Yesterday marked ten years since I lost my father. A man who I admired with every fiber of my being, a man I idolized and wanted to be like. A man I can see staring back at me in my own reflection. Also, he was a man who struggled with his own mental health in silence and did not have anyone he could talk to, openly. Surrounded and swallowed whole in my own grief, today I wanted to speak frankly, openly. To anyone who is out there who needs to hear it… you’re not alone. If only my father had someone to talk to, he might still be here today. This post is for him. This is for my father. A practice in being open and vulnerable.
I was still a child when I lost him. I had no idea what was going on. However, now as an adult, I look back and I can see the signs. I can see my own struggles with Depression and Anxiety in my memories of him. It has been the most heartbreaking realization. Devastating really.
Depression hurts. Depression haunts you. You cannot escape it, it will always catch up to you. Depression suffocates any simple pleasure. It’s like watching yourself drown, and not being able to do anything about it. I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to talk, I don’t want to even get dressed in the morning. My body hurts, even doing the slightest physical activity takes all of my energy.
Or at least that’s what it is like for me.
But you know what I do want to do? Talk about it. I want to finally be out with it. I’m not alone in this. With this struggle. It’s not a flaw, it’s not something I should be ashamed of. I have overcome this darkness on my own willpower and strength. I am proud of myself. I have found my own balance.
It is absolute agony sometimes. You do get used to it. I often wonder how different my life would be if I didn’t have to carry it around with me. I wonder if I’d be a different person without it. I just know I wouldn’t wish this upon even the worst of people.
On and off throughout my life, I am revisited by my depression. I’ve carried this illness with me since I was a child. However, for some reason lately, it actually hurts. Each morning feels like I am forcing myself out of bed against an oncoming tide that just wants to push me back down. It’s always been a struggle. An uphill battle. Somedays it can be crippling.
I’ve been revisited by my depression lately, because something within my family is worrying me, consuming me. I wake every morning with constant stress. It doesn’t help that this time of year I am also realigned with the grief of losing my father, and my mother.
I know and I realize things will get better with time. November 3rd and December 17th will get easier each year. November and December are the hardest months for me. Not to mention, all the family holidays and shorter daylight hours. I’m practically inviting my depression to visit.
My personal life is great. My partner and I are happy, and he is deeply supportive of me. Depression is not usually linked to an event or as a result of unhappiness. It’s an incredibly complex illness. It’s most commonly linked to a chemical imbalance of the brain. However, each case is different. I just wanted to point out, in my case, that my life is wonderful at the moment, and depression is often not a result of hardship.
I have my routine every morning, and I absolutely have to stick to it. And eventually, throughout the morning I level out. I can always tell when it’s happening. I always take a deep breath, and it feels like my brain is back in focus. My thoughts become more clear and defined. Some mornings are easier than others, but it’s almost always there.
The hardest part, however, is being heard. When you have high functioning Anxiety and/or Depression, people cannot see your illness. You’ve become so good at being “okay” because people cannot see your signs. And most of the time they don’t want to hear it. I remember trying to talk to someone about this, someone I trusted, and they laughed a little and then looked at me, “really?”. I don’t understand why it’s not taken more seriously. Or I get, “things are a little rough, Hayley you’ll get through this.” That’s not what I need… saying that is shutting me down. Closing the conversation. That’s why I contain and conceal my depression and the way it makes me feel. No one ever seems to take me seriously, so I just don’t even talk about it. “You seem so happy, you have your life together” “How could YOU have depression, you’re always smiling!?”
Often times even interacting with people can be exhausting because I need to force myself to be happy, be engaged, be pleasant. However, at the same time, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings because of an unpleasant interaction with me. Sometimes being in a public place takes literally all of my energy.
I’m sorry for all the metaphors, there’s no other way to explain it. All I can say is if you know someone who has depression or is suffering…. just be there for them. They don’t need a remedy, they don’t need you to find a natural cure(don’t tell me you know of a magical oil, please), they don’t need you to try to fix them. They just need someone who acknowledges their illness and doesn’t judge. Someone who will listen.
And really, I’m okay – as okay as I’ve ever been. I’m tough. Please don’t feel sorry for me that’s not the purpose of this reflection. It’s to practice being honest, open and vulnerable – like my father couldn’t be. And if I’m being perfectly honest, when my depression isn’t consuming me, and times are good, I feel that I have a better appreciation for the little things, the meaningful moments. That being said, on today of all days, if you relate and you need someone to listen. I’m here.