I now remind myself that my strength and courage are miracles and it’s okay to let myself shine. Overcoming shame took at least a lifetime’s worth of recovery work. I wonder how long it would have taken to find peace if stigma didn’t exist. Maybe someday someone managing a mental illness will know.
I hope I remember that SAD is deceiving, and that the things that seem least desirable to do are the things I need to do most. One of the major signs of depression, period, is the loss of interest in activities that normally bring you joy, and I need to remind myself that this is especially true when SAD strikes. I hope I remember to push myself to go to yoga; to go the extra mile to spend time with friends; to dress warmly and leave my apartment, even when it seems daunting.
I never stood up for myself though, instead I let the secret words that were spoken sink into my soul and feed my self-hate. That is how PTSD and depression are, they like a good meal. The main entrée was my hate towards myself and then the sides were the words of others, my plate became pretty full.
Merriam-Webster defines illness as, “a specific condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally.” If this is true, then how do we succeed in a world designed by and for “normal” minds? Here’s what I think: We do it like McGyver, with nothing but a safety pin, a stick of gum and a thimble. We do it like Ginger Rogers, dancing backwards, in heels. We do it like Joseph Friedman, who thought straws should be bendier, just because. For both the famous and the unfamous, success often requires a great deal of creativity.
Here’s what she said, “If you have pleased everyone who has asked something of you, you are doing something wrong. It’s ok to say no. You’re good at what you do, but you aren’t the only one who can do it.” I know she’s right but I can see this might take some practice.
I don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t pay attention when they ask me how I’m doing. If it turns out that they’re not listening, I chalk it up to experience and move on. It can be frustrating to be misunderstood, but it’s not the end of the world. I can always try again.
I am not sad. I am not going through a phase that I will outgrow; I have major depressive disorder. No matter how happy I am, how many of my goals I achieve, I know I will always have depression. I do not mean that to be defeatist, I mean it to be pragmatic. My depression is manageable.
Science posits that the origins of my mental illness are in my DNA, inextricably woven into the fabric of my life. My personality exists separate yet equal to my diagnosis. I have a sense of control over my thoughts and actions, but I also have to recognize that this is an illusion, albeit one that I’m invested in for the sake of my mental health.