Using My Mental Toolbox

This time of year is hard and it is very easy for me to find myself backpedaling with my mental health. Part of it is that there is just so much change. Change in seasons and weather. Change in the amount of sunshine vs darkness. Change in my children’s lives with back to school and trying new activities and getting used to new schedules and routines. I am notoriously bad with change. Add to that the negativity of news and elections and money stress and it is easy for me to start sliding.

It all starts with little things. I start eating like shit. I stop sleeping because my mind won’t turn off. I lose interest in doing things that make me happy because I am just so fucking exhausted from the lack of sleep. So I stop going to my yoga classes and I quit running. I spend more time on the couch. I disconnect more from life.

My brain takes this opportunity to start to lie to to me. It starts with little niggling insecurities and moves on to bigger and bigger sweeping generalizations. Eventually I am a terrible mom. I am a terrible wife. I am a terrible friend. I am a terrible human. I am useless. I start rapidly descending down the rabbit hole of self doubt.

In the past this kind of downward spiral would lead to suicidal thoughts and ideations. I would think that I am so awful I don’t deserve to live and really everyone else is better off without me anyways. I’d be doing the world a favor if I wasn’t here anymore. Down, down, down.

But I do not find myself there this fall. At least not at the bottom of the hole.

I am struggling, true. I thought I was getting pretty bad, yes. I started fearing the worst was coming again, absolutely. But then I remembered something. I remembered my toolbox. All of the tricks and tips I have gained from therapy. Sort of my mental first aid kit.

I remembered to stop and breathe and take an inventory of sorts. I am still going to yoga albeit not as frequently. I am running occasionally, when I feel like I really want to, but not constantly like a compulsion. I have a weekly date with my bestie and I am still leaving the house to do things with my hubby. I baked cookies the other day. I have not walled myself off emotionally or physically from the outside world. I am still taking pictures of nature and recognizing beauty. I am still seeing color; not everything is grey.

Fuck you brain. You fucking liar.

From there I can pep talk myself into making some small changes. I will start eating better. Less sugar, more veggies. I will make it a point to get to yoga 2 times a week. I will not pressure myself to run if I don’t feel like it. I will do those fucking dishes in the sink. I will volunteer at the kiddos’ school. Baby steps. Little things.

I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do ALL of the things. Doing some of the things is totally acceptable and really probably normal. Also everything doesn’t have to be awesome all the time. Sometimes it is okay to be just okay. And sometimes it is okay to not be okay. Neither of those things is a failure. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. This is the thing I will struggle with all the way to my grave. But I am learning. Slowly.

So today I will go to the pharmacy and pick up my refill of my meds and remember that I am taking steps to be okay. Lots and lots of little steps. I am in a much better place than I was a year ago. I am okay. And that is okay.

It feels okay to be okay.

If you are struggling I encourage you to dip into your mental first aid kit and take an inventory. Be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself that it is okay to just be okay. And if you feel like you are absolutely not okay and you find that inventory to be empty then please reach out and get some help. Contact a friend or better yet a therapist. Get the help you need so that next time you start down the rabbit hole you don’t go quite so deep.

Love to you all. The unconditional kind ❤

It’s All Okay

Today is World Mental Health Day. I am glad we have a day devoted to the work of stopping the stigma but honestly I try to make every day Mental Health Day.

One year ago yesterday I sat in my therapist’s office in so much emotional pain that I am pretty sure I almost made her cry with my mere presence. The pain seemed to emanate from me in waves. I was sure that I was never going to be okay. I had lost all hope. I had hit rock bottom. Despite all the work we had done we decided that we had tried enough other things and it was time to try some meds. To me it was a last ditch effort. I was already considering suicide and if the meds didn’t work it would be the last straw.

This year I am in a very different place.

The last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult for me. I have been reliving some pretty traumatic shit from my past, trying to figure some stuff out, and been stressed out about money and mom stuff. I have been focused on my lack of faith in humanity and I am feeling the pain of those around me in a way that has been crushing my soul. Add to that the fact that it has been raining for about 9 days and I haven’t seen the sun and I can hardly believe I am functioning. Yet here I am.

