The Vulnerable Sinking Ship

First, I have to say, I am not proud of that statement – “I cut my wrist”. What was I thinking, right? To be honest, I am not sure that I was thinking at all. It was so surreal; almost an out of body experience. It was a release of the pain I had bottled up inside from trying to do it all. It was a way of saying, “Help, I cannot function alone at this level any longer.” The cutting of my wrists wasn’t a death wish. It was a cry for help. I felt as though I was drowning under the weight of the stresses and it was the only way for anyone to hear my cry; that I no longer felt strong enough to deal with the stress alone. I was a ticking time bomb just waiting for the pressure to be released. The cutting released my pain. It was an outlet. While I am not proud of taking those actions, I also would not go back in time and undo it either. It was necessary for obtaining my depression diagnosis and bringing me where I am today.

I’ve been going to a therapist, which helps. While I’ve never been a huge fan of medications – I even prefer to sleep off a headache rather than take anything for it – I am taking an antidepressant. *PHEW* That is hard to type. I am on medication for my depression. It’s tough to put that out there, but I have to be OK with it and with needing help. I need to embrace the medication, whether I am on it temporarily while I am getting myself back on track and stabilizing my life through this current depressive episode, or whether I am on it for an indeterminate length of time. Accepting help is really a necessary first step to healing and recovery. If we are accepting and willing to take medication for a cold, for cancer, or any other disease, why are we less comfortable openly admitting we take medication to treat a problem with our brains?

The toughest part of the depression is the stigma attached. Before I had my “depression coming out” if you will, I really hadn’t heard of anyone with depression and didn’t think I knew anyone with it. Boy, as it turns out, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Numerous people have reached out to me – both publicly on my Facebook page – and privately through messages. Many in show of support and surprise – disbelief, even – that I am not the person they imagined through my Facebook page and amazed that I’ve “held my shit together” (lol!) this long feeling this way. The coping in the past was largely out of necessity, if nothing else. We live in a society, at least those of us living in the Northeast, anyway, that’s go-go-go. There’s no slowing down. Everything is due yesterday. Life is a competition (though for what, I’m not sure. And, whatever it is, it’s certainly not worth it). Life was so busy, I didn’t have time to think about me and my needs. I’ve always been so concerned with meeting the needs of everyone around me. The loss of my anchor, however, was really the straw that caused me to snap. This proverbial ship was sinking. Not only did I feel like I was alone before, but it was overwhelming to think I would be navigating on my journey through the depression without my first mate by my side for support. I’ll talk about the impact of depression on family and friends in a later blog. My point, however, is that depression impacts nearly everyone around us. Females and mothers, in particular, seem especially susceptible to its grasp – whether it’s due to societal expectations of women, the expectations we place on ourselves, or it might very well be that there is no difference in the impact to men and women at all, but that women are more willing to discuss their issues than men, so there is less documentation on the true volume of men impacted by depression. Chances are you know quite a few people who have struggled with depression. It might even be the person you would least expect…

There’s a reason for the silence on depression, whether we agree with it or not. Those who don’t have it, cannot understand – through no fault of their own. Many people will say, “Well, if you don’t want to feel that way, just STOP”. These words can cause more hurt than intended. If only it was so easy. If only! The mind is so powerful. If I could control it in that way, I wouldn’t need the medication. I wouldn’t feel weak. I would be ME. Those without depression don’t know how to help those of us that do. Heck – most of us with depression don’t know what we need for help or support from our friends and family. I can only speak for myself, but probably the most helpful assistance is to have a non-judgmental ear, someone to listen and be supportive. Be a friend. Encourage us to eat healthy, to exercise, to socialize – even when, if not especially when, we don’t think we want to. Sometimes, we don’t want to talk at all and yet we don’t want to be alone either. Sometimes we want someone to just be with us. Sit nearby. Marilyn Gardner describes this concept the best… “There is something about suffering that longs for someone to sit with us, to sit with us through the pain. It’s the fellowship of suffering. It’s the words ‘you are not alone’ put into action. The sitting bears witness to our pain. More than a card or a casserole the familiar, patient presence of another says to us “it’s too much for you to bear, but I will help you.” I would encourage you to check out her blog if you have time – http://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/2015/02/09/toward-a-fellowship-of-suffering/ .

Expressing my experience publicly through this blog requires vulnerability. Most fear that vulnerability and will not expose their depression for fear of judgment – that the one person in whom they choose to confide will not understand the depression and will not know how to aid in their recovery. I am choosing to embrace that vulnerability. Through the vulnerability comes strength. Otherwise, silence gives strength to the depression. It allows it to fester; for our minds to imagine the worst of ourselves, of the situation. I cannot give depression that power. (See that? My Type-A personality and the desire for perfection not only helped create my situation to begin with, but is also going to be what helps me emerge victorious from it.) For me, vulnerability is the compass on my journey.

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