Dare to Share
If you’re like me, depression can be easy to ignore for years.
“This is just a bad week.”
“I haven’t seen my friends because I’ve been too busy.”
“Everyone feels like this sometimes. It’s not really depression.”
“Someone else has it worse, so I don’t deserve to complain.”
Carry on like this long enough and you start believing that your symptoms of depression are just part of your personality—but you are not your depression, and the crushing weight of hollow despair is not your default state. These are simply ways this mental illness can manifest.
Depression is very isolating. It makes it hard to trust others by making you believe horrible lies about yourself and the people around you. It creates a barrier between you and the world, pushing people away when what you need most is the support of friends and family. Mix in a bit of an anxiety disorder that summons intrusive thoughts, and you’ve made yourself a giant cake of awfulness.
For the longest time, I thought I had no choice but to eat the damn cake by myself. “This is my life, my feelings, my problems. This is the cake I have to eat.” I felt like I was choking when I ate it, and it never disappeared. It was always there. And because it was always there, because this cake of awfulness was the only kind I had ever had, there was no way for me to know that other cakes even existed.
But I learned something very important recently: You don’t have to eat it by yourself.
You don’t have to hoard the cake of awfulness. You don’t have to keep all of these thoughts and feelings bottled up inside until they make you sick.
If you’re struggling with depression and anxiety like I am, consider talking about it with a therapist, if you can. I know it helps me to know that there is a person I can talk to about my feelings without being judged, or made to feel like I’m “too sensitive.” They offer you a safe space for you to be open and honest, and they help you find ways of coping with and managing your mental illness.
(I should note, though, that sometimes therapists can be too helpful. Like when all you feel like doing is complain and sleep, and they remind you of things you used to enjoy, and they have the gall to tell you to find time to have fun. Can you believe that? Ugh.)
I am aware that having the means to see a therapist is a considerable privilege. Part of the reason why I didn’t see a therapist for so long was because I didn’t have insurance, and paying for sessions out of pocket can easily become extraordinarily expensive. It’s a source of great frustration for me to know that thousands, probably millions, of people are not getting the care they need because this treatment is so exclusive.
If you cannot talk to a professional, you can also confide in trusted friends, people who will accept you and love you on your “bad” days just as much as they would on your “good” ones. Having a friend who will listen and support you is sometimes all you need. I have found that loneliness only worsens my symptoms of depression, making that cake of awfulness seem much more torturous. This is why, when the opportunity to open up presents itself, it is often a good idea to follow through, even if it catches you by surprise.
A little while ago, a friend I’m not particularly close with earnestly asked how I was doing in terms of mental health. His tone was so genuine that I admitted I was going through a rough time and considering starting medication. Then he opened up about his own experience with medication. We ended up having a very honest, uplifting conversation, free of stigma and shame. It’s amazing what can happen when you dare to share.
I still struggle with talking about how I feel. In fact, few things make me more uncomfortable than talking about how I feel. Being honest with others can seem risky, and it takes a lot of courage, but it is actually a part of self-care. You owe it to yourself to be honest with yourself and with others, and to take the actions necessary to live your best life.