Sometimes my life is incredible. I have distinct memories from scores of moments in my life where I was truly, blissfully happy. Some are private moments. A cathedral in Montreal, filming in an endless aspen forest, standing in a fluttering rain of cherry blossoms. Some are the kind of moments that appear on social media. Sailing on an old ship off Nantucket Island, dying Easter eggs at the Writing Center, drinking with “celebrities” (I hate that term). Smiling selfies, foreign countries, the kind of things others might dream of. #blessed.
And I am blessed, in so many ways. I am blessed with parents who will always grant me a place to live when I should need one. I am blessed with no debt and the privilege to follow my dream. I am blessed with incredible friends who understand my intense work schedule, my foibles and flaws, and who accept the limitations granted to me by the mental illnesses I endure.
Not pictured are the bad days. The days I’m too restless to do nothing, but don’t have the energy to do anything. The times a part of me deep inside aches, literally and metaphorically, and I know there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it besides lay where I am until it passes. Minutes, hours, days. Depression, anxiety. These moments are always private. Sitting alone with my father during chemo, suffering a panic attack after being offered a job I want and accept, being mocked for wearing sneakers with a dress in a language I speak well enough to understand but not well enough to retort in, surviving sexual assault. The moments you hide in fear, from shame, or simply because it’s personal and you don’t want the world’s opinion.
I’m lucky, because I’ve always had hope. My depression has never extended to actually wanting to end my own life. Even when I was a young teenager, I held tight to the secure knowledge that life would get better. Others have it so much worse.
I’m tired of being quiet about it. I don’t like hiding that I’m part of what has been dubbed by some psychologists as an epidemic. New research is saying that 1 in 4 adults (in the US) will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. The NIMH says 35% of millennials suffer from an anxiety disorder, suicide rates are at an all-time high (up 60+% for women in the last 15 years), and 1 in 5 women will suffer sexual assault in her lifetime (1 in 16 men).
It took me a long time to actually post this. I’m ashamed and embarrassed by how disabled I can be at times. I fear losing friends and work; I’m terrified I might damage my reputation. But I also fear not talking about what’s so common, so underreported, so hidden in the shadows. I don’t want to contribute to that shame in others that I, myself, have felt (and still sometimes feel) because you never know who will get it and support you. I want to talk about it. I want to be open, answer questions about what it’s like for those who don’t understand but want to, and share resources that I didn’t have when I was first struggling with this.
If you suffer from mental illness, you are not alone. And neither am I.
**Disclaimer: I love my life. I’m extremely introspective, intelligent, and well educated about both physical and mental health. I’m a big fan of therapy, have a history with relevant medications, and am grateful every day for the awesome support network I have. I’ve learned a myriad of wonderful coping mechanisms (yay CBT!), make an active effort to take care of my physical health (as much as my mental health allows), and have progressed in my self-worth and happiness more than anyone can truly understand. Thanks for reading.