Mental illness is a bitch.
I never used to admit that I suffer from it, because I was afraid I would be judged. But I’m over caring about the stigma. It is what it is. It’s frustrating, overwhelming and exhausting. It affects my relationship with family, with friends, and sometimes hinders my ability to function fully at work. It basically is a huge, looming pain in the ass that follows me around, and has for a few decades.
Why put it out on the web for all to see, inviting judgement and alienation? Why mention it at all?
Because it’s been in the dark too long, for me and many other people who silently suffer. It shouldn’t be something to be embarrassed about. The more awareness about mental illness there is, the more people who don’t get treatment or are too scared to admit they can’t go it alone will come out of the woodwork and brave getting help.
The other reason I bring it up it because I want to apologize. To my friends, to my family, to my coworkers, to the people I am surrounded by. I try to put on a brave face when I can and muster the strength to smile and be pleasant when the only thing I want to do is sleep.
People assume that since I look healthy, I am. I should just ‘snap out of it’, shrug it off, go out and get some sun or go to the gym and the feelings of despair will immediately disappear.
If only it were that simple.
When you’re deeply depressed, simple things turn into nightmares. It’s hard to understand for those who have never experienced it, but all the little tasks of life are so overwhelming. Rather than facing life head on, I cry uncontrollably and am often a prisoner in my own apartment. My fear of getting fired is the only thing that helps me summon the courage to go to work every day. Even answering the door for the pizza guy is difficult. Any interaction with another person is so tiring and stressful that often, I hide away from it all.
This causes problems with relationships, as you might guess. I cancel plans, I avoid phone calls, and I’m solitary most of the time. I embrace technology by texting people and paying bills and shopping online so I don’t have to deal directly with people.
As a result, I alienate a lot of people. I’ve lost friends – more than I can count.
I get it. It’s frustrating having a friend that breaks plans and falls off the grid periodically. If I were friends with me, I’d probably give up eventually, too. Friendship is work and when someone isn’t putting in effort, regardless of the reason, it gets tiring. It feels incredibly one-sided, and after a while, people just end up fading away out of frustration, hurt feelings, and a feeling of wasted effort. The strange part, at least for me, is that I know I’m doing it and I can’t stop it. I feel powerless to do anything, which makes me even sadder.
I want my friends and family to know that I cherish every call, every text, and every email. I applaud the people that have hung in there this long, continuing to contact me even though I don’t always call back.
For the last few years, I’ve gotten better through medication (another stigma, sadly). I’ve tried to go off of them several times and I always end up feeling like I want to walk in front of a bus. The feeling persists for hours, and sometimes days. It’s nearly unbearable to live like that, and I’m grateful that I’ve found something that helps, albeit partially.
I don’t know that I’ll ever feel like myself again. I could be taking pills and struggling to get out of bed every day for the rest of my life. But then, there are always people worse off than me, so I try to stay positive.
I hope that this finds someone who needs it, to show them that they’re not alone in their struggle. I hope that if someone reading this is related to or knows of someone who suffers that it might shed some light on what depression feels like. Mental illness is real and often debilitating, and it doesn’t always go away on its own. Like any other illness it needs attending to, whether through therapy, medication, or some other means of treatment – and there are many options out there waiting for people who seek them. It just takes that one big and scary step that involves asking for help, which as one might guess is far more daunting than dealing with pizza delivery. Treatment does help. For some of us it has been a godsend. Life should be full of hopes, joys, and things to look forward to, and something to be truly celebrated. We all deserve that. People with mental illness yearn to feel that way again, as do I on the bad days. It takes strength, courage and a support system to heal depression, but in the end it’s worth the effort ten times over.
Today is a good day, so if you’ll excuse me, I have some calls to return.