I generally don’t make resolutions. But as I sit here writing this post on New Year’s Eve 2015, I can’t help but wonder if I shouldn’t make a few for 2016. I think we can all stand for a little goal setting, don’t you?
However, I will acknowledge this past year was not normal. The things that hit me in 2015 were situations over which I had little control. My Achilles tendon decided it had had enough, and tore, giving me an unexpected six weeks on the couch; a twenty-one-year-old kid decided he didn’t need to pay attention while driving and rear ended me into next week, resulting in a surgery from which I’m still recovering; add family issues, day-job stress, and burning the candle at both ends and I was ripe for a crash. On top of that, I struggled–really struggled–with my writing career. After a while, my brain chemistry went off the rails, and that’s when life got ugly.
I’ve suffered from depression for years. I’ve worked hard to get it under control, and most of the time it just lurks in the background. But there are times when it takes over, and this year I not only felt my depression, it was crippling. It consumed me to the point that for the first time ever, I opened up publicly about my struggle. I couldn’t hide it anymore.
That was an eye opener. You see, generally if people hear you’re sick or hurt they offer prayers and good wishes in droves. That’s not to say I didn’t get wonderful support, I did. But depression makes people uncomfortable and I know some wished I’d kept this under wraps.
Let me be clear. I don’t want to be “Depression Girl.” I don’t want people to know me because of my illness. In my opinion, it’s a crappy way to gain notoriety.
But I’m not going to stay quiet anymore, and I don’t care who’s uncomfortable. You don’t like it? Guess what? I don’t like it either. I hate it, but I’m not going to hide who I am because anyone is ‘uncomfortable.’
I knew what people were thinking, and I heard what was said behind my back. What can I say? Just tell me you’re there if I need you. What do I do? Nothing in particular, your presence in my life, your compassion, is all I need. She has so much, how could she be depressed? Don’t you think I know this? Think positive. I’m trying.
I have friends who avoid me altogether now. I’m not sure why, but it hurts.
Then there was the idiot who said I should “get over it.” Another individual told me to “toughen up.”
The last two, I wrote off completely. I can’t fix that kind of stupid, nor do I want to try.
Herein lies the battle. For some reason, folks think I have control over my depression. I don’t. True depression (sometimes called Clinical Depression or MDD-Major Depressive Disorder) controls you. The statistics will blow you away. Exhaustion, sleep disturbances, lethargy, apathy, high blood pressure, memory loss and chronic pain, are all complications. At its worst, the monster can be deadly.
So what does all this have to do with resolutions? Simple–I’m looking for ways to make it harder for depression to own me. I’ve resolved to fight back, and to surround myself with people, in real life and virtually, who are willing to go into battle with me. I resolve to keep reaching out to those who need encouragement, and not let anyone give up. I resolve to be humble, but not be treated like a doormat. I vow to avoid drama. Finally, I resolve to keep writing, even when I don’t want to. Writing is like air to me; I need it.
What can you do? If you know someone battling mental illness, just be there. Hang in and understand that as tough as this is for you, it’s tougher for her. Be the friend you would want to have if you were fighting an invisible demon. As I said, just be there.
I hope 2016 brings us all joy, peace and humility. As cliched as that sounds, I can wish you nothing better.