It’s the holiday season and writing about this today may be frowned upon because we don’t like our holidays darkened by things like mental illness. Unfortunately, mental illness is real and I believe in being real. Especially, during the holiday season because that is when we seem to be more accepting of one another.
For me, depression comes in waves of sadness, in sudden urges to reach for a cigarette, and the need for isolation. I may have seemed, or perhaps even felt well, the day before but without apparent reason in the morning I will wake up feeling the weight of depression on my shoulders as my feet hit the floor when I get out of bed.
It isn’t only in my head. Often, I experience physical pain days before depression sets in. My shoulders ache as though I’ve carried the weight of my sadness upon them for far too long. The soles of my feet feel sore as though every step I’ve ever taken has been with the burden that I experience in that moment. Somedays, it feels as though everything aches at the same time and all I want to do those days is sleep and hope that when I wake up, I will discover I’ve only imagined those things in my head.
I used to believe that I was causing myself to feel that way and that I could just will myself out of that miserable state, but it isn’t so. As much as I choose to think positively, now I know that sometimes it takes more than that to get out of that depth of sadness I sometimes reach.
When I find out that depression has played a role in someone taking their life, it scares me! The closest thing that I can compare that fear to is to the fear and dread that you experience when a car accident happens right in front of you, and you are spared only because you happened to be running late for work that morning.
In that moment, I am shaken up but sound enough that I am able to recognize that the body on the ground could have been mine. Then, I feel selfishly grateful that it isn’t, only to realize that just because it isn’t me this time, it doesn’t meant that it couldn’t be me the next time because that is the same road that I travel each day.
Depression is that way; you can do the same things every day but the thing that works to manage it one day may not work the next. Staying well is about recognizing when you need to reach out to others for help and not feeling guilty that you can’t always cope with it on your own.
I don’t share with many people that I suffer from depression but I write about it because I hope that writing about it will help someone else understand theirs as much as writing about it helps me-or at least I hope to raise awareness of it, even if in one person.
Someone that I know attempted suicide just this past week and, as concerned as I was for her, that worry didn’t deviate from that dreadful feeling of “that could have been me” gradually building up in my gut until it felt suffocating, more so that any other time. Perhaps, because suicide has hit closer to home this time, or maybe because it’s reminded me that no matter how well I may feel right now, I am still able to understand how giving up can, sometimes, feel like the only way out and that terrifies me!
It scares me to know that when someone hasn’t seemed fine for a while but replies “I’m just tired” when asked if everything is alright, may not necessarily mean that they are experiencing the kind of tired that a good night’s sleep will fix.
It terrifies me that I am always aware of the possibility that what they may really mean is they are tired of trying, tired of coping, or tired of living. I know that when you are lost inside your head, even breathing gets exhausting because feels as though your demons are sitting on your lungs intent on smothering you.
Knowing all of that frightens me because I have been there and all I’ve said, too, is “I’m just tired”.
So, the next time that someone replies that they are just tired, perhaps take a moment to ask (and listen to) what it is that they are really tired of because taking the time to listen-really listen-to someone could make a difference between them choosing to go on living or giving up.