I’ve been battling major depression and anxiety for decades now. Only recently (the past two years or so) have I talked about it with my family and friends. Creating my blog was a huge step in accepting my fate that I’ll be dealing with this for a lifetime and saying, “Screw you!” to the stigma that surrounds mental disorders.
It hasn’t been easy, especially talking about my suicidal ideation that I still struggle with today. But I have learned a lot.
Here are some lessons having major depression, anxiety and a personality disorder have taught me:
- Being forthcoming about my illness makes some people uncomfortable – I don’t really understand this fully, but I make people feel uncomfortable when I talk about depression, anxiety, etc. so openly. This is especially true if I talk about suicide, which I can kind of understand…maybe. But I’ve been asked more than once if I could write about something other than suicide. The problem with that is that suicide is shrouded in stigma and that’s why people don’t talk about it to begin with. By shining light on the subject, it helps people come forward when they’re having suicidal thoughts and it could save lives. Literally. And it’s no different with depression and other mental disorders — the more we normalize it, the more people will feel like they can seek help. There’s no need to struggle in silence. It can do some real damage if you do.
- I’m stronger than I think – I want to acknowledge that I have an incredibly strong support system, and I’m very grateful for that. But when you’re in the midst of a depressive episode and suicidal, it feels like it’s only you. In my case, I fight with my brain, trying to determine if it’s lying to me, because it often does. It tells me I’m useless, I should die, nobody loves me, etc. And when it’s your own brain saying these things, how do you not believe it? But even in my darkest moments, I somehow find a reserve of strength. I do stand up to those ugly thoughts and prove them wrong. I do let light in. I fight, tooth and nail.
- Humility – I’m not going to lie, depression humbles you. It can make you incapable of taking care of yourself, and sometimes it’s just embarrassing. For me, it’s hard to brush my teeth and take a shower. I’ve gone at least a week without doing those seemingly easy chores. And it’s hard to not be able to do the simplest of personal hygiene chores. I mean, I can’t stay indoors all day, everyday. I have to take the kids to school and run errands. So, when I am able to shower and brush my teeth, I appreciate it to the fullest.
- You are your best advocate – Nobody can fight for you the way you can, meaning you know what your needs are and what’s best, even if your illness debilitates you. Stand up for yourself, express your needs clearly to doctors/therapists and always ask questions. Make sure you find a doctor who listens. Feel validated in your emotions. You’ve go this.
- Compassion – Dealing with depression definitely has helped me be more compassionate toward others, because I truly know what suffering is, whether it’s physical or mental. If you’re struggling with depression, you see first hand that it’s like any other disease — you can’t control it and there’s no cure. The problem is that depression is an invisible disease and others won’t always understand. But you will. Remember to be compassionate to others and to yourself.
If you have any lessons you’ve learned from depression, drop them in the comments. And as always, stay in the light.
This is the last blog I’ll write before Thanksgiving. I hope you all have a great holiday and take care.