If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: depression is a beast. Depression is a bear. Depression is a fight. For an extremely long time, I thought that I had to fight it alone – and I’m here today to tell you why that was the wrong thing to do.
I don’t want to dive into all the reasons of why I’ve kept depression to myself in the past (that’s a looooong post), but I’d like to say that there isn’t just one main factor. Whether it’s shame, embarrassment, anger, a stigma (from someone else or your own self) or anything else, depression is nuanced enough to trick you into thinking that you’re better off by not telling anyone about it. It took me time to learn that I needed to tell someone, and once I did, things slowly started to change. But not necessarily for the better.
Once I knew there were people in my life that knew more about my struggles with depression and anxiety, it would make logical sense that they would want to support me, right? Right. But I was having a tough time accepting that help. I would think to myself this is my fight, this is my struggle, and there’s nothing anyone else can do to take this pain away. Sure, I could hang out with friends and family and we could talk about our lives. We could even talk about our mental health. But for a while, when I was going through a rough period of depression or anxiety, I didn’t want anyone to be near me. I didn’t want to be a burden, or make someone’s life harder. And it took a long time to realize that my attitude had the opposite effect. By not allowing people to help and support me, I was making their lives harder. Which meant it was time to accept help and support for those rough bouts of depression and anxiety.
The next logical step here would be that handling these moments would be easier, but they actually got more difficult because I had to learn a lot more about myself. Depending on someone’s experience with mental health, you might have to do more teaching than you’d like to about how to handle mental health issues. There’s the chance this might make you feel even more like a burden, but the way I worked through that is by reminding myself constantly that by learning all these things, and sharing them with others, I was helping everyone involved. When I’m depressed, I know what I need. I also know that I can’t always get what I need from myself. Sometimes, people need to help. But knowing what I need – and not being ashamed of that – is something that’s changed the way I approach dealing with my mental health.
But the first step in all of this is reaching out to someone, anyone who can help you deal with what you’re going through or living with. And if someone’s response is to say that they would like to help or support but they don’t know how, here’s what you say: Okay. It’s extremely difficult, but work as hard as you can to just say okay. One day at a time, one step at a time, and one word at a time, we can learn to fight together.