It is not easy. My life never will be with the constant presence of depression and anxiety in the back of my mind. There are many days where I wish I wasn’t here but I no longer think that maybe I should just step in front of a truck when I am out for a run and end it all.

The biggest difference has been that I got help. Somebody told me that it was okay to not be okay and that there were ways to make it better and I tried it. I went to therapy and learned about self care. I learned that the shit that happened to me when I was younger may have shaped the way that I am now but that it does not define me. That with a lot of work I can rewire some of those parts of my brain and do better. I learned that I really haven’t done so bad with the totally shitty hand I was dealt.

I also learned that chemicals play a huge part in how I feel. My brain doesn’t work the way a “normal” brain does. It needs a little help. And that help is readily available at any drugstore with a prescription from my doctor. And that does not make me a failure. It is just a chronic illness that should be treated as such.

All of this is why it is so fucking important to talk about this stuff. If nobody had told me that I was not alone I would not still be here. If I hadn’t gone to therapy and learned that my childhood circumstances caused so much of the fucked up brokenness in my life and that it was possible to make it feel better I would not still be here. If countless people had not shared that they too were medicated and that it was not a failure but a way to treat an illness I would not still be here.

We have to stop the stigma of talking about our mental health so people no longer think  they are alone. So they will know there is help available. That life can be better. We have to keep making it ok.

So take care of yourself today and everyday. Whatever that looks like for you. Go to therapy, take your meds, practice your self care. And talk to others about it. Reach out to someone who is struggling and share your story with them. Hell, reach out to strangers and share your story. Make this so normal that nobody ever has the thought that they are some fucked up freak show that doesn’t deserve to live. Because we all deserve to live. And we all deserve to want to live.

It is okay to not be okay. We do not always have to feel happy and that is fine. Being depressed is okay. Having anxiety is okay. Dealing with any other slew of mental illnesses is okay. There are so many others like us. We are not alone.

Join in me in not just stopping the stigma but smashing it to pieces. Because sometimes it feels really good to break shit.

And don’t forget that you are important and necessary in this world. I am glad you are here. And so are a bunch of other people. Just keep swimming. And reach out if you need help.

Love to you all, the unconditional kind.

 

#thisiswhatdepressionlookslike

 

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Today my Facebook memories popped up with pictures from a year ago. It was a hike in the woods with my hubby. It was a beautiful fall day with my favorite person on my favorite piece of trail in Minnesota. I was happy in that moment. Enjoying the company and the beauty of nature. Enjoying a respite from the feelings of low-grade (and sometimes high-grade) depression I had been feeling for years. For a couple of hours I dared to think that maybe this was the beginning of better times. The beginning of an upswing of happiness. Little did I know that after this hike I wouldn’t be happy again for a very long time.

Today was the day a year ago that started the spiral that almost ended my life. While I was in the woods enjoying my day something terrible had happened. Something that would trigger me in a way I had no idea was even possible. Something that would cause me to spiral so out of control that I thought my only option to end the pain I was feeling was to die. I am choosing not to share the event that triggered me because it involves others that may not want their story shared and honestly the details don’t matter. The point of this post is to share that you never really know how much a person is struggling.

For two weeks after this day I became more and more lost in myself. In my dark thoughts. In my feelings of being not enough, of being a burden, of being too broken to fix. In my thoughts that this world was broken beyond repair. In my empathic feelings of everyone else’s pain around me that I could not seem to escape. It happened so quickly yet to me it felt like forever. I think that some people around me noticed something was off but nobody, not even my closest friends or husband knew exactly how bad it was. And most people continued thinking everything was just fine.

I remember an interaction with someone at work from those dark weeks. It was a hello in the hallway with my trademark winning fake-smile. My co-worker said something about how my smile just always lit up the whole place, that I seemed like one of then happiest people he knew. I was literally thinking of killing myself. I’m pretty sure I went straight to the bathroom to cry. This was not an uncommon interaction in those two weeks and I couldn’t figure out why nobody could see the pain I was in.

