“Depression and anxiety keep knocking on my door—just coming on in, setting up shop, refusing to leave until they’re good and ready.
On my wedding day, you know, the ‘happiest day of my life,’ I was fixated on my weight. Tiniest I’d ever been, biggest I’d ever felt. On my honeymoon, I had an ‘is this it?’ moment—actually, multiple moments. No joy on those ski slopes. On a random Saturday, I drove myself to a grocery store and wasn’t even strong enough to exit my vehicle. I just turned around and went home—no food, only bags of emptiness.
Mental illness is not a mild disease. If I severed my arm and an artery was bursting out with blood, I’m sure someone would bring me to the hospital, a stranger even. But there’s no visible wound to be had here, only an internal one, so no one knows to come to the rescue when your rational mind has been gutted. When your thoughts aren’t your own. When all you can hear is what you aren’t, and weren’t, and never will be. When you’re so numb you can’t finish a meal, or wash your hair, or care for your kids.
Even now, when anxiety and depression announce their untimely arrival, they make me feel numb. Not mad, not sad, just numb. No enthusiasm. You could send me a Starbucks or send me to the moon, and I’d have the same level of elation. Those animals just don’t want me to feel. So, they starve me from my food, and make me stop my reading (or any great joy of mine), and they put a phone in my face and make me scroll, scroll, scroll. You see, depression is not always crying on the bathroom floor. As long as I’m not feeling, that monster is still winning the fight.
So, here’s what we can do, fellow depression-folks, here’s what we HAVE to do. We have to speak out loud, boldly and without hesitation, every thought that comes into our heads. I know, I know, your mind says no one cares. Your mind says that’s crazy. You’re crazy. But I’m telling you, better out than in. I don’t see another way to escape this rabbit hole. Our wounds aren’t visible, so we have to speak them into existence. We have to be able to share our not-so-sparkly truth and we have to say it over and over and over again to anyone willing to listen (and those unwilling to listen as well).
Doctors, therapists, spouses, best friends, acquaintances, cashiers—I don’t care, just share. And I’m not talking about explaining ourselves. That’s way too damn hard. I’m suggesting we say the actual words our warped minds hear. Speak them as they come and as they are. And if it scares someone? Good. Let them feel the shock we’ve become so numb to.
And you non-depression folk? You listen up too. Literally. Listen for us to speak and don’t take what we say lightly. And remember, we’re new to this whole sharing thing, so no shaming, okay?
Also, no offers to help. Just do it. Do something. Pick up on our context clues when the fridge isn’t stocked, or we can’t return our baby’s smile. Friends, don’t say, ‘If you need anything let me know.’ We won’t. We won’t tell you. We never want to be a burden, so we’ll just bear those burdens on our own backs until we break. Just lighten the load, look us in the eye, love. And don’t pretend to have all the answers, or be scared that you don’t, because someone will. Just share a bit of the pain and then pass it on. Our minds tell us we’re alone, so please prove us wrong.
My work with my mental health will never be done. For me, this is not circumstantial sadness; it is a chemical imbalance. It is life work. As in, I will spend the rest of my life doing this song and dance.Because as soon as I arrive in a better space, the wind will shift, and I find myself handcuffed to hopelessness again. So, I have to do the work. Every damn day. And I’m okay with that because it only takes one little crack of light to drive out the darkness. One spark, and I can start to see the next step (I’ve learned to be appreciative of the next step. I’m never going to get the whole staircase at once).
Speak, share, be scared, but be heard. The right person will listen.Let’s stop giving the canned answer of ‘I’m fine’ and start spilling our guts, demons, and mind devils out into the world. Because if kept in, they will kill us. They’ve already cut our minds, don’t let them stab our souls.
Pick up that book, turn off that screen, have that freakin’ french fry, and let yourself live. Let yourself feel. Let yourself take medication. Do the work and reap the reward of newfound light.
And whatever tiny thing curls the sides of your mouth into a smile—follow that to your death.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Hanrahan. Follow Stephanie on Facebook here, Instagram here and visit her website here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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