This past week has been depression awareness week and I bet, just like me, a whole bunch of people had no idea. We’ve got safety awareness for everything but bring up depression and anxiety and everyone gets awkward and silent. Including those of us suffering. When someone takes their own life, we call them selfish or say they’re taking the easy way out. I used to think the same thing, before my own mental health declined to the point where I could understand. Extreme sadness, anger, guilt, fear, all the emotions that can be described and more are so difficult when felt all at once, for no apparent reason.
But when you go days, weeks, months or God forbid years on autopilot, feeling completely numb… That’s when people give up. We are made to feel. We’ve got these big, beautiful, terrifying emotions that we cannot survive without. When you are living with depression, you put on a smile and a fake face around people out of self preservation. You need to express what’s going on but you’re terrified of actually doing it. So you fake it.
I’ve lived with this for almost 15 years. I’ve come out of it and felt fine plenty of times. But it always seems to come back. I had panic attacks for years, and just when I thought they had gone away for good, I came to understand that they had evolved, not disappeared. I had stopped hyperventilating, but my anxiety got worse and I would feel more and more overwhelmed until I would explode in an anger that just doesn’t fit my personality. I’ve had to leave social situations just because I felt too overwhelmed to be around so many people at once.
I’ve only been open about it over the past year because it’s been worse then it ever has been. I break down in tears almost daily, I get angry over the smallest things and I can’t find enough energy to accomplish anything. And the guilt that comes from my own emotions and reactions is debilitating. If I manage to leave the house for anything other than laundry or grocery shopping, I consider the day a success.
A bit more awareness for depression, anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder won’t force those suffering to open up about it. But removing the stigmas surrounding mental illness can make the world a safer place to open up to. Maybe if more people understood the difference between myth and fact. Had empathy instead of judgement. And if mental illness was treated a bit more like physical illness. I’ve also lived my life in pain and despite the worst pain I’ve gone through, I’d choose that over depression any day.
Just a few weeks ago, I was at such a low point that I had a mental breakdown. Panic attack, depressive episode, whatever you’d like to call it. I tried everything I could think of to calm down, and nothing helped. So I took to my computer. Here’s the inside of my mind in the midst of this:
“Spiraling. It started before I knew it, an occasional drifting into space. Happening more frequently until I forget who I am, where I am, WHY I am. Temporarily of course. Reality always comes crashing back in. Not like reality is bad. My reality is actually pretty great. I’ve got a husband who loves me and the cutest kids in the world. I’ve got it great. My head doesn’t agree.
A concerned voice, “How are you doing? You were quiet this morning,” Was I? I hadn’t noticed. In my head, it’s never quiet. I guess I didn’t realize I hadn’t voiced anything all morning. That day came and went, getting a bit fuzzier as it went on. My husband, my light, made things glow a bit brighter for a few hours. Sleep, that wonderful restart to a new day, and a fast forward to. NOW.
Spiraling. Drowning, Suffocating. Hopeful. Doubtful. All desire and feeling slips away until a shell remains, and the shell doesn’t function well. The shell feeds the kids, changes diapers, makes dinner. The shell makes love and snuggles under the covers. The shell tries, but it can’t be real. The shell struggles to get up, eats too much and can’t exercise. The shell can’t concentrate, doesn’t care, doesn’t feel. The shell is cold; the shell is lonely. The shell is me.
The shell is not all I am. I am more than that, I just empty out sometimes. The rest of me is hidden somewhere, I only need to find it. I’ll come back when I do. Until then, the shell remains. I am broken but I am still here.”
But there is hope. God heals. He protects us, He strengthens us and He loves us through whatever stage or difficulty we’re going through. I’ve fallen away from God recently, and I find that whenever I do, I am vulnerable. I’m practically inviting my anxiety into decieving me again. I’m inviting the depression back into my life, because without God, I can’t seem to fight it. I’ve let too much dark in; it’s finally time for some light.
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31