Last night was a struggle. Due to some bad side effects the doctors took me off my mood stabilizer and simultaneously reduced the dosage of my antidepressant. They wanted me in intensive therapy while they did this, so I could be monitored, but intensive therapy had a backlog and I can’t get in until tomorrow. So for four days I’ve been off my meds, and more or less on my own. My wife is very supportive but she can’t be here all the time and last night she was at work.
The dark thoughts came. Thoughts of cutting myself, or worse, killing myself. I began to feel worthless and lonely, as though I was nothing more than a burden, despite the fact that I’ve held down a full time job for years and I take care of my kids.
I don’t have many friends. People with depression aren’t fun to be around. But I needed one last night. Desperate to be able to talk about my feelings, I went to facebook and posted the following. “Does anyone want to talk? Going through a major depressive episode and Libby (my wife) is at work. Feeling lonely.”
I thought this was an innocent enough request for some help. I wasn’t threatening suicide or self harm. I didn’t go in to major details other than stating I have depression. Within an hour, my mom, my dad, and a cousin all made contact along with a few friends. My friends just wanted to make sure I was okay. But my family, all three of them suggested I take the post down. Stating people might judge me for it.
I ultimately succumbed to the pressure and removed it. But this made me hurt anew. It got me thinking. Depression is a disease. If I had posted about having a relapse of cancer I’d have gotten love and sympathy. But because it’s mental illness, the primary concern is that I hide it.
So while I suffer, I am expected to do it alone, and quietly, and without asking for help. I know I am not alone in this and that is why I decided to write this. Because expecting someone to hide their depression or other mental illness is an unfair ask of someone who already faces an unfair burden.
What we need is support and love for who we are, not for the mask we put on. I hope you will think of the people you know with mental illness. I hope you will make them feel safe taking their mask off. The mask is a heavy thing to carry.