Perhaps you are content, even happy with your life. If so, more power to you, that’s awesome. If you are not…or if you struggle with feelings that are negative and complex, despite how it may feel, you are not alone.
One of the biggest problems in this society is the taboo that remains attached to mental illness. Even using the phrase “mental illness” for commonplace matters like depression and anxiety elicits thoughts of people with serious problems, possibly draining society further.
This is not even a little bit true. Lots and lots of people suffer from depression, anxiety, and other issues along these lines. Maybe they don’t have a chronic issue, but that does not lessen what they are going through.
The stigma that still gets attached to this is complete bullshit. The best way to break the cycle, and to change the impression of this matter, is to talk about it.
I have worked very hard over the years on combatting depression. Though I have not been in therapy for some time, I have used it in the past. Antidepressants to manage brain-chemical imbalance, meditation, and writing are my primary coping mechanisms.
I am not ashamed of this struggle. I have been fighting with the “black dog” of depression for most of my life. Some fights I win, some fights it wins. But the battle rages on, and I have every intention of coming out on top.
If you have dealt with or are dealing with a similar struggle, it is important that you recognize that you are not alone.
Straight to the point — depression is a liar. Depression takes on different forms for different people, and we all react to it in our own way. Some people get closed off and become anti-social. For some, anger at the littlest things bursts from their chest. Others eat everything in sight. Some people just want to sleep. You might get super sad, or feel hopeless, or feel numb. Hell, in some cases, it can be a combination of all of the above.
What form depression takes differs for everyone, and can also vary due to circumstance and situation. What matters is recognizing that whatever forms depression takes, depression is a big fat liar.
You are not a bad person because you have depression or anxiety. People will not reject you for being depressed. Depression doesn’t make you a failure, or any less worthy or deserving of having good in your life. No matter what you’re dealing with when it comes to this, you are not alone.
Anxiety is a lot like depression, though in my experience depression is more about the past while anxiety is about the future. One of my favorite quotes from Lao Tzu addresses this:
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
It’s a good quote, but it does nothing to address these issues. To me, though, the acknowledgment is important. Even hundreds of years ago, they were aware of these mental states.
Why do they remain taboo? I think part of it is the overall attitude of our fear-based society. When we strive to measure up to often surreal expectations, perceived flaws, such as mental illness, can feel like a mark against you.
Fear is insidious
Fear is usually what is behind both depression and anxiety. Fear of being unworthy, undeserving, unwanted, and alone, because of whatever struggle you are going through, feels very real.
I can tell you all day that you are not alone, and that I am here with you, and that may change nothing at all.
This is why mindfulness matters. When you work to be aware of what you are thinking, and how and what you are feeling, you arm yourself against depression and anxiety. How? By knowing what is consciously going on, you can fight the subconscious demons.
Fear, depression, anxiety and the like, are all rooted in your subconscious. I know I don’t bring them to the surface and my conscious mind when they strike…at least, not initially. But when you do so, they become a lot easier to confront and combat.
This can be totally terrifying for a lot of people. Because of how unpleasant these feelings are, and because of the lies they tell, confronting them can be really scary. What if they are true? What if I am as worthless, hopeless, and useless as depression says that I am?
You are worthwhile, you are neither hopeless nor useless, and you are not alone. I know that this can feel like a lie, but it’s the truth. The negative feelings you deal with are not the truth, despite how they feel.
There are no words to sufficiently convince anyone that they are not alone. But practicing mindfulness and becoming more aware of yourself and what you are thinking and feeling can. Frequently, the fear of what you will find is much worse than what is truly there.
Recognizing that you can use mindfulness to gain influence and control over your thoughts and feelings is empowering. Yet this is still really challenging.
I am no expert. No degrees hang on my walls, and I haven’t any specialized training. But I know this struggle intimately, so I can relate to what you are dealing with.
At the very least, you have the ability to change your focus. Find things that make you smile, make you laugh, and generate positivity. A memory, an online video, a funny book, a friend that always makes you feel good. Treading water in the negativity doesn’t get you out of it, but intentional acts can.
This can be challenging. But there are no magic pills or quick fixes, it takes effort. You are not alone, you can do this. There are plenty of others out here to offer you support, understanding, and even tools you can use in your battle.
No matter what you may be going through, you are not doing so alone.