I have spent two decades enduring the judgement of others because of my depression. I have witnessed looks of pity, looks of fear and even looks of disgust. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost a job. I’ve heard people call me “crazy”, “unstable” and “insane”.
And I have proved them all wrong.
Now my battle is not only with my disease, but with the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. I’m not insane. What’s insane is that there is still such a lack of compassion and understanding for those who suffer.
I am not defined by my depression. My illness doesn’t dictate what I am capable of or what I can achieve. And I want everyone who struggles with mental illness to know that about themselves.
It breaks my heart when the world tells them they’re not good enough and they simply agree. They pick up their crutch and limp away in shame and sadness.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Mental illness does not have to control your life. There are ways to fight it and win. Don’t allow yourself to use your struggles as a reason to give up or give in. There is help. There is support. There is hope.
I know this because I’ve experienced it.
I’m not saying it’s an easy journey. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and it’s a continuous battle. This disease is a vicious monster that can easily take down the strongest of the strong. It will rip you apart inside and poison your soul until you believe your life isn’t worth living.
I get it.
The pain I felt inside used to be so unbearable that I would purposely burn myself with boiling water just to escape that feeling for a few moments; I just wanted to feel something else, even if it was physical pain.
I get it.
But the fight is worth it. Don’t give up and let the attack overcome you. Don’t stop battling back. Don’t accept defeat and surrender.
It’s easy to give up on yourself and your life. Sometimes it does seem like the only option. And it can be easy to blame everything on your mental illness.
Didn’t show up for work? It’s because of my depression.
Missed your child’s first play? It’s because of my depression.
Stood up a friend? It’s because of my depression.
The world says we’re broken, so we act broken. Instead of fighting back, we use our illness as a crutch, as an excuse.
And yes, there will be times when your illness will honestly keep you from commitments. There will be days when you honestly physically can’t get out of bed. Believe me, I know. I once wet the bed because I was too depressed and out of it to get up to go to the bathroom down the hall. (How’s that for honesty?)
Depression is a horrendous disease that no one should have to experience. But if you do, if you are in that heart-wrenching battle, keep going. Keep fighting. Find support. Ask for help.
If you do, each day will get a little better. Each day will get a little easier. Each day you will get a little bit stronger.
Until you can finally stand on steady ground.
And you can finally drop the crutch.
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