Christmas was different this year. I couldn’t make myself put up decorations. Food started tasting like sawdust. I was struggling to get out of bed. Anxiety gripped me and I felt myself shying away from social situations, texts, calls… I tried to smile through it all. I tried very hard to be “normal” to the world. To keep reaching out to friends. I kept status quo on my social media when I could muster the energy. Mostly I just avoided posting like the plague. I didn't want to fake it. I didn't want to come across inauthentic. You expect more of me than that, and so do I.
So I worked harder than ever, nose to the grindstone. I recognized the symptoms of depression because I’ve lived on and off with it for years. Mostly quietly because I still hear the stinging judgement of “mental health issues” from friends, colleagues and others when they talk about people that are struggling with emotional health and instead of standing up for it, I’ve mostly just kept quiet. Mine is seasonal (usually) and I know how to take care of it (usually). This has been one of the worst ones yet. Not sure if it has to do with a whole lot of change coming in my life (usually I embrace that!) or the uncertainty that is on my plate about the next few months and those changes. My lack of control. Maybe it is that impending 40th birthday and the worry that I haven't made the impact to others in the world and in my life I had wanted to by this point. That my purpose still isn't 100% clear. Maybe it is the searing loneliness that living in VERY rural Virginia has brought to my plate over the last 2 years. I need a tribe. I need my people. I need to DO and BE.
I’m still very grateful. Despite popular belief, I’m not blind to all the wonderful blessings in my life. If I wanted to let anyone know ANYTHING --then I want people to realize that’s not what depression is. I have the most amazing, supportive partner that I was blessed to marry this year— the family I’ve gained, the supportive friends and great career… I see it all. It’s just my brain that is pushing the joy of it somewhere far away. The frustration of not being perfect is maddening, the not being able to just enjoy this incredible life I’ve created in these moments of lowness- just the worst. I’m just here as a voice for those that are suffering. You are trying. You are not “abnormal”, you are struggling but you are whole. There’s more on the other side and you are still loved.
If you read this and it doesn't resonate with you, look around. Holidays and winter cause a lot of seasonal depression for those around you that seem "just fine". Loss of a loved one, or job, or other event can cause acute depression --and brain chemistry being off because of the change of season or shift in hormones can cause it as well. There is no one-size-fits-all diagnosis or cause. Your depression may not look like my depression, may not look like your brothers depression or others. It isn't for lack of trying, or laziness, or not getting enough exercise or being dramatic. With 5% of the world population being plagued with this illness, and having it as the number 1 leading cause of disability worldwide --it is a quiet and mostly secretive disease. No one wants to admit to feeling so low for "no reason". No one wants to struggle to get out of bed when they are usually knows as a high performing "go getter". As a friend and ally to someone that seems down, the most important thing to do is be supportive.
I will do what I do almost every time and call for compassion. It is easy to judge, but you never know when the tides will change. This holiday season, more than ever, we need humanity. We need each other. Be good to yourself, all. Be good to each other.