The Downs of Depression
Anyone who knows me well knows about my battle with depression. But most of those who know now only found out in the last four to five years. People post up those cool little mental health checks on their newsfeeds - you know the ones, 'Are you okay?' 'which heart represents you right now?' I saw one of those yesterday. They're cool, and the purpose behind them is excellent. It encourages people to talk.
But here's the problem. People don't. I know, because for the past week, I've been in a really low place, I know it, I'm crying into my pillow and hiding in bed all day. I'm not hungry, I'm just really unbelievably sad and empty and in a pain that I cannot easily articulate. But I saw that post, mentally I hit the 'no I'm not okay' heart and posted it - but not physically.
I don't. I'm pretty sure most won't. It's not that we don't want to reach out, it's not that we don't want the help, because we do. I don't want to spend my day crying in my bed wrapped around my dog and suffering this hole in my soul. But I don't have any real say over it either. This happens, and this happens to me frequently, even when life is going great. I don't get to control this, not really.
I read another post a friend shared recently about what it's really like to get help and live with depression. It used a car and a deserted highway example that I really liked, and summed it up well. Maybe you've seen it, I'll try to find it again and post it on my Facebook page, but it asked the reader to imagine driving down a deserted highway and having the car stop. Getting help, therapy, etc for depression isn't like calling a tow truck and having them come rescue you. It's more like you get a phone call to a mechanic on the other end, and you've gotta describe the problem to him, and he's gotta talk you through the repairs. Then you have to see if the car will start - if not you're back at square one and start over. If it does start it might stop two minutes later, and you have to start again.
I saw a psychologist for a couple of years in my late twenties. It wasn't until then that my lifelong battle was acknowledged. She helped me understand what was wrong with me, and she gave me some tools to use to get me through the break downs. It doesn't stop the break downs. It doesn't make them any less painful, what it does do is help me get myself going again. I can function through the lows, and know I'll be back on the road again eventually. It's just going to take a bit of time, tears, and hard work, but I'll get there. She helped make my sense of Hope stronger. Gave me a better grasp on it when after a couple of decades of dealing with depression, I was struggling to maintain that belief.
I wasn't as silent as I used to be during the low points, I told my sister that my head wasn't in the right place, and I reached out to one of my closest friends. It's not easy to say things are bad, it doesn't feel right that I should complain when things are okay around me; when I've got more than so many people. I don't know that it will ever feel okay to reach out for help, to share my tears with others.
But I'm trying. For the sake of my children, for my friends, family, and even for the strangers around me. Because I know I don't want my friends or family, my children or anyone else, to ever feel they can't ask for help, that they have to hide when things are not okay. I'm lucky, I have three beautiful children who give my life meaning every single day. I have friends and family who support me. But not everyone is as lucky as me. It can be hard to find someone who genuinely understands what you're going through, and for those that don't it takes a lot to unconditionally support and love someone through mental health illnesses.
My sister accompanied me this morning on an outing into town to look at the race cars that are arriving for tomorrows street racing, she's not into cars or racing at all, but she still went along to keep me company and get me out of the house. A close friend must have been feeling psychic because she sent me a parcel today that cheered me up in the way only she could. I could have read her letter by flipping through the pages. But that wouldn't do it justice, so I posted them all out on the wall. I'm not okay, but I will be.
If you're trying to manage your mental health by yourself, if you're curled up crying like I have been, don't let go of the hope. There are people out there who care, I care. Reach out to a doctor, a friend, private message the friends who support the mental health awareness posts, or even a stranger who does, send me a message, and if you don't reach help the first time, don't stop trying. I promise you, you're not alone, and as painful as depression is, life is worth living. Find your happy place, your reason, you might have to dig deep to find a reason, but I know you can. You are strong enough even if you don't always feel like you are.