens, or anything that reminds me of my experiences, yet they are a huge part of who I am today. I don’t want to think about what happened to me, or what I almost did, but it’s an unavoidable fact, and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not ashamed that I have a mental illness and I’m not ashamed to admit that I desperately needed help, and that sometimes I still need help. (more…)