One of the most important things someone dealing with mental illness can have is a support system.
I tried for a long time to do it all on my own. I kept what I was going through a secret. I hid my self-inflicted wounds and scars, I cried in private, and when my depression was really bad and I couldn’t get out of bed, I pretended to have a migraine or the flu. I did everything I could to hide my disease.
And I only got worse.
The reasons I isolated myself were fear and guilt. I feared judgement if people knew what I was going through and what I was doing to myself. I had already been judged by some of my peers when I had been honest about my illness. When I shared what I was going through with some of my friends, many of them abandoned me. They called me unstable and crazy.
So I learned to hide.
Guilt also ensured loneliness in my disease. I didn’t want to burden anyone with my problems. I felt guilty for being so unhappy when I had so much and was blessed in so many ways. There was no reason I should have been so miserable.
So I stayed quiet.
And I got sicker.
Then I met an amazing group of people at a church I began attending in Downtown Toronto. It took me a while to open up to them, but when I did, they didn’t judge me. They didn’t gossip about me or avoid me. They loved me. They accepted me. They invited me in instead of pushing me out.
It was the first I had ever felt like I belonged somewhere.
These friends became my confidantes, my cheerleaders, my shoulders to cry on. They welcomed me on my good days and my bad days. And they fought for me when I was too weak to fight for myself.
They prayed for me, checked up on me and were there when I needed them.
I remember going through a bad time with my depression a few years ago. I wasn’t going to work, I was bailing on social plans and I didn’t show up for church one Sunday. A friend of mine came to my apartment and banged on my door until I got up to let her. She brought with her fresh fruit and a few other groceries, and made a meal for me. Then she made me get dressed and go out for a walk with her.
The next day I started feeling better. It’s amazing how healing love and support can be. I don’t know if she knows how much what she did meant to me. It’s something I will never forget.
Over the years as I have been more open with my depression, I haven’t always found acceptance. I was still judged by some, ignored by some, and gossiped about by some. And I know I still am.
And that is painful.
The most heartbreaking is when the people you expect to be loving and accepting aren’t. I have had people in the church judge me because of my depression. I even had a leader in the church, who I admired and respected, use my depression against me. She indicated that I couldn’t be in leadership within the church because of my ’emotional issues.’
There will always be people who will judge me because of my disease. But for every person who has judged me or treated me poorly, many have loved me and believed in me.
My depression does not make me less of a person. It doesn’t mean I can’t do things that others can.
And there are many people in my life who know that. They have loved me and supported me through the worst of times. They understand that my depression is out of my control. They understand that I am working hard to be healthy and it’s not my fault when things get bad.
They are the friends who knock on my door until I get out of bed.
They are the friends who bring me food when I haven’t left the house in three days.
They are the friends who text me just to tell me they are thinking about me.
They are the parents who drive from Windsor to Toronto at 2am because I am on the phone telling them I don’t want to live anymore.
They are my support.
They are the ones that matter.