I didn’t recognize her at first, as I stood behind her in line at the store. I hadn’t seen her since well before the pandemic. She invited me to pass around her to check-out. Then, she came up to me and from behind her mask, she thanked me for my blog. I hadn’t written on my blog in years, and it took me a minute to even register what she was referencing.
“Thank you so much for writing about your depression. I just really appreciate you being so honest about it. I needed to know I’m not the only one,” she said.
You’re Not Alone
That’s one of the worst lies about depression. It bullies you, and convinces you that something is wrong with you because you aren’t like everyone else around you. I hid behind a mask of smiles, and then gradually checked out from social settings nearly altogether. I tried. I talked myself into activities for my kids, and at times, I kept sunglasses on, even inside, so that no one would see if I burst into tears. On more than one occasion, I turned and left church as soon as I walked in because I just couldn’t do it.
All the while, I compared myself to the curated social media images and posts I saw. Some days, I could beat back the sadness pretty well, convincing myself that it would pass. Other days, as I’ve described, I was barely functioning. I blamed hormones, which certainly was a contributing factor. I told myself that feeling down was part of an emptying nest, and I’d adjust.
I Admitted the Truth
Then, I finally called my doctor. I had spent an entire evening falling apart in my bedroom, all alone, because I’d been set off by something incredibly minor. Because he’s a friend, my doctor saw right through my thinly veiled façade and gently but firmly told me that no, in fact, it’s not normal to live every day fighting back dark clouds.
Thankfully, we were able to find the right medication and dosage to begin to lift the clouds. That was three years ago. For the most part, I’ve gotten my life back. I can go weeks on end and feel like myself. The majority of the time, my depression and anxiety are controlled. But, every now and then, I’m reminded that controlled is not the same as cured, and I’m leaning into the reality that this is okay.
I can live a full life. I am not less than. I am not broken or a failure, and I have no reason to feel shame. Genetics are at play for me, and hormones, as well. My personal belief system reminds me that my faith is my center point, and I do best when I ground myself to it with regular connection, in a daily rhythm. I don’t have depression because I lack faith, and it won’t go away if I just had more faith.
Living with Depression
It’s part of who I am. My depression doesn’t make me damaged goods. It just makes me human.
I’m learning my depression triggers and how to navigate them. I’m learning that I have a certain amount of emotional capacity. When my capacity is low, I need to be mindful and more intentional about filling up my capacity. As an introvert, I need alone time regularly. As a creative, I need to make time to create on a regular basis. I’m learning to give myself permission to say no to optional things that drain me. I’m learning healthier rhythms for my life, with my need for routines, and I’m also learning how to pivot more readily when things aren’t as expected.
My children and husband are understanding , and we’ve all been learning a new language regarding mental health. We’re all learning to pay attention to our body’s signals, to show grace to one another, and to ask for and create what we each need to keep pressing through these odd times of a global pandemic.
Be Honest with Others About Mental Health
After seeing my friend at the store, I once again posted about how we are all fighting battles unseen. Then, I signed off of personal social media for a break. My mental health needs this. I need to quit living for the applause and attention of others. I need to stop feeling so discouraged by the depravity of humanity shown in mean and hateful posts. I need to more fully embrace a life lived quietly and intentionally, as this is where I find more joy.
Depression is part of my life, and I need you to know you aren’t alone. We can borrow courage from each other knowing there’s company on this messy road.