I used to write on here a lot about mental health and my own experience with being bi-polar, and being open about it was something I prided myself on because, after all, it’s not something to be ashamed of.
Have I been suicidal? Yes.
Have I been hospitalized? Yes.
Have I been over-medicated? Yes.
Have I self-harmed? Yes.
I don’t get into it very often on here anymore, but with two recent high-profile suicides shining a light on the issue again, all I see are tweets and Instagram posts reminding people that it’s OK to ask for help.
And this is great!! I love that there is so much love being spread on social media because it helps counter all the inevitable comments and obtuse beliefs that people who kill themselves are selfish or “deserve” it. I don’t care how rich you are, how wonderful your spouse is, how many exotic vacations you take – that doesn’t make a person exempt from mental illness. That shit doesn’t recognize social status.
Today I snapped and ranted about something to Henry:
When you reach a certain point of depression, numbness and ambivalence take over and frankly, maybe you don’t give a shit about asking for help because talking is so goddamn exhausting or you’re afraid you won’t be heard, or you don’t want to burden someone else. Asking for help is not an easy thing to do either. I’ll admit that I mostly just ride it out and those around me are none the wiser. #actingskillz
But second of all, can I tell you how many times in my life I have cried for help, and was met with eye rolls, smirks, flat out derision? Called a drama queen. Accused of “just wanting attention.” Told to “get over myself.”
The amateur explanations and justifications are cool too: “Is your period due?” and “You’re probably just hungry” are among my favorites.
You hear these things enough, and you tend to build walls. I’ve lost so many “friends” (good riddance!) for trying to be honest about what’s going on in my head, how I don’t want to go to their party because the thought of being in a room with strangers makes my throat feel like it has hands around it.
This is why the suicide hotline is available. I know, but sometimes you might just want a familiar shoulder to cry on.
So if someone is trying to open up to you about why they’re sad or feeling flat-out hopeless, try not to judge and rank the severity of their problems because what might sound like something that’s easy for you to shrug off might feel like a ton of bricks on that person’s back. And maybe they’re really struggling to explain it to you. It’s not easy pulling these vague thoughts and abstract emotions out of our hearts and brains and transforming them into some perfect, understandable, familiar package, like spun sugar on a stick.
Sometimes are all I can muster is an “I don’t know!!!” followed by a geyser of tears when someone asks me what’s wrong.
Yes, I talk to Henry about this a lot and he always holds my hand while I wade through through the muck and mire. And I take daily walks while running through the mental list of why my life is worth living, things to look forward to, memories that make me laugh. It’s a struggle, it requires effort, and the sooner we can get everyone on the same page where this is a real problem, not a “phase,” and it’s not going to go away if it’s ignored, then a ton of lives will be saved.
While there is definitely much less stigma than when I was diagnosed in the 90s, it still sometimes feels taboo to talk about, in my own experience, and I know I have definitely made some people uncomfortable with my honesty and bluntness on the subject. So too often, I keep my mouth shut.
What makes it easier to succumb to the sadness is all of the rampant hate in the world. Just walking around the streets of Pittsburgh on my lunch break, the prevalent vibe seems to be ANGER. People screaming at each in traffic, on the sidewalks, into their cellphones. So much anger and hate in the news, too.
I mean, we do live in an age where the go-to Internet roast is telling someone to kill themselves and the current US President is one of the biggest bullies of them all, so clearly there is a lot of work to be done.
Until then: Be patient. Be kind. Be open-minded. Be outspoken. Let’s all turn our phones off more often and paint a picture, write a letter, read a BOOK.
After all, we’re all going through this together.
This is a post I just put up on Facebook. I only wrote the 1st sentence. The rest is from a friend. Love & miss you so much!!
For all those sanctimonious people who say such nasty comments about people who commit suicide – read the piece below, then shut up. Thank you.
>>Borrowed from a friend. I felt it was a great analogy for depression. The ending is very important. Please, help someone shovel.
“When you have depression it’s like it snows every day.
