There’s a certain stigma surrounding mental health. It’s time we squash that old time mentality behind it. Depression shouldn’t be a secret hidden in the darkest corners of your brain… it shouldn’t define you. You are NOT your mental illness… I am NOT my mental illness. Some days, it’s a challenge to explain the way our brains process certain situations. We need to find the words to describe it… no matter how stressful that makes us. That’s the only way others will understand.
There are so many different faces (literally and figuratively) of depression. We’re going to cover some of them from my perspective… what I show, what I hide… and the reasons behind both. This is an inside glimpse into what daily life looks and feels like - the struggle and the success… the good and the bad. Welcome to my brain. Welcome to its functionality and lack thereof.
One thing I’ve noticed over time is that it’s hard for others to understand how some days I can get out of bed and be productive… other days, I can’t find the ambition or strength to. A lot of my mental issues stem from the dysfunctional life that I was raised in… the seclusion and the violence… the innocence that was stolen from such an early age. This seems to be prevalent in the lives of many who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses. Childhood trauma isn’t something to just “get over” because you become an adult - it follows along until you take your last breath. Some remember their younger years, others block them out as some sort of safety mechanism… I’m the latter of the two, thankfully.
It’s important for anyone suffering from mental illness to establish a support system. Confide in those closest to you, open up to a therapist, reach out to a pastor or any other person of faith. When you feel alone, you don’t have to remain alone physically. Even though our brains are hardwired differently, it doesn't mean we should live our lives differently. It takes a little extra for us to reach our comfort level - a level that can disappear as fast as it arrived… after the simplest of flashbacks, over a panic attack, because of a memory.
One face of depression is a blank stare - it’s like you’re there… but, you’re not. That accurately describes my life most of the time. The world continues to go on while I struggle to be a positive part of it. It’s important to keep putting one foot in front of the other… to never stop. If you stop, defeat is sure to follow and that’s a dangerous path to venture down. Everyone faces moments of anger, hostility, resentment, hate - those of us with mental illness have a difficult time handling these situations. As for me, I used to lash out in an extremely violent way. I thought that was a healthy way to deal with those emotions… it took a lifetime to realize how wrong that approach was.
Another face of depression is that fake smile - the one where everyone (except for you) notices the difference. I never realized it’s something I was doing until seeing pictures others took of me. There aren’t enough filters available to cover up that expression. This is something that affected my perception of mental illness the most… how I’m perceived by others… how I think they perceive me. These pictures made me question what was going through my brain at those moments. That’s when I started opening up and talking to friends - the ones I knew would listen and hold my secrets in confidence. Those same friends provided me with the strength to tackle my depression head on.
This leaves me to now discuss the face of rage… the most obvious of what I’m known to show… what I’m learning to control. Out of all the different faces of depression, in my mind… this is the most dangerous. Considering that rage is one of the hardest emotions to handle, the complications of controlling it successfully are so much more difficult in the mind of someone with mental illness. There is no balance of right versus wrong (of good versus evil) in a brain that can’t differentiate between any of it. Behind this face is a soul who doesn’t care about life or death. The face of rage doesn’t carry a conscience… it only carries the ability to ask forgiveness after that moment passes.
There are so many people who suffer from mental illness that can’t handle living life the way they are. Suicide is considered a way out in their minds and we need to find a way for that to change. Society needs to understand that mental health matters… mental health is invisible… it can also be successfully treated. Every last one of us deserves to live a happy and productive life. It’s time to raise awareness and erase the stigma that those suffering with mental illness don’t deserve normalcy.
If anyone you know is suffering silently, please reach out. Be that friend they didn’t know they had… offer them resources. Kindness goes a long way to someone that feels alone and abandoned. The listening ear you provide could very easily save a life… or the lives of others. We can all make a difference - together.