Last week, for reasons I don’t understand, I felt it heavy on my heart to talk about something. I thought about it while I was drifting off to sleep, as I made dinner, driving in the car, and taking showers. It plagued me. I wrote page after page in my mind. But I pushed it all away because the topic is uncomfortable. It’s intimate. It’s revealing. I decided it wasn’t a topic for this space. And then tonight I logged onto Facebook to see that Robin Williams had died. An apparent suicide. And my heart sank. Not because I knew him. Not because his death will affect me in any meaningful way. But because I have felt the kind of pain and desperation that leads to suicide. That could have easily been me. And I know it could have been thousands of others out there. And I decided there’s absolutely room for this confession.
I have depression. This might come as a shock, especially to people who know me. I’m happy! I’m upbeat! I tell jokes! It’s true, I am those things. But not all the time. And that darker side was not something I advertised. I hid it out of shame for a long time, and then when I really came to terms with it, I decided I didn’t want it to define me. I guess I didn’t want to let it have that much power. It had, after all, consumed too many of my days already. So that part of me has remained largely a secret, until now.
I have lived through days I was sure would end me. I have, in my darkest moments, harmed myself. And I did it all so very quietly. Discreetly. Because I was ashamed. Because I have not had a bad life. Hard times? Yes. But we all have. It felt shameful to not embrace the goodness. And Lord knows, I tried. I tried so hard. And I succeeded a lot of the time. Which only made it that much more difficult to slip back into depression, with no way to stop it from happening. I didn’t know how to cope. I didn’t feel like I could get help. It was really scary, and I am so thankful I’m not stuck in that place anymore.
So, how am I today? Better. I still struggle. I know I’ll never be completely free of this beast. But being honest with myself about what this is, recognizing triggers, and knowing ways to cope have helped me in immeasurable ways.
Are you wondering why I’m confessing all this super personal stuff? Because I don’t want people to suffer in silence like I did. Not only does it make depression more painful and difficult to handle, it’s dangerous. And I want to do my part to wipe out the stigma surrounding depression. Having a depressive disorder is not something to be ashamed of, and if you need help to cope with the effects, it’s okay to admit that. While it’s scary to confess these details of my life to you, if it helps just one person, it was worth it.
So what do you do if you think you have depression? Tell someone. A close friend or family member you trust to be supportive and accepting. Open up about what’s going on. Can they fix everything? No. But you won’t be alone in this anymore. Tell them you need to get counseling and allow them to encourage you to seek help, even when it seems really scary. Because it might.
If you feel like there’s no one in your life you can speak to, I mean this with total sincerity, talk to me. I am here. E-mail me. I want you to beat this thing. I want your happy days to outnumber your bad ones. I want you to embrace life knowing that depression isn’t a death sentence. You are a lovely and unique person put on this earth for remarkable reasons, and I’d like to know you.
Please, if you’re having suicidal thoughts, get in touch with someone immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available by phone or online 24/7.
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