World Mental Health Day, And Me, And You.

Today’s World Mental Health Day, and it shouldn’t surprise any of you to discover that I’m still crazy. I write about my depression and social anxiety regularly, and specifically – explaining how this party made me melt down in a shrieking fit, or how I can barely get out of bed today because my brain is telling me I’m a failure.

It’s embarrassing.

I don’t want to tell you any of that.

Yet I do because speaking up is important.

In the end, you have to remember: I have depression and social anxiety, yet I also have a writing career and a loving wife and a decent job.

I worry all you hear when I discuss my depression is the ache of mental illness. But what I want to convey is that if I hid my illness – as many do – then what people would see is the “functioning lifestyle” and never guess that there was thrashing and despair underneath.

A lot of mental illness is spoken about as though it is an untreatably terminal illness, irrevocably deadly for everyone it touches – and that’s because, in part, depression tells you that there’s no hope, so why bother?

Which often leads to a one-upmanship of depression, where your depression can’t be serious if you’re managing to live with it, and it’s only true mental illness if you’ve succumbed on some level to it.

Yet there is also hope.

No, it’s not easy some days. And some days, the black dog gets me and I can’t get out of bed, or I have a relationship implode because of my crazy. The nature of depression is that, yes, some days despite all of your effort your brain is going to crumple like a paper crutch and you’re going to lose an hour, or a day, or a week.

Yet honestly? I feel romancing what depression takes from you all too often discourages people from seeking treatment. There are often ways to mitigate the depression, to learn to function when all seems lost, to find support groups who can help you.

People often say “You need treatment to get you through the worst of it.” That’s not true with mental illness; the worst of it is the untreatable stuff. But you need treatment to get you through the rest of it – and what you often find through the right approaches is that you can expand your zone of functionality. You’ll find yourself able to keep going through days that once would have hamstrung you.

You probably won’t ever get so strong that you’ll never have bad days, but you can get strong enough to function through days that would have crushed you before.

The worst thing about mental illness is how not treating it leads to objectively worse lifestyles. If you lose your job because of your mental illness, you can’t pay your bills and the stresses rise and even mentally healthy people would find it hard to be happy under the strain. Learning to function when you can (and be gentle to yourself when you can’t) will 100% improve your life.

I reveal my illness because all too often, “mental illness” is defined by its failures. Even now, some hurt soul will tell me that I don’t know what true depression is like simply by the fact that I’m up and functioning most days – even though I’m still not sure why I didn’t die after swallowing that bottle of sleeping pills, and if I’d died during that attempt surely everyone would have agreed soberly that I was, in fact, truly depressed.

And look. It’s not easy for me to open up about all this. It costs me friends. I’m pretty sure it costs me writing opportunities. And it’s hard when I discuss something personal to me and people treat me like fragile eggs for the next week afterwards because I just opened up my gooey center.

Yet I’m discussing my craziness because there’s two things I think you should know:

  • You are not alone. I hear you. I know you. I am you, on some level. And this is painful, and crushing, and distorting, but there are others with you in this darkness.
  • Depression lies. It tells you there’s no hope. And nothing is guaranteed, but lots of people function on some increased level by seeking out the right treatments for them, so if you’ve got nothing left to lose, why not try a new therapist or another medication or reaching out to a new friend?

This isn’t easy. It can’t be, for people like us. But there are plenty of people who manage to live lives that are fulfilling despite the illness nibbling their sanity away.

Maybe you could be one of them.

Maybe you could get up and try again today.

1 Comment

  1. Rosemarie
    Oct 10, 2017

    Thank you.

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