I get up in the morning more tired than when I went to bed the night before. I go about my daily routine without thinking - the heaviness around my waist making me move slower than normal. I look at the clock – running late again. Not because there wasn’t enough time but because I spent so much time standing still, waiting for the water to wake me up. Waiting for my brain to clear enough to think. Waiting.
I go to work. It’s a good job. Actually, it’s a great job. My boss praises me for the work I did the day before but the voices are already up and active. “He’s lying”, they say. “Just wait”, they say. The praise that should have lifted me up becomes a torrent of negativity that leaves me worse off than before.
I struggle through the day, my thoughts jumbled, in a fog. Each task I tackle methodically, struggling for the insight to do it well. “It’s okay”, I tell myself. ‘You’re smart”, I tell myself. But it feels like a charade. It’s as if I’m going through the motions of someone else’s life and I’ll be found out at any minute.
I get home and it’s a free for all in my brain. The control I’ve exerted all day to appear sane drops away as I have nothing left to give. I alternate between tears and keening. The voices are so LOUD! I tell them to shut up but they won’t listen. They laugh at my agony. They are insistent in their arguments, devaluing me. I have no one to turn to. No one who understands.
It seems so simple for others. “Look at your life”, they say. “Look on the bright side”, they say. They do not understand. “Walk a mile in my shoes”, I say. Deal with the mud that sucks you in and drags you down. Deal with the incessant chatter of disparagement that drains the energy from your soul.
I struggle to hear the love behind the words. I struggle to hear concern rather than condemnation. I struggle to remember the times the phone rang or a message pinged rather than the times when it was silent. I struggle out of the darkness, straining, yearning for the light.
I fight. I fight the voices and the pain and the mud and the despair. I fight with all I can. Physically, I take my medication religiously. Mentally, I talk back to the voices using self-talk to remind myself of the reality I believe is out there rather than the insanity I live in. Spiritually, I call out to God. Pleading for relief.
I hope. Oh, how I hope. I hope the depression lifts. I hope the medications work. I hope all of my attempts at relief – diet, exercise, prayer – help even a little. Through it all, I cling to hope.
If you wonder what depression is like, walk a mile in my shoes. Before you judge someone too harshly, walk a mile in my shoes. Instead of dismissing the achievement of taking a shower or getting dressed, walk a mile in my shoes. Don’t give in to the stigmatism and lies of mental illness. I know it’s not pretty, or honorable. It’s real and it’s messy. I’m overcoming mental illness not because I’m exceptional. I’m just stubborn. I’m going to keep fighting. For those fighting with me, keep going, don’t despair and for everyone else, stop judging. Walk a mile in my shoes.