I won’t say my presence on social media, and in real life for that matter, was fake but I always tried to keep things positive so I didn’t always share hard truths. I didn’t want to bring people down. I think a lot of people do this, not realizing how helpful it is to be raw and honest. Not realizing how much our experiences can help someone else to realize they are not alone. That others are in fact struggling with the same things. Knowing you are not alone is not a happy thought, but it does help. It helps to know you are not some freak. Some broken piece of trash. Most importantly it can help us to see that it does get better.

There was a movement on social media a while back where people used the hashtag #thisiswhatdepressionlookslike. The point was to illustrate that no matter how a person looks on social media or in their day to day life it does not necessarily reflect how they are feeling inside. Most people who are struggling are wearing a mask of happiness to cover up their dark feelings and I was no different. Sometimes our masks are very convincing.

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This is a picture of me the morning of the beginning of what was almost the end. Less than 2 weeks after this picture was taken (and the one at the beginning of this post) I was considering and very near attempting suicide.

This is what depression looks like. It is not always crying 24 hours a day. It is not always binging on the couch. It is not always voluntary solitary confinement. Though those things do happen, most people do not see them. They see the fake smiles. The compassion, the caring for others, the kindness. They see the smiles and fake happiness that we put out in the world because we don’t want everyone to know how broken we are. Because we don’t want anyone to worry about us. Because we don’t feel worthy of it.

When I dug out of the hole I was in I decided to share my story and my experiences with depression, anxiety, trauma and mental illness. I decided that putting on a fake smile and hiding the real me was not doing anyone any good. It has been difficult but also amazing. There are days where I wonder if people think I am crazy or whiny or just plain negative but there are also days where I have had people tell me that my sharing has helped them to hold on and keep trying. Sometimes it feels odd in a regular conversation to talk about therapy or meds or any other regular part of my life and sometimes I get odd looks when I speak of these things so naturally and nonchalantly. But this is how we stop the stigma. This is how we make it ok. And if I get a few weird looks or some people who don’t want to talk to me anymore I think that it is 100% worth it.

Let’s continue to talk about these things like they are normal. Because they are. When someone asks you how you are doing try telling the truth. It feels weird at first but eventually it becomes normal. And that is a magical feeling.

Most of all check on your friends. Especially the ones that seem okay. Especially the strong ones. Because those are the ones that are usually struggling. Let it be know that you are there and you care and that when you ask how they are you want the truth. Make sure they know you are prepared for truth and that you love them no matter what. Sometimes that can be the one thing that makes a world of difference in the middle of the darkness.

Remember it gets better. I am living proof of that. It is not always easy but it is worth it. I am so glad that each and every one of you are here. We need you.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind.

 

Hang On

Today is National Suicide Prevention Day. I feel like that should be everyday but I guess one day is better than none. I haven’t written in a while so I figured I should probably post something.

Last year at this time I had decided that suicide wasn’t such a bad option. Things were bad, I felt alone, I was spiraling hardcore, and I had pretty much figured I had tried hard enough for long enough. I was exhausted and my brain had convinced me that it was not getting better and probably never would. That the option to not exist was all I had left to make the pain stop. But here’s the thing; depression lies. And so does your brain when you are dealing with mental illness.

So last year at this time I decided to try one more thing first and I made an appointment with my doctor and got on some meds. They saved my life.  Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t immediate and there was still a lot of work to do but today I feel like a normal human. I am experiencing that feeling called happiness more and more. And I am very glad that I didn’t listen to my asshole, liar brain and make a decision that could not be taken back.

I am thankful that I am here for my friends and my family. I am thankful I was able to make decisions that made my life better and worth living. I am thankful that my children do not have to grow up without a mom and do not have to deal with the trauma that would have resulted from me listening to my liar brain. I am thankful that I still get to see sunsets and feel the sand beneath my bare feet on the beach.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I know it is not easy to think of these things when you are in the throes of a major depressive episode but I ask you to wait. You can do almost anything for 1 minute. Even survive. So if you are in a spot where you can only think of that one minute then do that. Make it through that 1 minute and then deal with the next. Eventually move on to hours, and then maybe days, It will get easier.

