In the immediate sense, there’s nothing I can do to avoid the funhouse ride of cascading symptoms once it begins. I strap in and practice my circular breathing. I close my eyes to get in touch with my body, to turn inwards and hopefully calm myself. If I can’t, my obsessive-compulsive disorder surfaces and my personal ritual of counting and cataloging begins, making my bus ride more of an endurance run than a simple crosstown commute.
Most of us, or possibly all of us with depression are not looking to hear any advice, the million reasons why we shouldn’t be depressed, or opinion about how to snap out of it. What I want when I’m depressed is to sit next to me, put your arms around me and say “I’m sorry, this sucks. But you are not alone.”
As far back as I can remember I struggled with highs and lows. I wish I had gotten treatment much earlier but I didn’t want a mental illness. It was a sign of weakness. Of course I could be well if I tried harder. Worked harder. Prayed harder.
I like so many others didn’t believe it was a sickness.
I wanted to be alone, except that I didn’t. I didn’t want anyone to contact me, except that I did. I didn’t want to isolate, but it was all I knew to do. So I stayed in. A lot. No one to talk to—no texts, no calls, no social media, no contact. The blandness of it staggers the imagination. And I didn’t want any of it.
That lesson is that no matter how small the world around you may seem and no matter how many perfect smiles you see, that behind closed doors we are all human. We each have stories. We each have known pain. There is no shame in being human nor is there shame in having a mental illness. Sometimes it is in opening the door and showing our true selves that we allow the world to open it’s arms and embrace us.
To put things into perspective, it’s been twelve weeks since my last breakdown. That’s eighty-four days since I was admitted to the psych ward, seventy-two since I was discharged. Just a little over ten weeks of being on my own in the New World of a daily anti-psychotic/depression/anxiety medications cocktail. To put it mildly, I’m still adjusting. This is not a game for the impatient.
A lot of people complain for trite reasons about the things they can’t control, they gossip about the things that are alarming and they judge people for the things they do, but if they lived with mental illness they would realize that pretty much any of that is worthless. It serves no purpose other than building them up from a place of insecurity.
What it is to be OK, I am learning only now. Learning to be OK with being OK? That’s where I fall. I’m supposed to be this great mom, artist, friend, writer, individual who breaks glass ceilings. I’m supposed to have an active social life, always adding to my contacts, painting soup bowls for charity. Never sweat pants, never three days with no shower, never sitting alone in a stairwell crying because I can’t come to terms with just being OK. Just here, living, breathing.