If any of you are sliding into depression this winter I do have one consoling fact. Our days are getting longer now by one to two minutes of extra daylight per day. I, for one, am happy about this. For those of you who live in areas that don’t usually get such cold I really feel sorry for you. Hang in there!
Unbeknownst to me, my life was hurdling towards a brick wall. I was miserable; not sleeping; not enjoying one single thing. My self confidence and self esteem were on a slippery slope. I felt that I did not deserve to be with my girlfriend. But perhaps the most troubling factor was that I did not know that I had depression. I did not understand that I was ill. I did not know what mental illness was then.
A few weeks ago I had the honor of representing Bring Change 2 Mind on the popular live-streaming news network, HuffPost Live. The topic of the segment was Stigma and Mental Illness. As one of three guests speaking on this important subject, I was able to give a first-person account of living with Major Depression and Anxiety within the context of the different levels of support and compassion one receives when combating a mental versus physical illness.
Two weeks ago I was prey to an unexpected event of psychosis, but together we tethered. My phone found my hand found speed-dial found Coach, who in turn found me fragmented and terrified, convinced that I was dead. Coach held the line. I lost the day, the night before, and the day after into the weekend. Coach got me home.
As children, my generation was taught that we can “make the world a better place.” Although I am a firm believer of this statement, a single question arises in my mind – how are we, the younger population, supposed to make a difference when most of our education surrounding mental illness comes from the unreliable and deceptive media?
My folded hands are pointing heavenward and my head is bowed in prayer. A scrumptious meal is spread out before me: cranberry sauce, a basket of rolls, a plateful of mashed potatoes and peas. In the center of the table is a golden, glazed turkey. I am five years old in this photograph. Everything about the dinner is fake. Everything but the prayer. I was praying for real food.
My brain lies to itself. The brain that I rely on for answers can’t always distinguish between the perception and the experience, the here-and-now and the “what ifs”. It cannot be fooled into believing what I tell it, because, as a mind, it has made up its own. A smile cannot turn a frown upside down. A positive attitude is no more a cure than is a sportswear slogan – “just doing it” doesn’t do it. My recovery depends upon communication. At all costs.
Over the decades, I’ve learned that there’s only so much I can do to ward off depression, disguised as ducks lined up in a row, waiting eagerly to march into my brain and screw me up. I should have seen this coming. Had it been summer, I’d have been expecting it, but because of the false sense of security that autumn brings, I let my guard down.