If you have no idea what to do or how to make it through please talk to someone. It can be a friend or a stranger. Use the Suicide hotline by calling call 1-800-273-8255. Or  text 741741 to chat via text if you do not like talking. Someone is always there to help.

Things that help me:

Take a walk

Take a bath or shower

Eat a healthy snack (ice cream sometimes helps, too, though)

Do some yoga or exercise

Get coffee with a friend

Take a nap

Have my kids or friends or random people on social media tell me something good that happened to them that day (seriously, social media can be used for good and this is one of my favorite ways)

Get a hug from someone

Snuggle in bed with my kids

Do something nice for someone else

Talk to my therapist

If you do not know how to find a therapist please talk to your family doctor. They will have suggestions. If they tell you that you have to wait some ungodly amount of time, that is a lie. There are other options. Reach out to me and I am glad to talk to you about my experience or go back and read some of previous posts where I talk about my therapy experience. Try this one: I’m Officially Less Crazy? or this one: You Are Worth It. I Promise.

Meds are a lifesaver and if anyone tries to tell you differently they are stupid. Your family doc can help with those too. Here is more about my experience with them: The Magic of Meds 

Finally, just talk about it. You will be surprised how many people have been where you are. People who can give you sound advice and people who can tell you from experience that it gets better.

Because it does… Get better. So hang on. It will be worth it eventually and you will be glad you stuck around. I will be glad you stuck around. And so will others. You are valuable and unique and wonderful and the world needs you.

As always, reach out if you need something, to me or somebody else. Anytime. There is always someone here.

Love to all of you.. the unconditional kind

 

 

 

 

 

I Choose Life… Finally

Just a short post to check in with you all and to share a story of hope.

A couple of weeks ago I had a really strange headache. I get headaches all the time but this one was different and my brain being what it is was like “Welp, that’s definitely brain caner, you are probably dying.” Now a couple months ago I would have welcomed this. For the last 3 years I was actually so exhausted with the idea of living and so weighed down by the depression I was dealing with that I hoped I would get a brain tumor and die. Because I actually believed that I deserved a long, drawn out, painful death since I was clearly such a horrible person. Messed up. Remember… broken brain. But here’s the thing. This time as soon as that brain tumor thought crossed my mind I thought “I don’t want to die”.

What?!?

You guys it has been 3 years since I thought that. 3 years since I actually thought I want to live.

And it felt really good to feel that way again.

I know the dark thoughts, exhaustion, and depression will come back eventually. They always do. But for right now I feel actual happiness. Which is something I have not felt in a long time. And I am going to revel in it a little. I am going to enjoy this brief, or maybe and hopefully not-so-brief, respite from the darkness. I am going to enjoy wanting to see tomorrow. And I will hope for that for you too.

I hope you can find some sunshine, a little peak of light through the clouds if you are having a hard time. And if you can’t see it right this moment just remember that you will eventually. And you should hold on. Because we need you here. You are important. Keep trying. It gets better. I am living (thankfully) proof of that. It will be worth it.

Love to you… the unconditional kind.

p.s. The headache was just a headache, no worries 😉

My Favorite Love Story

Wednesday was my 20th wedding anniversary. If I had one wish for every single person on this planet it is that they could have a person in their life like my partner. Whether it is a friend, a spouse, a family member, at least one person like my Dana.

Dana and I got married very young and our relationship started when I was deep in the trenches of the trauma that would shape the rest of my life and mental health problems. When we were dating he would often be on the phone with me as I cried myself almost to sleep each night. That should have been a sign for him to run the fuck away as fast as he could but he was young and kinda dorky (in the most charming possible way) and maybe just didn’t think he could do better (he definitely could have).

I moved out of my house when I was 17 to live with him (and escape) and we were married the month after I graduated high school. I was not pregnant, just in case you were wondering (there is no judgement in that statement it is just that is usually the look I get from people when I tell them I got married at 18 years old). We were mostly happy and we were in love.

Our marriage has not been easy. Marriage never is. My sister got sick during our first year of marriage and died just before our first anniversary. So on top of the trauma I was working on pushing way down deep as a way to cope and move on and start my new happily ever after there was the new fun of some pretty extreme grief. This was all new territory for Dana.

