It’s 2018. The conversation around mental illness within society is now present, prominent and closer to being completely accepted by all. But while the topic is one that can now be discussed openly, it is no longer portrayed in a light that I, personally, feel safe speaking in as a veteran soldier.
I have been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety since I was about 12 years old. My internal issues first became notable after a tragic experience from my childhood triggered very prominent symptoms and continuous distress that carried into my older youth. I can remark on having been in and out of therapists’, psychologists’, psychiatrists, cognitive behavioral specialists’ and social workers’ offices since then. I even spent time in a psychiatric hospital following one of my multiple suicide attempts.
As many who have become familiar with my journey over the last few years have witnessed, my battle with my mental health is nowhere near an end, despite there being many other social media “advocates” declaring it possible.
That’s because it does not end for those like me.
It does not simply stop by and then pass through as it overstays its welcome. It is not a trend, a phase, or a period that we overcome “once and for all.”
There is a keen difference between suffering from depression and simply going through a series of stressful down periods in one’s lifetime, and that is currently the thin, problematic line that makes it difficult to prosper in the mental health conversation. I currently am crying for help in a world that can not distinguish between the two and is over-saturating the perspective of depression and anxiety. This has truly ignited a scarring ember inside of my spirit.
Through many traumatic and triggering events accumulating over the last year alone, I have become consumed by my darkness. This pin planted on my heart is permanently nailed onto me no matter where I run, hide, or how I portray myself on social media and anywhere else publicly.
Back in the summer of 2016, I decided to embrace God’s gift and curse upon me for what I thought was the greater good of the overall mental health conversation. I wanted to share my battle while I was currently in the midst of it to bring a raw and honest sense of the pain to the table, rather than the post-war triumph. The responses have been a mix of encouragement, praise, and overwhelming support, but also shaming, victim-blaming, accusing and false-rumor-starting that have essentially ruined the previous life I worked tirelessly to build for myself. Those negatives have torn me, my career, friendships and many other aspects apart, but it is not what has broken me the most.
This is the real epiphany.
Being a mental illness scapegoat has been the most substantially hurtful burden I could have ever put upon myself. Yes. I truly wanted to help people as much as I thought I could, and still do. I wanted to create a safer environment for those who consistently hurt like me and have to mask their constant battle scars. I wanted to shed light in a realer sense. But opening up a coffin leaves room for new demons to peek in. My public journey gave plenty of opportunity for others to take advantage and destroy me from the inside out.
And they won.
This has transformed my entire view on myself, my voice, my light and anything else I thought was remarkably worthy about me.
I chose to acknowledge my issues publicly and, coinciding with that, I chose to suffer publicly. I did so in order to not just raise awareness, but to help those who feel alone in their struggles feel a little less by themselves. Ironically, in sharing my current sufferings in the moment, I am now left to feel more alone than ever. Even abandoned in a way. Of course, some have shared their previous dealings, situations and stories with me privately, and at times, I have been commended for sharing my truth, which previously kept me motivated. Often I am told “You are not alone, ” and while that is extremely truthful, there is a larger sense that leaves me in the dark being that I feel like the solely vulnerable one in public.
I feel caught in a battlefield without any army. Not many around me are open in sharing their dark periods and being vulnerable openly in the moment. But I completely understand why. In fact, I understand now more than ever why others like myself choose to be silent with their journey. While there are positive chapters scattered throughout our time on this Earth, we know there are no true happy endings to our life books. Sometimes, the encouragement to get over these depressive bridges can also be extremely discouraging if we don’t have the tools, energy or resources to do so.
My soul is aching with a lot of regret for having shared my truths, as much as I hate to say it. I feel like I sacrificed myself into the fire around some who only wanted to watch the flames grow. It’s hard to be the example. It’s even harder to still not be a success story like social media threads, op-eds, vlogs and other content try and portray will come one day for the depressed.
My battle is unfortunately eternal and the success can only come in bits and pieces, but not as a whole. That’s the fate I was gifted, but also harshly tested with.
Clinical depression does not get a fairy tale ending. Anxiety disorders do not disintegrate into the atmosphere like a super villain’s defeat. They are demons that will be at every corner and avenue ready to pounce upon my positive thoughts, experiences and energies. All I can do is prepare to fight for my spirit each and every day. And right now, I’m at a point of exhaustion, bearing no more weapons. It feels like I am fighting my demons with my bare hands and have no more lives left. The pressure to reach this “overcoming” point feels insurmountable. I may never have that positive, victorious comeback that amazing spirits have been praying for for me.
Because I will not overcome this.
I can only find new tools and techniques to cope with it and pray to the heavens that they hold up in war. That is the harsh, raw reality that many like myself have already faced or will be unfortunately slapped with soon enough.
If you are like me, please understand that you are far from alone. And not in the manner of alone for what you go through, but however you choose to go through it. If you are hoping to share your story the same way, I commend you, but plead to you to proceed with caution. Your suffering is not a “dark secret.” It is a hurtful, somewhat frightening, but beautiful truth that only you are required to face and own up to for YOUR potential betterment. Do not let any evil spirits of the world, a “brand,” a reckless coping mechanism, Social Media Supreme Court etc. pressure you into feeling or moving otherwise.
Embrace who you are to the fullest on your time and within your heart and voice’s comfortability. Don’t let anyone take your shine. Your light is sensitive enough as it is.
The battles never end, but depression has not rigged the war.