The 1 Thing You Never Knew About Me
Each year, the World Health Organization celebrates World Mental Health Day- a day devoted to human rights for people who struggle daily with mental illnesses- and I love that it stands for removing the stigma around mental health. Let's talk about that. Why are we so afraid of mental illness? (Click here to find out why).
I'm going to do something that I have never done before. I'm going to let you in to a world I've spent most of my life trying to escape. Into the darkest depths that I've ever experienced- just so you can understand what it's like. But I need you to make me promise- if you start reading below this line, I need you to read all the way to the end.
6:25 am. I'm awake. My eyes are open, I am breathing, but I don't feel alive. All I feel is this sickening pit in the bottom of my stomach. My heart literally aches as though its been turned into lead. I can almost hear it rolling around, creaking against my ribs bitterly. If I tried, could I even move? For what? To see who? I check my phone- my only connection to the world right now- same people as always. Check the time. Ten minutes until I should get up for class. I should stand up and put on clothes and walk alone to class. For what. I turn over and turn the alarm off. I might as well. You can feel as bad for me as you want- it will not do anything for me. I am not seeking your attention- it will not help me. I turn over into the comfort of my bed. It feels as though I am in a grave. It's dark. I can barely breathe. I've reached up, but nobody can see me. I've screamed, but the silence closes in around me. It suffocates my cries for help. I want to curl into a ball and cry myself to sleep- but I've been asleep all day- and this type of pain is too intense for tears to relieve. I am numb. I know I need to eat. To wake up. I know that getting my makeup done and clothes on and hair nice would make me feel better. But for what. Nobody will see me now. It's too late. Class is over. I have nowhere I need to go- nobody really counting on me.
I look at Teddy "Bear"- my puppy, curled up beside me. She needs me, I tell myself. She needs a walk and food and water and to be played with. But all I can think about is how bad I feel for her- why was she given this horrible owner who couldn't even take care of herself. But what would I do without her? I am so selfish. What about my friends. They must be getting so sick of getting those "I'm struggling" texts. I would say more. I would explain, but I cant. I don't know how to voice the words that would describe this pain- all I can say is help. I want to go home. I want to leave here. I want to escape- to feel like I belong somewhere. But do I belong anywhere? I'm not happy anywhere. I'm not happy at home, I wasn't happy in college, I'm not happy here. Sure- I know there are people who love me a hell of a lot. But how do I live with myself- putting them through this all the time and expecting them to hold me when I cant hold myself up anymore. They didn't know what they were getting into when they met me. How could God put this on me? But worse, how could He put this on them? Sometimes I just wish people could see it. I wish I could let people everywhere see it- I wish it were like a coma. Then there'd be a physical reason I cant move. Then people could see my excruciating pain like the blood flowing from an open wound. Then they could see that I'm doing all that I can. People have compassion for those people.
But me? Im just a freak. I'm not normal. I'm stuck in this insane asylum disguised cleverly as a gorgeous one bedroom apartment. I have it all. I have a loving family, loving friends, a dog, an education, enough food and money to live. But I feel like I don't have anything. I don't have myself. I don't have control over my own emotions. How weak am I. I could go to church- but I'd rather talk to God from right here. My friend comes over- I guess I do need some water bottles and juice. I guess it couldn't hurt to go to the store. As we leave the apartment, I go to lock my door. I'm literally standing right next to someone. But no matter how close I am, I am so far, far away. So many people in this store, and yet I am so, so alone. "Help." I look around the store silently. My eyes scream "Help". But nobody can understand. Nobody can relate. All of these strangers walk by me as if I'm perfect. And I do my best to make it convincing. The sun is down. Here comes the struggle. It's as if every horror within me comes alive when the sun sinks below the horizon.
I love the night- I know I love the stars. I know I love watching lightning bugs fly above the black water of the river. But right now, it terrifies me: to be alone in the darkness with my own disappointment in myself. I take so much for granted. I waste so much. I have this perfect life- but my mind is so broken. Why cant God give people like me cancer- instead of the people who love their lives? Why cant I take that burden? Why cant people like me who are ungrateful for the life they have been given be plagued with the disasters that other people who are so in love with life have to endure? Why cant I shake this? How do I do this for the rest of my life? How do I endure this for the rest of my life? How long will it be before this chemical imbalance in my brain kills me and makes it look like all my fault. All this time. Eight years I've struggled with this. Sometimes I think it's gone for good- when it's just hiding in the depths of my despair waiting to creep out in the middle of the night. I am a person so blessed and so plagued to feel every emotion deeply from the heart- it's as if the natural shield I was supposed to be born with wasn't there. I cannot filter anything. I love so hard, and feel so deeply. When I hurt, I hurt so much deeper. I feel it so much longer. It isn't fair. Life isn't fair. When my heart breaks, it shatters. It breaks all of me. So I crawl back into the darkness.
Not every day is like this- some are better than others. There have been some amazing highs where I thought I was finally free at last, and some devastating lows where I thought my chronic depression might finally be the death of me. However, with medication and therapy, the effects of depression can be managed. I know, because I do it every day. I didn't write this for your sympathy. I didn't write this to bring you down to my place. I wrote about this to save me. To prove that this place no longer controls me. I can enter it, explore it, and leave whenever I choose. I own this darkness. This is the depth of my despair- and as crushing and hopeless as it can be, I now know that I have the power to turn on the light. I have the power to focus my mind on a place of love and appreciation, and make myself happy- on purpose. Did you know that one in four people has a mental illness? This means that someone in your family, friends, or colleagues is struggling with it right now- and it's terrifying. Maybe now you can understand why we are so afraid to talk about it- because all the sudden, it can happen to anyone. We're all terrified of not being able to control our own lives. So we don't talk about it. Which is actually counter-productive. What this does is, instead of helping us embrace each other, it makes us isolated from each other- and actually leads to more people with mental illnesses developing addictions to drugs and alcohol. Or, worse, it leads to suicide- which has seized far too many of my friends, and almost gotten its grips on me a few times. I know it sounds weird to say, because I am not battling cancer, but people like me battle with a severe health problem every day. This is a terminal illness if you do not work constantly to overcome it. I see a psychiatrist who works with me to correct the chemical imbalance in my brain- and working with a psychologist gives me a fresh perspective on the things I go through on a daily basis.
I am a survivor.
I am alive. It's not easy, and it's not over, but I am no longer afraid or alone in my darkness. Check out this documentary about happiness and the findings that we have from scientific research. I consider it one of the best, most life-changing documentaries of all time. Just for good measure, taking an at-home test can help you figure out if therapy might be good for you- I think a lot of times, we think of health as a physical thing and forget that mental health is a huge part of it, too. Going to see a psychologist doesn't make you insane- it makes you brilliant to check up on your mental health every once in a while. We all get affected by things and should have someone to turn to for an unbiased opinion. Last but not least, if you read that whole thing, thank you. You gave me a voice, and moreover, give me the hope that someday, people won't be afraid to get the help they need like I did. Talking to your friends and family about something like this can seem impossible. I know because I've just done it. Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696 24 Hour Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255