Now don’t get me wrong, his life was by no means a fairy tale but he had it pretty good. He had pretty great parents, no trauma or abuse, he had never really lost anyone super close to him. He had a pretty normal life. Now he was thrown into this marriage with the complete opposite. And on top of that I had no idea how bad it really was. I had mostly lived a life where I went minute to minute and never really dealt with anything. In order to make it to the next thing and make it through I just had to leave all of the bad stuff accumulating behind me. There was no time to deal, I was just in survival mode. If I slowed down enough to actually think about what was happening and the emotional fallout of all that bullshit I would have killed myself a long time ago.

So we went on with our lives. I buried my feelings, I buried my grief. I occasionally brought it up but Dana just didn’t seem to get it and how could he? In fact I was sort of happy that he didn’t. But I felt a little alone. I mostly kept stuff to myself unless it got really bad but when we talked about things he just couldn’t get it and didn’t seem to want to try and it made me sad. I think he used to be one of those people who thinks depression is just sadness. You just have to be happy. Count your blessings. Be thankful. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Hell I used to be like that too. I thought “Well I survived all the shit I survived and turned out okay (spoiler alert, WRONG!) why can’t everybody else?” So little by little I talked to him about it less and less. And buried it a little deeper.

Fast forward to the last 3 years or as I like to call it my own personal hell. Things got worse. And worse. And worse for me. I started having mini breakdowns. They became more and more often and less and less mini. He still didn’t get it. I made some new friends. Ones that understood it more. I turned to them more and to Dana less. I thought that was okay, as long as I had someone who understood I didn’t have to burden him with the shit he didn’t understand. But then things got so bad. Like I pretty much checked out of life bad. You would have to be blind not to see that things were clearly not okay.

Things are a little blurry at this time in my life but eventually the word depression came up. I sent him a couple links to blogs, to articles and he read them. And one night as I was crying on the couch wanting to die his language changed. It was a simple statement. “I don’t know how you feel but I can imagine that must be so hard”. Fuck. He had never said anything like that ever in our marriage. It had always been I can’t understand. He couldn’t get past the fact that it made no sense to him. A totally normal reaction by the way. When it comes to emotions Dana is pretty simple. He feels one at a time and handles them pretty well. I am at any given time feeling 43 different emotions simultaneously and I have emotions that there are not even words to describe. We are polar opposites in this way. But with that one statement it showed me he was TRYING to understand. I have never felt so seen and heard. So loved.

From here I eventually started therapy. He showed genuine interest after each of my sessions. He still didn’t understand and didn’t always deal with the emotional fallout of each session well, but he tried. He communicated with me and asked what he could do to make me feel loved. When my therapist assigned books he read them too. He talked to the kids about what I was going through. He talked to me more often. He read so much literature about depression and mental illness. He educated himself and he changed the way he thought about it. The way he talked about. His language became more compassionate, more understanding, more loving. When things got so dark that meds seemed like the only other option before I ended my life he fully supported me. No judgement. He offered to go to my appointment with me. He encouraged me to start this blog. To share my experiences. And even though I often share things that are very personal and I worry about how that will reflect on him he fully supports me in my honest bravery.

His love turned from feeling to action. Don’t get me wrong, Dana has always showed love. He has always made love a verb. That is how our family lives. But he brought that kind of love to a thing that he previously didn’t understand. He channeled his energy into educating himself and making damn sure I knew I was loved and needed and had value. It is still hard for him but he makes the effort. He spends time always trying to understand it more. To show me how important I am to him. He has become my person.

A few months ago. Dana decided to look into the crisis text line. He wanted to help more people. He went through training and once a week he volunteers time to helping people in crisis. You guys I am so fucking proud of him I don’t have the words for it. In the last couple of years he has gone from a person who didn’t really believe depression was real to a person on the front likes of stopping the stigma and helping those in crisis. He is my hero. He gives me so much hope.

