This time of year makes me anxious. Actually, scratch that – this time of year scares the hell out of me. Not because it’s getting colder and ice and snow are on the way. Not because the days are shorter and darkness comes early and leaves late.
It’s scary because this is the time of year that my depression usually attacks. It’s not predictable – I don’t know what day or time it may surface. It’s possible it may not show it’s ugly face at all. However, based on past experience over many years of this war, it will likely appear sooner or later.
This time last year I was living at my parents’ house, jobless, collecting sickness benefits, applying for disability, and sleeping more than I was awake. It was a nasty time. There were specific things that lead to such a dehabilitating breakdown a year ago that are not an issue now, but it doesn’t mean I am safe. There is no security with depression.
However, things are much better now than they were then. I have a job that I love where I am surrounded by good people who treat me well and are positive influences. I am living on my own in a nice house, with a great roommate and two beautiful dogs. I have a little side business of creating and selling jewelry that is doing better that I ever expected. I am going to a new church and co-leading a women’s Bible study, where I am getting to know some amazing women. I am actively trying to meet new people and develop strong friendships.
Yes, I am miles ahead of where I was a year ago.
And this year, in the face of a possible battle with my depression, I am trying to be fearless. I am being proactive and building strength and support in order to fight if the need arises. I am getting ready to face it head on instead of hiding under the covers.
So, what does it look like to be fearless in the face of depression?
In the last couple of weeks I have read a few articles on comedian/actress Sarah Silverman. While her talent and humour are to be applauded, they are not the main reasons I admire her. I admire her because of her willingness to openly discuss her struggles with depression. She does not shy away, but is becoming a huge voice for those who suffer with mental illness. She is brave to speak up, especially since she is in an industry that centers around image.
To me, she is fearless.
Some have said I am brave for sharing my struggles with depression, for writing this blog, for being vulnerable. And I suppose at times, I am brave.
However, I still hide my depression from many. No one I work with knows about my illness. And there are still times when things are bad that I suffer in silence. I disappear into my torturous world for however long it lasts and hide it from everyone around me. I convince myself I am keeping it secret to protect them. But am I really?
Often when people find out that I deal with depression, they are surprised. They say they never would have known because I am so happy and positive all the time. They don’t realize how hard I work to be happy and positive. It does not always come naturally or easily. They also don’t realize that on some days, I wear a mask. I am a great pretender.
Does this make me fearless? To pretend things are fine when they are not?
Some days and in some cases, it does. There are certain situations when putting on a mask and hiding what’s going on is necessary. And in some cases, I have ‘pretended’ my way to feeling better for real.
But I also believe that being fearless is being real. Being real about what I go through and allowing others to hold me up. It doesn’t mean I have to let the whole world know what’s going on inside, but it’s letting in those I trust and those who care about me.
So often, people who are viewed as fearless are those who jump out of planes, climb mountain sides, run into a burning building to rescue others, or go to war. And I agree that those people are fearless.
But fearless doesn’t always have to be so big.
Fearless can be asking for help during tough times.
Fearless can be honesty with those around you.
Fearless can be sharing your struggles.
Fearless can be putting on a happy face when needed.
Fearless can be simply getting out of bed on a really bad day.
So am I fearless? I am trying to be.
I have had many many battles with my depression and I have won every one, so that helps in being fearless. But it’s a never ending war.
And I think fearless doesn’t necessarily mean being without fear. It can mean moving forward and facing your challenges despite any fear you have.
I don’t think I will ever be cured of being slightly afraid of my depression. But that does not mean I can’t stand fearlessly against it.
Please feel free to share this or any of my other posts with others.