When someone has cancer, you know about it. Lance Armstrong, Patrick Swayze, Andy Whitfield, Larry King, Ben Stiller, Janice Dickinson, Erin Andrews, Jane Fonda; all of whom were comfortable enough to be vocal about their battles and experiences (while the world watched, supported and sent prayers). Yet society still brushes off depression and anxiety, making it socially unacceptable to talk about mental illness (which is why so many people suffering from these diseases go through them alone).
When I was 16, three kids I knew committed suicide (on separate occasions). I didn’t know they were sick. They didn’t ask for help; there were no signs or red flags (and if there had been, I was probably too young and unqualified to see them).
In 2010 (for the first time in my life), I went through a period of overwhelming melancholy brought on by an existential crisis. I booked a doctor’s appointment and walked into his office hysterically sobbing while I begged him to run every test in the book. I knew there was something wrong, but I truly had no idea what that something was. He knew right away and that’s the crazy thing about depression, you don’t necessarily even know that you’re suffering from it until someone else vocalizes it to you. I went to that appointment thinking I had a terminal illness, like cancer; not realizing – depression can be just as deadly.
I was diagnosed with ‘situational’ depression, saw a therapist twice a week and was put on medication for four very long months. There are no words to explain what it’s like to feel as if you’re drowning in darkness with no sign of light. I felt numb and lost and alone and it was suffocating. I will never forget the feeling of absolute helplessness. Luckily, I was able to get the help I needed and I’ve never had another episode (for which I am pathetically grateful); but that doesn’t mean I don’t work to ensure that I am mentally strong every single day (which is, in itself, a life sentence).
I was lucky…
I’ve always been unapologetically vocal about my needs and feelings and I was extremely determined to take care of myself. I also had an army of people ready to support me in any and every way possible.
Not everyone is as lucky…
The world is sad. People are sad. Sadness exists. We don’t need anymore Robin Williams, Aviici, Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain type losses. Mental illness is a disease, not a decision. Help change the stigma surrounding the situation by being a part of the conversation.
I’ll leave you with a quote I saw on Twitter yesterday (I believe it says it all) –
“Check on your strong friends.
Check on your quiet friends.
Check on your happy friends.
Check on your creative friends.
Check on each other.”
Till next time! Xo