This month is Mental Health Awareness. I’ve been meaning to enter the pool for awhile, so today is the day.
I was at the store the other day and I saw a young employee with thin, red lines all up and down their arms. I knew right away what they were. I carved out a little mental space in the midst of our family shopping trip to think about what that person must be going through. I have a pretty good idea, because it’s familiar ground.
Depression and How to Look Like Everything is OK
I haven’t really shared much about depression to anyone other than a few close friends, family and counsellors. I’ve been dealing with it for, let’s see here, 13…14 years now. It’s been awhile.
I’ve never taken medication for it, though I probably should have.
The thing about depression is that for some reason, I’ve always felt like I can’t share about it. Maybe that’s part of the lie we believe when suffering from it or maybe that’s just our culture…I don’t know. The implicit statement though is almost always something to the effect of, “Get over it.”
That doesn’t feel good. You know something is wrong, but you can’t put your finger on it. Sometimes you can pin down what upset you, but the root is almost always obscured…at least from me.
So, in an effort to get over it, I learned how to cover it up, as most do. “I’m fine.” “I’m just feeling off today,” or “I need some time away to rest.” Maybe you just put on your best poker face and keep plugging away, second-guessing everything inside, slowly eroding the facade.
I learned to smile. I learned to push the anxiety down hard. I learned to punish myself in private, so I could perform in public. I learned to feel physically so I could be numb emotionally. That made acting “normal” much easier.
I thought these things combined with the fake-it-until-you-make-it anthem would cure me. They didn’t.
You know what did help though?
Talking about it helps. It helps to deal with the shame. I should be happy. I have a family…3 (soon to be 4) beautiful kids and an amazing wife who also happens to be my best friend. I have a job that provides for my family. I have friends. I live nestled against my favorite mountains on the planet.
Talking about what I’m feeling with my wife, my counselor, or my friends helps. Finding people who understand because they’ve been through it and come out the other side alive helps a lot. Mentors and peers, talk to them all.
Sometimes helping people that aren’t as advanced in their journey helps immensely.
Getting outside and away from the phone/computer/tv helps too.
In fact, sometimes I wonder the frenetic pace of life and access to everything might be part of the problem. (But that’s for another day.)
What helps me the most?
I guess, if I had to lift one aid above the rest, it would be knowing that I’m not alone. Others deal with depression and other mental health issues too. I’m not alone and you’re not either.
If you’re having issues with depression. If it’s slowly strangling you and suppressing your pleasure and happiness, reach out. Talk to someone about it. Share it with a friend or family member. It’s hard, but it helps.
Get outside. Go for a walk. Lift some weights. Just stand out looking at the sky. I do this all the time. Maybe it looks weird, but it helps me.
But most of all, know that you’re not alone. It’s ok and you will be ok.