Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A message from everyone with Depression: Believe Me!

A short letter by Michaela Johnson

 I don't complain.
 I take responsibility for myself.
 I can conquer, push through, ignore, or straight-up deal with a lot of gut-wrenching crap, and you'll never know. My body could be silently screaming in pain, and you'll see me smile as I open the door for you, and offer to carry your groceries to your car. I could be dead inside, apathetically watching my vitality drain from my spirit, and still go about my day as if life were made of sunshine. I don't do this to deceive you. I'm merely coping. I don't say this to garner your pity. I don't want pity. Because people have enough hurt of their own to worry about without me adding to their emotional burden.
 I'm aware that there is a prideful way of wanting to be the strong rock for everyone to lean on, while victimizing one's own self by needlessly stuffing down their own emotions. That can be sadistic and egotistical. I don't view myself as a rock. I don't need affirmation from being needed. I'm not a beacon of light. I am a person with strengths and weaknesses. And, as Robin Williams said, "I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it's like to feel absolutely worthless, and they don't want anybody else to feel like that."
 I'm not a nice person because I believe it will make up for my own struggle, or because it distracts
me, or because I think that's how I'll get into heaven. I'm naturally an optimistic, practical, ambitious, no-nonsense person with a sense of humor. I don't quit just because something is hard. I'm independent, and I'm quick to offer help. I'm not saying this to make you think much of me. It is true that a good attitude can make terrible situations more bearable - or even slightly humorous - and render daunting tasks do-able, or even enjoyable.
 Why say these things? Because it puts pain in a new perspective. Or at least it gives you a different view of mine:
 If I tell you that something hurts, it is because I've tried and tried to help myself, and I can't. And when I tried to ignore it and move on, it hurt too much to allow me that. If I tell you something is hard, it is because it's just about impossible, and for once I don't see a solution, and I'm at my whit's end, delirious with the struggling. If the small things in life get me down, then it's because I'm too exhausted by fighting the big ones. If I say I'm tired, it means I don't know how the heck I'm going to drag myself through the day, just like the hundred days before it, but for real this time. If I'm brutally honest, it either means I trust you, or I simply can't go on without falling apart just a little bit.
 I need you to believe me when I state how I feel. I'm not being melodramatic, I'm not PMSing, I'm not over-reacting. As obserd as a feeling may sound next to reality, it is my reality. I already know it is obserd, but I'm stuck inside of a sick, obserd, and dying world that only I exist in. Science shows that a medically depressed person's brain is anywhere between 90-25% active compared to a non-depressed brain. I'm alone in my head - my worst enemy - and am not given a fighting chance.
 Depression has been called "the worst cancer" because it is a slow demise of one's very spirit, until death is either inevitable, or invited as a relief from the sleepless hell. A hell that no one sees. A hell that is poo-pooed, pitied from afar, or viewed by the "strong" as an unfortunate vice of the weak.
 What would you say to someone with a mental illness? Pull it together? Think positive? Make better choices? Get help? Believe me, working harder, working smarter, working less, working alone, or working with others are not always choices one has. Everything is hard. Everything is work. Work without meaning, working without end, without reward, without a goal, without desire, without motivation, and without the strength to even carry out the task at hand. A "good attitude" will only get you so far, especially if it is your only resource, and this too under the cruel spell of depression. Believe me, I would do whatever it takes to take care of myself, to carry a job (or two), to go to school, to volunteer, to invent, to love, to take care of other people, to better myself and the world around me. I would do all these things in a heartbeat, if only I could!
 Please believe me when I say I am tired, struggling, afraid, or depressed. If you do not believe me, or treat me as if I need a nap, an attitude adjustment, a prayer for more faith, a multivitamin, or exposure to the "real world," don't expect me to waist my breath, energy, and hope on asking you again. Because I needed that breath. I needed that energy. I needed that little bit of hope and courage just to make it another day.
 I'm not asking you for advice, pity, a savior, a "get out of your brain jail free" card, or even understanding. I'm asking you to believe me. If I say I am struggling, my head is not above water, it is below, and I'm fighting my way to the surface with half a brain, half a life, and half a will to reach the top. I've made it this far. Do you still think I'm weak?