“How are you?” is always a loaded question.
Several years ago, a dear friend, one of the dearest people in my life, told me that what kept her alive was the thought that someone would find her body and she couldn’t wish that on even her worst enemy. I am so glad she shared that with me, painful as I am sure it was, because it has been my mantra from time to time.
I have a full life. I love my husband, I adore my children, I revel in the volunteer work I do in the community, I thrive in my creative times, I am honored to be able to have the kind of relationship with my parents that I have, as well as my in-laws. I have a wonderful life and I would not trade my life for that of anyone else in the world. However, some days I cannot get out of bed. Some days it is impossible to will myself to show up where I need to be and to do the things I’ve committed to do and to just be present in this world. Anxiety and depression are real, they are ever-present, they are exacerbated by chronic pain and disease, and they are me.
I am one of the lucky ones who has been able to figure out what works for me and lead a normal life, day to day. I tried antidepressants and was not a fan, personally, though I understand the right pill for the right person in the right dose can be life changing. More days than not I can get out of bed and go to work and function, because there are bills to pay and obligations to fulfill, and I can keep everyone from the knowledge of what I struggle with day in and day out, but, you know what? I’m not ashamed of who I am. I’m not ashamed of my struggles, my shortfalls, my every day.
It shouldn’t take a celebrity death to start the conversation and keep the conversation going on mental health. It is a real issue and it is stealing people from our midst every single day, whether through suicide, accidental overdose from self-medicating, liver or other organ failure due to addiction from self-medicating… On and on. If you’ve been following my blog or we know each other outside of the blogosphere, you’ll know that I lost my brother a year ago this week. He was a sufferer of mental illness and he was an addict and he was fighting both with all he had for once in his life and he couldn’t overcome it. He was so smart, so hilarious, so wonderful, and in so much pain. I have so convinced myself that if he could’ve ridden through this one more time… But I have no way of knowing. I miss him, I love him, there’s a hole in my heart that will never heal, and I don’t want it to heal. My broken heart is forever, and that’s okay, because the alternative is unbearable.
Having gone through what I’ve been through, the thought of taking that way out doesn’t even enter my mind anymore, not even close. I could never cause my family that kind of pain. My whole life’s goal is to not screw up my daughters, and I’m pretty sure that is guaranteed horror, losing a mother before her time (though I hope against hope that they will lose me before I lose them- as all parents do- but in due time when I’m ancient and frail).
We’re told to smile, told there’s a lot of good in life, told to focus on the positive, told it’s not so bad, could definitely be much worse… I don’t know what the magic solution is, but I am pretty sure that’s not it.
Empathy is the only answer I have. If we can see the struggles each person we encounter faces, if we can acknowledge that pain without attempting to fix it, maybe we’ll be a step closer to where we should be.
If there was a magic internet button that said, “Share only with those who want to support, only those who need to hear this to know they aren’t alone or those who need to hear the perspective of someone who struggles to better understand those around them, but definitely those who hold a prejudice against depression and mental illnesses or who may be looking for a sign of my weakness (not that that’s hard to find!).” I’d push it. I fully acknowledge that, firstly, that would be a big button, and, secondly, whatever I put on the internet could be there forever. I think it’s worth the risk.
Posting before I lose my nerve, in 5, 4, 3, 2…