I often used to say that Dana saved my life. He got me out of the trauma I was experiencing as a teen. He rescued me then. White knight style. But that was not the only time. He saves me every day with his love. With his compassion. With his willingness to be uncomfortable and to constantly learn more. He doesn’t always do it right, I mean who does? But he is always trying to be better. He is always trying to understand more. And he is getting better at learning that when there are no words and no way to understand he can just hold me and let me cry and just physically be here for me. He is still my hero. Every damn day.

Dana has truly become my best friend. The person I can talk to about everything. He loves me without condition. When I do not deserve it. And even though it has been so hard to get here, here we are. I am so fucking lucky. And it only took 20 years (I joke, I joke).

Marriage is the hardest thing I have ever done and I have done some hard shit. It is a balancing act and it is about persevering through the really hard times so you can enjoy the really great times. It is not always easy but it is always worth it. I am thankful for where this journey has brought us. That we have made through so much and that we can  truly enjoy each other. I am so happy that Dana saved me back then and that he keeps on saving me every day. Here’s to 20 more years. And beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Not Selfish.

I have a favor to ask you. If you have never been diagnosed with clinical depression or anxiety or suicidal thoughts or ideations or any other mental health problem please remove the word “selfish” from your commentary. In fact I would take this advice one step further and ask you to stop commenting period. I would ask you to stop talking and please take this opportunity to listen. Pick up a book on clinical depression, talk to a friend who struggles or do a quick search of blogs to get a first hand description of what it is like to deal with this monster. There is no shortage of resources out there but I beg you to stop judging us and try to educate yourself. Your judgement and harsh words do nothing to help us or build us up but it does more damage than you can possibly know.

***Trigger Warning*** I will talk in detail about my depression and suicidal thoughts so if you are in a sensitive place right now maybe skip this post.

Most people who have never experienced depression firsthand have absolutely no idea what is like. At times when there are high profile suicides in the news the internet becomes a dark and scary place for those of us who struggle with this chronic illness. Even those of us who appear to be doing well can quickly backslide. Because times like this remind us that even though we feel good right now, that monster, the deep, scary, terrifying darkness is ALWAYS there. It is lurking in the back of our brain just waiting for its chance to take hold again. Waiting for its chance to start whispering its lies to us. Waiting for us to lose our grip just enough where we will start to believe it again.

Depression is not sadness. It is so much more than that. It can feel like so many things. A complete and utter absence of hope. Despair. Like all of the colors have been drained out of life around you and everything is just washed in shades of gray. A complete lack of any kind of feeling whatsoever. But mostly it is exhaustion in your very soul. It slowly drains your energy until you can barely do basic things like make a meal, go to work, have fun, spend time with others, or even get out of bed. It slowly knocks out each and every one of your defenses against it until you are lying at the bottom of the deepest well in the world and you can no longer see that pinprick of light and it looks so utterly impossible to climb out that you just hunker down in there and get more and more exhausted and you get stuck. Trapped in your own mind with the monster.

And when you are stuck down there with no way out all you can hear are the lies from that dark voice in the back of your brain. The voice that you can usually tune out or ignore. But you are just so damn tired and it is just so damn hard to ignore and actually it makes some pretty good points. I mean who the hell can possibly feel like this when their life is so amazing? I have three great kids, a husband who is basically the perfect human, who takes care of me and them without ever expecting anything back. I have a great job, a house, enough money to not worry about what comes next, friends. Life doesn’t get much better. That voice is probably right. Who wouldn’t be happy with all of this? What kind of person can’t get off the couch to participate in family fun? What kind of person can’t contribute? Look at what is happening. My kids and husband are doing EVERYTHING. I’m not helping at all. It must be so frustrating to live with me. To take care of me ALL the time. I can see it draining them. Physically and emotionally.

“Useless,” the voice whispers. And you believe it. “Burden,” it shouts, and who are you to argue? Every new thing it says gets louder and louder and more convincing and it hurts more and more and it becomes impossible to ignore and will it ever stop? You start to spiral. Out of control. The voice becomes a constant stream of commentary on your shortcomings. Pointing out how you are ruining the lives of everyone around you. And no matter what you do, eventually you can’t drown it out and it is not really even in the background anymore. It hurts. Everything hurts so much and it is never going to get better because it has been so bad for so long and it just keeps getting worse. Hope is gone. Color is gone. You can’t even remember what happiness felt like.