Some days it’s only a couple of inches. It’s a pain in the ass, but you still make it to work, the grocery store. Sure, maybe you skip the gym or your friend’s birthday party, but it IS still snowing and who knows how bad it might get tonight. Probably better to just head home. Your friend notices, but probably just thinks you are flaky now, or kind of an asshole.
Some days it snows a foot. You spend an hour shoveling out your driveway and are late to work. Your back and hands hurt from shoveling. You leave early because it’s really coming down out there. Your boss notices.
Some days it snows four feet. You shovel all morning but your street never gets plowed. You are not making it to work, or anywhere else for that matter. You are so sore and tired you just get back in the bed. By the time you wake up, all your shoveling has filled back in with snow. Looks like your phone rang; people are wondering where you are. You don’t feel like calling them back, too tired from all the shoveling. Plus they don’t get this much snow at their house so they don’t understand why you’re still stuck at home. They just think you’re lazy or weak, although they rarely come out and say it.
Some weeks it’s a full-blown blizzard. When you open your door, it’s to a wall of snow. The power flickers, then goes out. It’s too cold to sit in the living room anymore, so you get back into bed with all your clothes on. The stove and microwave won’t work so you eat a cold Pop Tart and call that dinner. You haven’t taken a shower in three days, but how could you at this point? You’re too cold to do anything except sleep.
Sometimes people get snowed in for the winter. The cold seeps in. No communication in or out. The food runs out. What can you even do, tunnel out of a forty foot snow bank with your hands? How far away is help? Can you even get there in a blizzard? If you do, can they even help you at this point? Maybe it’s death to stay here, but it’s death to go out there too.
The thing is, when it snows all the time, you get worn all the way down. You get tired of being cold. You get tired of hurting all the time from shoveling, but if you don’t shovel on the light days, it builds up to something unmanageable on the heavy days. You resent the hell out of the snow, but it doesn’t care, it’s just a blind chemistry, an act of nature. It carries on regardless, unconcerned and unaware if it buries you or the whole world.
Also, the snow builds up in other areas, places you can’t shovel, sometimes places you can’t even see. Maybe it’s on the roof. Maybe it’s on the mountain behind the house. Sometimes, there’s an avalanche that blows the house right off its foundation and takes you with it. A veritable Act of God, nothing can be done. The neighbors say it’s a shame and they can’t understand it; he was doing so well with his shoveling.
I don’t know how it went down for Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade. It seems like they got hit by the avalanche, but it could’ve been the long, slow winter. Maybe they were keeping up with their shoveling. Maybe they weren’t. Sometimes, shoveling isn’t enough anyway. It’s hard to tell from the outside, but it’s important to understand what it’s like from the inside.
I firmly believe that understanding and compassion have to be the base of effective action. It’s important to understand what depression is, how it feels, what it’s like to live with it, so you can help people both on an individual basis and a policy basis. I’m not putting heavy shit out here to make your Friday morning suck. I know it feels gross to read it, and realistically it can be unpleasant to be around it, that’s why people pull away.
I don’t have a message for people with depression like “keep shoveling”. It’s asinine. Of course you’re going to keep shoveling the best you can, until you physically can’t, because who wants to freeze to death inside their own house? We know what the stakes are. My message is to everyone else. Grab a fucking shovel and help your neighbor. Slap a mini snow plow on the front of your truck and plow your neighborhood. Petition the city council to buy more salt trucks, so to speak.
Depression is blind chemistry and physics, like snow. And like the weather, it is a mindless process, powerful and unpredictable with great potential for harm. But like climate change, that doesn’t mean we are helpless. If we want to stop losing so many people to this disease, it will require action at every level.”
I’m so sorry you struggle, but I’m glad you wrote this. It’s so so important to get the word out that it isn’t always that someone DOESN’T reach out, sometimes they CAN’T reach out. It’s just too much.
Thank you for reading it! This wasn’t the easiest thing to write but I hope it reaches some people, that’s all I want <3
This is so on point. It is so important for people to write things like this so eventually the stigma is lifted. And as much as the internet can be such a cesspool of trolls and such I have found myself a community of like-minded people who get me and what I deal with because they go through it too. It helps to know that you aren’t alone. ❤️