Where to begin? My spiral into depression happened rather quickly. I’d always been one who’d suffered from intense anxiety and panic attacks throughout my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, but over the years I had done a lot of work and self-help and was able to calm those waters… or at least tame the symptoms.
They say that those at risk for anxiety and depression are usually perfectionists. That is completely true in my case. I’d constantly second guess every decision, question every motive, anticipate outcomes whether good or bad, and am brutally hard on myself for every real or perceived failure. Over time, I’d like to think I’ve eased up on myself but in light of recent events I realized I haven’t.
About three years ago I was laid off from my dream job. I often wondered if there was anything I could’ve done to prevent it but ultimately the company went bankrupt and everyone lost their jobs. Awhile later I was hired at another job. It started off well but eventually caused me a great deal of stress and frustration as it was not what I was trained to do and the training I sought and even requested for fell on deaf ears. I ended up feeling like I was useless and inadequate in that job. Although it was through no fault of my own, I still felt like a failure and that feeling was magnified even more so when I was yet again laid off.
Shortly before my layoff I had found out that a nagging injury was going to require surgery. My surgery date was set for a few weeks after my layoff which ultimately hindered my search for new employment.
Two weeks after I was laid off and 4 days before my surgery, my spouse left me. I was blindsided. I knew we hadn’t exactly been doing well at that time but I always believed that in my darkest hours they would be there for me. When they left it sent me into a very dark place. I felt like I was a burden to everyone. I couldn’t work, couldn’t physically take care of myself, and I had been abandoned… and deservedly so (as my mind would no doubtedly tell me… who in their right mind would want me?).
I never thought of myself as a depressed person. I still don’t in the grand scheme of things. However, there are triggers and moments that when they begin to accumulate and you don’t face them head on it’s like looking into the barrel of a loaded gun, or staring into a pit of despair. You want so badly to change things, to change how you feel, to better yourself, and sometimes you DO but then something happens and it spits you right back into that vicious cycle of self-loathing and hopelessness.
The struggle is real. It’s something I battle every day. The thing that hurts me the most is feeling like I’m alone in my thoughts, alone in my pain, alone in my battle. People will often say that they’re there for you or that they understand. These people mean well, I have little doubt of that, but no one can truly understand the anguish another person is feeling. They can empathize and listen, which is no doubt helpful but the pain the other person feels is still very real.
Most people with depression will only ever open up a little at a time. I struggle to truly “let someone in” mainly because I’m afraid that they will think I’m “crazy” or that they’ll tell me, “it’s not that bad.” Nobody can truly understand the feelings and pain someone else is going through.
I write this so that those who have never felt this way can maybe gain insight into why people fall into depression, why it’s so hard to overcome it, and why some people can’t ever overcome it and ultimately commit suicide. I for one have considered it myself.
As a society, we need to recognize when someone is struggling. We need to open our arms and hearts to them and truly listen. Perhaps not everyone can be saved but a little understanding and a lot of empathy can go a long way. Those in the throes of depression can be hard to love, hard to handle, hard to understand. Ultimately, all I’ve ever wanted is someone who will listen without judgement. Someone who can recognize that what I’m feeling is real to me whether they think it’s silly or not. Even those with severe depression are looking for hope. They want that reason to keep battling, to overcome. It’s up to us to be that hope.
I truly strive to be that hope for someone else. I’ve struggled in ways I never thought possible. I was always that fun loving, carefree, athletic person that everyone loved to be around but within 3 years I had hit rock bottom. A lot of people would be shocked to learn how I really feel, how I’m really struggling, as I try to put on a mask so others can’t see my pain. I feel my depression is a weakness and as a perfectionist, that’s not acceptable. It’s something I should be able to easily conquer… but it’s not. Over time I’ve realized that even the strongest people are capable of crumbling. Depression is not a weakness, it’s a sign that someone has tried to be strong for too long.
Today is a day that brings these feelings to light. Fortunately, the stigma behind mental illness is falling away. I can only hope that one day we can all unite and support one another on our journeys. We are nothing without each other. Be that light for those in darkness. Be that hand that pulls someone from the brink. We owe it to each other as human beings to be that strength in moments of weakness.