When people say, “I don’t look like what I have been through…,” I think that is an ever-true statement, especially if you are someone who has or hasn’t dealt with their mental health concerns. We may laugh at the commercials with the man or woman with the face on the popsicle stick and how they hide behind it, but unfortunately, we encounter those individuals every day and aren’t aware.
I was in my mid-twenties when I had my first major depression episode and breakdown. As a young mom and soon to be wife, I didn’t know nor understand what had gotten me to this “place”. What was this place…it was intensive outpatient therapy, which was a full workday of counseling, learning coping techniques, and being asked almost 20 times a day “have you ever thought of harming yourself or others?”
I made it thru that, or so I thought. Over the next 14 years I was in and out of counseling, on and off depression and anxiety medication and all the time presenting a face to the world that I was ok. Everyone only saw the successful woman who was climbing the ladder and excelling in her career. She was the mom of 2 beautiful children and was making things happen for herself and her family. Little did they know I was broken and isolating. I was not interacting with people, unless necessary, and would lock myself in my room when I was at home. I wouldn’t eat for days at a time b/c my “functioning” depression had taken my appetite. I would even have episodes where I would impulsively spend or obsessively clean everything in my home just to help get rid of the excess energy.
My major depression took a turn for the worst when I attempted suicide 5 years ago. And just like that… I was back in that “place” but this time it was much different. This time it was raw, it was scary, it was dark, and it was hard. I had to return home to my children who were old enough to understand where mom was and why she was there. Coming home to the look in their eyes of fear and relief was heartbreaking. Sadly, it was also a late wake up call to my parents who had to swallow the huge pill that there only child could have been gone but wasn’t…very bittersweet.
My instinct, my norm, is to wear the mask that everything is fine. Sadly, I have been emotionally conditioned that way. I honestly can’t tell sometimes when it is on or off. Confidence can not only be true confidence, but it can also be a cover for the internal chaos. I fear the judgement of what people would think of me if they knew the true me, the broken me. But I am here, today, to live and work thru that fear. At times, my anxiety my take on different forms like staring off into space (being zoned out), stuttering or stumbling over words, even a hypersensitivity to chaos or disorder…. but I am here. In my depressive states, I have force myself to go out places and be with friends or family when I don’t feel up to it… but I am here. Every day is a day of hard work, positive affirmations, owning my truth and facing my fear… but I am here.
Today, I have a green semicolon tattooed on my right wrist. It is my reminder not only of my survival but my continued journey with my mental health. Don’t judge what you don’t understand because I can say I don’t look like what I have been through.