I think now is a very good time to have a candid conversation about mental health. I’ll start.
Sometimes, I get depressed. Sometimes, I feel anxious. Sometimes, I have very good reasons to feel that way; sometimes, it just hits me for no apparent reason.
This year, I’ve had a lot of reasons, everything from very real family concerns to a bunch of little things that might not bother me much under normal circumstances. And, of course, all of the vitriol and general inhuman nastiness playing out on the national stage just magnifies the stress and obstructs the ability to cope.
It came on slowly late in the spring. I didn’t even recognize the tell-tale signs at first. It started with a loss of interest in things I usually enjoy, things that normally cheer me up. And it just kept getting worse. There were days I felt numb; I went through the motions mechanically, but I was emotionally absent.
Opening up, in this very public forum, makes me uncomfortable. I grew up in an era when people with depression and anxiety were whispered about in gossip circles. They were looked upon with suspicion, considered weak, pitied. Even now, with all of the information available at our fingertips, the stigma is pervasive.
I am aware that some people still may gossip, but those people are not my concern. My purpose is to reach out to the people who are on parallel journeys down this same bumpy road.
If you are one of the 264 million people worldwide who battles depression and/or anxiety, you are a warrior.
Contrary to what you might read on social media, you are not always the only one responsible for your happiness. Life can be cruel. It’s OK to react accordingly. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
Don’t obsess about platitudes like, “No matter how bad you have it, someone has it worse.” That kind of advice, though often given with good intentions, is dismissive and trivializing. What you’re going through is real and deserving of compassion and support.
Keep in mind that there is no shortage of good advice out there, but strategies that work for some may not work for you. Don’t give up your search for the right mechanism to help get you through. Never give up hope.
Please, please, talk to someone you trust. A major turning point came when a very good friend said, “Let’s talk.” Until then, I had kept it mostly to myself.
After our talk, I stopped hiding behind smiles and funny stories (depressed people tell some of the most hilarious anecdotes, by the way), and I reached out to others.
One of those people said I was brave for being candid. Wouldn’t it be nice if that sort of openness was the norm?
Anyone who is depressed or anxious can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (you don’t have to feel suicidal to use this service) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Crisis counselors are available 24/7. There is also a link to an online chat option at www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/ immediate-help.
Lania Rocha is a reporter for the Genesee County View. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.