Very few people know about my struggle with depression. I don’t talk about it a lot, but it’s not because I’m ashamed or because I’m trying to hide it. Publicly, I prefer to be a positive figure, so when negativity or pain is involved, I often seek solace privately with people who are aware of what I go through. And honestly, sometimes I don’t even go to them. But I know that I should.
I was particularly affected by the death of Robin Williams last week because I know so much about how he felt, and it took a deep toll in me. While I have been fortunate enough to be able to climb out of darkness several times, and have never reached the level of despair that he did, I still get it. I get what it feels like to think there’s no way out, and to dread waking up another day feeling like a chokehold of unfathomable pain will never release its grip on you. It is an impossible battle to fully explain because the feelings don’t make sense to us who go through it any more than it ever will to the people who don’t.
Let me tell you about how easy it is for depression to take over my entire state of being. It often happens like this: Yesterday I was happy. I was happy the day before that and as a generalization, the entire year before yesterday. But today, in this day where I am aware of the incredible things going on in my life, aligned with the amazing people I’m lucky to know, I can’t get out of bed. It takes everything in me to put my feet on the floor and I don’t even get that far when it’s really bad. I am sad. I feel hurt. I feel alone. None of these feelings even come with reasons I can list. Because I don’t know why they’re here. I have no idea why I am plagued by feelings I cannot explain nor can I alleviate with the strongest efforts of self-loving and logic I have in me.
My Type A personality that is used to having a firm grip on my life and feelings is well aware of “all the reasons I have to be happy.” Losing control is one of my biggest fears, so when I find myself unable to control my emotions, I am equally as scared as I am sad. In these dark moments I am terrified. The “logic” that I have so much to live for only transforms the sadness, fear, and hurt to dangerous levels of guilt and self-loathing. This faux logic implies that I am not grateful for my life and all I am blessed with. In actuality, I am the first one to know and list the things I have to appreciate. You don’t have to tell me and you certainly couldn’t tell me in a better way than I could myself. My happy days don’t give me immunity from depression, nor does my very abundant life. Beauty, money, fame, and even hordes of admirers don’t keep anyone safe from this mental illness. It can affect anyone, and when it does, we need help.
Depression is often stronger than you or I can be for me. It is a sickness that only has medicinal balancers but no real cure. A list of all the reasons I shouldn’t be depressed won’t help. Empathy may not be a possibility from you but compassion is. And that does help. Knowing that even though you don’t understand what I’m going through but that you’re willing to hold my hand through it helps. Knowing that I’m not alone with my demons helps. Judging them doesn’t. Trying to understand doesn’t help. Offering love does.
It is, of course, not even remotely easy to discuss this publicly. But as I reflect on how I felt when hearing about Robin Williams and the battle he ultimately lost, I cannot in good conscience remain silent. I write and share this so that maybe, just maybe, if someone I know is going through similar things, they will reach out to me, and honor me with the possibility of helping them through it. Or at least allowing me the chance to let them know they’re not alone. Because you aren’t. If there is anything I’m sure of, it’s that I and others have infinite amounts of love to offer to anyone who needs it. And if you need it, all you have to do is ask.
Please, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is absolutely no shame in it. I don’t know anyone who has never needed help in the smallest and largest of spectrums. People will be there to be your light. People will be there to give you strength. People will do this without needing to understand anything other than the fact that we all need to feel loved, and we all need to feel safe. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you won’t even have to ask and you’ll still find the support. But if you ask, I can promise you that’s all you’ll have to gather the strength for because people who love you will carry you for as long as you will let them, and until you can carry yourself again. So please do it. If you prefer to be anonymous in asking for help, there are other outlets… I urge you, especially in crisis, to contact the Depression and Bipolar Alliance.
Live in love and live in light. But if ever you think you’ve found only darkness, let others hold your hand and lead you to it.