Call It What It Is

I’ve been working a lot over the last few years (slowly, meekly, but surely) to help remove my own mental stigma around The Big D. 

Look, the reality is it shouldn't be something I have given a nickname to. It shouldn’t be something I avoid talking about because it’s embarrassing, it makes my gaze drop to the floor, and my cheeks color.

It shouldn’t.

know that. I understand that. I am educated, and well-versed on the proper/socially acceptable/most effective ways to talk about mental health. 

That changes nothing. 

I am a logical person. I am a rational person. I know those things are ridiculous, and they perpetuate the cycle of silence, awkwardness, and shyness, that not only is unnecessary when it comes to mental health - but it commonly becomes detrimental to others when we try to start a positive and encouraging conversation that includes those with, and affected by, various stages of mental health.

That changes nothing.

Because I still find it embarrassing. It is still something that changes me in ways that are humiliating. And that is devastating.

It’s not a choice. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s not something I want people to know when I order coffee, or walk in to work, or get gas. There is an immeasurable amount of guilt and shame associated with knowing that sometimes you can’t breathe because it’s a red light and somehow that means the world just shifted inside you and you remembered that titanic crack inside your chest. 

So, no, I still don’t think of it as a conversation I really want to have with about 99.7% of the people in my life. I still don’t like to talk about where I go when I can’t manage to be all the things that people expect to see in my personality. I don’t like to talk about bad days, and what that means for the conversation about mental health.

I don’t even like to talk on bad days

But. I get it. To remove my own mental stigma I am going to have to change some of that. And God help me, I am trying. I know that good days are when we should talk about what it really means to have bad days. I know that now that I am long past it, it is the time to talk about how to work through times like, well, all of my freshman and senior year. However, I have found that it is so much harder to get to that place - where you are open to talk about it, and what it means - when you’ve had some bad days.

Part of my learning to remove my own associated stigma is being honest. So here’s some of that. 

Hi, if you can't handle honesty for what it is and feel like turning this into something other than a frank discussion of what it means to live with depression, please walk away now. So I don’t hate you. 

I have been struggling in the last few weeks. I’m not drowning - not by any means. Let me say that again in case someone who should’ve clicked out by now hasn’t - I am not drowning. My head is above water. 

But swimming is hard right now. Getting up is hard, sometimes. Driving to work is hard, sometimes. Just getting through one more email, is so hard sometimes. I have a lot of moments where I just want to cry because I just don’t want to be this frustrated. (With a lot of things - things that really don’t need to grace these pages.) The reality is, I am struggling to be patient, and trust in the plan, and learn to appreciate the timing of my life. I know - logically, today - that much of that struggle is not held my inability to wait. It’s in my head. It’s chemical. This is struggle is not logical though. 

Anyway you slice it, there will be days where I just cry while brushing my teeth. There will be days when I honestly cannot get out of my own head - or for that matter, bed. That’s my reality. That is part of living with this. You’ll break your own heart. You will physically ache, because you’re sad. You’ll feel absolutely everything, magnified, amplified beyond understanding, and you’ll walk around in a silencing fog.

The only beauty in being able to see both sides of this coin is knowing when I’m struggling. And knowing that it is not a forever thing. And it quite literally is in my head. That doesn’t fix it. And it sure as hell doesn’t make struggling easier. It’s not ever easier. 

But you know what? It passes. You move through it. You learn from it. You start understanding more about your brain, about how you function, about what you can and cannot handle. 

And if you’re me - God willing - you start to accept that this is a part of you that is inadvertently so public that you have to learn to talk about it. To accept that other people are going to want you to talk about it - and talk about it with you. I’m not there yet. I don’t talk about it with, you know, just whoever, yet. You wanna walk up to me and talk about this? I will, but holy hell, I won’t like it. 

I’m working on the liking it part. While I know that it is important. I also know what it feels like to try to articulate what it means to have your heart kind of burning in your chest, and like all of your words are glued to the roof of your mouth, like there’s just something sitting in you, weighing down every breath with achey devastation, and your muscles don’t work right. Your body is filled with it. Your vision is blurred by it. And it is no wonder that your head is shrouded in the smoke.

That is hard to explain - without being vague, or embarrassed, or self deprecating -  to the casual acquaintance who just got so curious and now totally wants to ask vaguely insensitive and inappropriate questions next time they see me.

One of you will, I know that, it always happens. That’s okay. Ask questions. But for the love of God, educate yourself too. If you have never experienced depression, thank your lucky stars, and find some compassion in your heart for those that have. We will talk to you about it - if we can. But please remember sometimes we can’t even talk about what we want for lunch - let alone what is swirling in our heads. 

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