Yesterday was World Mental Health Day.
I didn’t post anything. Not because I don’t care about mental health awareness, but because I was in a ton of pain and my physical health wouldn’t allow it. Today though, I feel a bit better, and I’d like to share with you some of what I saw online yesterday as well as some of my own thoughts.
Scrolling through my Instagram feed yesterday, I saw raw posts about personal battles with mental health. I read a powerful account from Lindsay Feitsma (@languageofpain), who was witness to a suicide attempt by a woman she didn’t know. And I saw lots of posts encouraging those who need help to reach out and ask for it unashamedly.
I was moved by each story and encouraged by the open and honest dialogue. It’s amazing that we live in a time where, slowly but surely, we are breaking down barriers of silence and destigmatizing mental health. Let’s keep that up! More of this!
At the same time though, I feel like we can do even more. Obviously, open conversations about mental health are important, but we can’t just post about it one day a year and expect anything to change. People are struggling with mental health issues just as much today as they were yesterday.
We need to learn to be intentional with one another. We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We need to ask hard questions and demand truthful answers from each other.
The first few months of my marriage, what I believed should have been the happiest, sappiest time in my life, were some of the hardest I have ever experienced. Hubs and I had up and moved across the country, leaving behind a lifetime of friendships and family support. We didn’t know how to be grownups. We didn’t know how to be married. Looking back, we didn’t know much actually. We bit off quite a bit more than we could chew at once!
I struggled, but I told myself “you’re just adapting to all the life changes,” and “things will settle down and then you’ll be happy,” and “be patient with yourself.”
Time wore on though, and I grew gradually less patient. “You shouldn’t feel this way Mandy.” “Hubs probably regrets marrying you since you’re sad all the time.” “Nothing is even wrong. Why are you like this?”
These thoughts spiraled and spiraled, but I never thought to reach out to anyone, because I didn’t realize I was depressed. I thought depression is what happened when there was a funeral, not a wedding. Or when you lost your job, not when you were at the outset of your career. Or when there was some sort of trauma in your life, and what trauma had I endured?
But then one day I realized that I was fantasizing about throwing myself off the balcony of our fourth floor apartment.
So I told Hubs how I was feeling, despite the shame and insecurity and embarrassment I felt. We discussed it, and then we made changes. We made decisions that were hard, especially at such an early point in our marriage, but necessary. I gradually began to share with some family and friends. Eventually, I was able to climb out of that pit.
Here’s the thing though: it’s not like I was living in a box of isolation during this time. While I was struggling so mightily, people asked how I was. I told them I was “fine,” or “alright,” or “adjusting,” and then told them how crazy Colorado weather is. And that was that.
Very rarely did someone push me for more information. Even more rarely did I offer it up on my own.
Thankfully, I eventually realized what was happening and reached out, and people helped me. It ended up okay for me that I wasn’t pushed when I answered that I was “fine.” That is not the case for everyone though. A person can only be strong on their own for so long.
I was still well and healthy during my first go-around with depression. Since then, I’ve obviously been diagnosed with a Lyme and Co., and, as you can probably imagine, feeling like garbage 24/7 for years doesn’t help your mental state. If you know someone who suffers from a chronic illness, I can almost guarantee you that at some point, they’ve thought to themselves or even said out loud, “I am a burden. My loved ones would be better off without me. Why doesn’t God just put me out of my misery?” I know I have.
So what’s the point of this rather uncomfortable blog post?
It’s a call to action—for you, for me, for everyone. We need to be intentional. We need to talk about these things that are, honestly, really hard to talk about. We need to ask questions and then really listen to the answers…and sometimes we might need to push for more. We need to be compassionate. We need to quit promoting the idea that asking for help makes us weak. When we are struggling, we need to reach out. We need to put aside those feelings of shame and embarrassment. We need to learn to accept those outstretched hands offering support.
To get very specific, if you know someone who suffers from a chronic illness, send them a message today and remind them of the value they bring to your life. Remind them of all the reasons you love and care for them.
If you’re reading this and are in that dark place, I know. I understand. Remember that there are people who will walk with you through the darkness.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Or, if you prefer to chat with someone online:
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