I’ve been thinking about depression a lot, lately.
I don’t know if it’s because most of the days in January and February were filled with gray skies, rainy days, random snow storms, overwhelming flu, and frigid temperatures, but they probably didn’t help anyone’s moods.
Many people I know have been kissed by winter’s cold, icy lips this season and it feels like many of us have wrestled with the darkness more than we care to admit, however, the positive is that we are admitting it.
There’s power in being honest with another human being (or group) and voicing what you’re experiencing.
There’s power in this acknowledgment because you are taking ownership of your depression and it no longer owns you.
For me, life tends to go so much smoother when I am willing to humble myself by killing my own ego and be honest with those closest to me:
- “I’m having a bad day”
- “I’ve been feeling really depressed..”
- “I’ve been drinking too much..”
- “I’ve been eating impulsively and without regard for my body..”
- “I really want to smoke some weed. It’d take the edge off..”
- “I haven’t showered or changed clothes in three days.”
- “I’m feeling anxious and overwhelmed!”
- “I need some space!”
- (Insert what you might say here.)
Why Do We Hide Our True Feelings?
We all have things we need to say but if we’re honest, these things often go unsaid because we try to hide them.
Why do we try and hide our true feelings from others?
For me, there are a few reasons, perhaps you can relate:
I’ve Lost Friends Because of Bipolar Depression
I’ve been hurt by statements such as “And you’re a counselor?!” or “You really overwhelm me..” or “Just suck it up and get over it!” It’s because of these losses that I tend to hide my true feelings and experiences from most people because, to be honest, it hurts to be told that you are overwhelming to someone so my default is to shut down and protect myself. However, the right people will not only be able to bear our burdens but we, too, will be able to bear theirs, as well.
Love gives and receives.
I Feel like I Need to Be Strong for Others
My traditional American view of masculinity was “men are strong and never show emotion!” but I believe the complete opposite to be true! I’ve found more strength in being honest with others than I ever did when I tried to hide it.
I found strength through honesty instead of the fear that comes from hiding in the dark, so to speak.
I’m Ashamed of My Illness
You’d think after 8 years of living with this dark fella that I’d be a little more open about it but it still stings and angers me when I hear how others view mental illness. The stigma is so real but the only way we change the stigma is to have the courage to be open about our struggles and victories. We’ve come so far from the days of people being chained to walls for being “crazy” and we still have a long way to go, but neither you nor I have anything to be ashamed of!
I Want to Be in Control
If anyone is a perfectionist like me and a bit of a control freak, you’ll appreciate the “faith” it takes to let go of complete control and let others see you in your less than perfect state. It’s not easy to come out of hiding when you’re so used trying to fight this thing on your own, but isolation only deepens the darkness while connection opens a way for the light to shine into our darkness.
I Don’t Want to Admit to Myself When I’m Not Doing Well
This one stems back to my desire to be in full control but, let’s face it, mental illness has a humbling quality in that it will gladly remind you that you are not always in control of the condition of your mind and body (ie, overwhelming fatigue, deep depression, racing thoughts, etc.) but you are in control of how you react and adapt to these episodes. At first, it seems easier to hide but isolating ourselves only gives power to the illness and robs us of the strength we find in being vulnerable with each other.
What’s Happened as I’ve Begun to Share My Feelings
I’ve talked about why I’ve hidden my true feelings from others, but what about when I share them?
A few things have begun to change as I’ve started to be more open and “come as I am” with those closest to me:
- I feel understood and less alone in this world. I feel like I am not the only one. By the way, you’re not. Your illness will tell you that you are, but it’s a LIE!
- I feel empowered to encourage and help others.
- I feel challenged to change and improve myself.
- I allow myself to receive love and compassion. Too often, I am willing to share it with others but will feign humility while on the receiving end. I believe it’s stubborn and selfish to rob someone of the joy of loving and encouraging you but it also robs you of the power that comes by open to receiving. (Preaching to myself). Remember, love gives and receives.
- I feel lighter. It’s as if a great weight has been removed from my shoulders when I truly share with a few.
- I feel energized and rejuvenated. Depression and isolation will rob you of vitality, but confiding in another helps break the isolation and rob it of its energy-zapping grip.
- I feel hopeful. As you know, the dark nights of depression can be lonely, agonizing, and even painful but I feel the hope of brighter days to come because I know that I am never alone in this. I also know that no matter how cold the winter of one’s mind, spring will come. As a friend always reminds me, “The worst thing is never the last.”
My Challenge to You
My challenge for you today is to open up to one person.
Drop the mask and let them in. Let them know the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly.
Let them see you in all of your humanity.
I bet something interesting will happen.
I bet they will be encouraged to be open and vulnerable with you.
As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
I pray you find the strength that comes with admitting:
You’re not alone, Reader.
We’re here for you.
We need you.
We need each other.
Give it a try.
Just one person.
It’s time to connect and shine some light in the darkness.
I am aware that some people will not understand. They may try to shame you, mock you, or even try to make you feel less than human. You don’t have time for that type of toxicity no matter who they are in your life! You are valuable and worthy of love and support. I’ve found my greatest supports through Instagram, my church, and my inner circle. I truly believe that if you put yourself out there to the right people, you will find the support and love you need and will be empowered to pay it forward and offer hope to others.