A few months ago I told myself (and the world…) that I would make it a priority to talk about my experience living with depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Well, what I quickly realized is that that is a lot harder than it sounds.
Last October when I had the tattoo of the sun my mom drew put on my lower back, I also had this phrase drawn on my upper left arm. I just haven’t been ready to share it until now (I’m still not 100% sure I am, actually, but if there’s one thing I’ve felt over the past couple of months it’s been God pushing me to confront the things I’m most afraid of). Inspired by my favorite Ingrid Michaelson song, these lyrics have kept me afloat many, many times over the past eight years since I first heard them.
It seems like the simplest of tasks, really. But there have been times when, deep in my depression and in my own head, “keep breathing” was something I had to constantly remind myself to do. And I’m certain I’m not alone in that experience.
1 in 5 women engage–or have engaged–in self-injurious behavior as a result of depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, the list goes on. A statistic so devastatingly common yet rarely discussed. I was, off-and-on for six years, one of those women.
This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever shared with anyone, let alone the internet. When a favorite author of mine documented in a book her experience coming out as bisexual, the two words that stuck with me the most were: “tell someone.” Still, several panic attacks ensued and prayers were sent up while drafting this post. Am I posting this for the right reasons? Will this really help anyone? In the midst of it all I realized I could learn to do it “afraid;” this is so much bigger than fear, and bigger than myself. People will ALWAYS think or feel differently than you now matter how hard you try to make them see your point of view. Society wants you to think that mental illness is either a “childhood phase,” or “the life of an adult,” but it’s not. It’s so not, and you don’t have to accept that. People say hurtful things because they don’t understand. And it’s up to me to remember that, and just keep doing what I can to spread awareness. I’m not proud of all the things I’ve said and done because of my illness, but I’ve decided not to be ashamed anymore either, because I’m not broken.
Time and time again I’ve been too afraid to ask for help, which is why I got this tattoo the way that I did. Each letter was contributed by someone who has either knowingly or unknowingly helped me through my darkest times; a gentle reminder that help is always there even when you can’t see it. The semicolon at the end is in my own writing–thanks to Project Semicolon–because my story isn’t over yet, and even if you have to do it “afraid,” yours shouldn’t be either.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255