A couple of months ago, I reached out to a few friends asking them to tell their stories and/or experiences dealing with mental health issues.
It is a big step for anyone to share and I am grateful they said yes. A few decided to stay anonymous (and that is okay). They are brave, loved, and appreciated.
In honour of Mental Health Week (May 2-8, 2016) - I would like to share a fifth (and final) story.
When I agreed to contribute to Mavis’ guest blog posts I had many failed drafts already written, as I’ve been considering posting about the topic of depression and anxiety since October 2015. Mavis is a good and supportive friend, and I’ve always felt that she is brave in being open and honest about her experiences. Shortly after I agreed to contribute, I began regretting my decision. What do I say? How do I say it? Frankly, I’m still unsure…
Recently, a number of people I know have struggled with depression and have felt that they are alone, will be judged, or have no one to talk to. I’ve often thought that if I were more open about my experiences with depression and anxiety perhaps it would help even one person. And while I’m still not at the point where I’m comfortable attaching my name or telling my whole story, I can assure anyone dealing with anxiety or depression that they are not alone.
Anxiety and depression, which often go together, have both affected my life. While it’s easy for me to think that I’m the “weird one”, it’s probably more normal to have dealt with anxiety and/or depression than not. Sometimes it’s still hard for me to not associate weakness, failure and, truthfully, a lot of anger with most of my past. I look back and can see that I lost months, and even years, to this illness. It’s also hard to not focus on the people that turned away from me when I finally confided in them that I’ve experienced depression. On the other hand, I’m so thankful for the wonderful, important people in my life who see me for who I am as a person, who have taken the time to be supportive and encouraging, who have helped me grow, and who understand that depression and anxiety do not define me. They affect me at times, but it doesn’t make me who I am. Sure, sometimes it worries me knowing that there is no guarantee that I will not experience some level of depression again. However, there is no guarantee for any of us; you or someone close to you may experience depression at some point in life.
One of the hardest and most important lessons I’ve learned over the past few years is that asking for help is not a weakness, especially in regards to your health. I lost so much time feeling like I was barely living simply because I was determined to overcome depression and anxiety by myself. If you are dealing with depression or anxiety, opening yourself up to get the help you need medically is the hardest and bravest step you can take. Know that you are not alone. And for those of us who are doing well right now or have never known what it’s like to deal with depression and/or anxiety, we need to remember to be mindful of ourselves and our treatment of those around us. It costs nothing to show kindness or compassion to yourself and those around you.
I am a daughter, sister, auntie, wife and friend.