Imagine feeling so much pain that the only way you can possibly imagine it ending is to just not exist anymore. To be so devoid of hope that things can get better that you can’t imagine living another day. To feel like such a burden that you actually believe that everyone around you would be better off without you. I mean clearly they would be sad at first but it would be such a relief for them to not have to take care of you anymore that it really is better in the long run for everyone. Because this is never getting better and they must be so fucking exhausted. You are always bringing them down.

Imagine lying awake in your bed at night being consumed by these thoughts, this voice. Imagine not being able to sleep and praying harder than you have ever prayed in your life that God would just let you die. It doesn’t even need to be quick. Just something terminal. Even cancer would be okay because honestly you probably deserve it for being so awful and ungrateful and useless. You just need it all to stop.

This is depression. Sort of. I mean it is so much worse than this because there is no way to put it into words. This is tip of the iceberg of despair. And I have been here twice in the last year.

I hope you never have to experience this. I hope you cannot imagine what this would feel like. I hope you never have to deal with these feelings coupled with the judgement of those who have never experienced the monster that is depression. But I would like you to consider this the next time you call someone who commits suicide selfish. Because I guarantee that the last thing they were is selfish. They were in indescribable, insurmountable amounts of pain. They were experiencing a deep chasm of seemingly unending pain and they just needed it to stop. They were trapped in their own sick brain hearing that voice louder and louder, thinking it would never stop and there was literally no other way out that they could see. And more likely than not they were thinking about how much better everyone else would be without them. Their brain was broken. They were sick.

I will say for the millionth time depression it not being sad. You can not just talk yourself out of it. You cannot just “suck it up”. It does not matter what you have in your life and how fucking blessed you are and how great everything appears because none of that matters. It is an illness. Like cancer or lupus or arthritis or heart disease. And should be treated by people as the same. You don’t just “suck it up” for any of those things. You get treatment. Mental illness is the same. We do not shame people for have any of these other illnesses. Mental illness should be the same. When someone has cancer we support them. We offer to make them meals, we drive them to treatment, we fundraise for them, we check on them. But when someone is depressed they are quite often looked at as weak or selfish. We tell them to get over it and remind them that if they just “count their blessings” they will feel better. Or we tell them they have no right to feel that way. All of the things that we do feed into that darkness and make it worse. Make them feel judged and “less than”.

I suggest compassion. I suggest you think of your depressed friend or co-worker or that celebrity in the news as a person with a chronic illness. And try to think for just one second just how hard it must be to be in their shoes and to feel that amount of pain. Please.

I also suggest that you reach out to any of your friends that you even suspect might be struggling with this monster. DO NOT wait for them to reach out and ask for help. That is too much to ask and quite honestly by the time we need help sometimes it is too late to ask. Do not be afraid of making it worse by talking about it. Just check in. Because they probably won’t. And they need to feel loved. I wrote another blog post about things that have helped me through my worst bouts of depression and it comes down to 3 basics. Tell them they are important to you, you love them, and you are here for them in whatever way they need you. Even if it is just sitting with them through the pain and silence and being present. Those things can help so much. (Though everyone is different this has been my personal experience.)

If you are struggling I will say what I always say. It gets better. I know it doesn’t feel like it will and your brain is telling you otherwise but it does. And you are worth it. You offer this world something that nobody else can and you are so fucking important. I promise. So take care of yourself. Take a walk or a hike or a run. Eat a healthy meal. Go out with a friend or have them come to you. Make a therapy appointment. Take your meds. Get some sleep. Take a shower. Drink more water. Lie in your bed and get somebody to rub your back. Ask someone for a hug. Anything at all no matter how small to make you feel even a tiny bit better.

And if you need help right now text the number 741741. Somebody will be there to help you. To listen without judgement. Or call 1-800-273-8255 if you prefer to actually talk. Just get some help. Because we need you here.

Thanks for reading this.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind.