These days I’m usually the first one to poke fun at myself. Little quips like “Yeah, I’m government certified crazy” or “Any day with no tears is a good day” come easily off my tongue. After all, I have lived with my depression for a long, long time. I’m 44 and I can still feel the exacto knife I used on my arm at 12, fascinated by the pain and the blood. And the times I would stand in front of the mirror and punch myself as hard as I could are humiliating to remember. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but it took years for me to learn not to do that type of destructive behavior to myself. (Now, I only emotionally abuse myself. *grins*) It took an equally long time to get to the point of acceptance so I can sometimes make light of my situation.
While I was teaching myself how to deal with my self-hatred, I became a master at hiding it. I was already weird enough … the quiet girl who always had her nose in a book… and I didn’t want anything else about myself to stand out. At this point in my life though, I want to advocate against the shame of depression. So when during a conversation a few weeks back I made a self-depreciating comment and the other person said, “I really don’t believe you.”, it was unsettling and probably unknown to her – pretty hurtful.
I don’t think it was meant in a malicious way. Perhaps it was even intended as a compliment that someone who has known me over a decade hasn’t an inkling of how often I have bad days or the severity of them. Maybe I can even nudge myself to be proud that I’ve basically been off meds for over a year now (except for the occasional Xanax for the worst of my panic attacks) and so to some people being off meds might equate being well.
Because I don’t shout from the rooftops when I fall back into the hole again. I hide from the outside world and work hard to keep my tears and my negative thoughts of myself away from my children. I don’t call anyone up to describe to them how much I can crave going back to cutting. I allow myself to drown in despair while the kids are in school and when they get home I hold myself together long enough for them to go to sleep. Then I allow the enormous sadness to wash over me as my husband helps me put back the pieces again. And we do that day in and day out until I’ve ridden that wave and come out to the other side.
But you can believe me.
I have an illness that you cannot always see. There are days and even weeks when it makes me cry endlessly for no reason and think really horrible things about myself. I spend most of my energy fighting it off so I can create a positive environment at home and focus on trying to make life better for other people because that’s what gets me through the rough times. Like my friends who unfortunately have to deal with invisible physical illnesses such as Lupus, Diabetes and Fibromyalgia, I know they can relate as they too often have to deal with the “You Don’t Look Sick” syndrome.
When someone is brave enough not only to share with you about their illness but additionally tries to have a sense of humor about it, honor that trust. By telling them you just don’t believe them invalidates and undervalues them as a person. Admire them for their strength because much of what you might take for granted could come at a great cost for them, including just getting out of bed that day, putting a smile on their face and trying to make you laugh.
xoxo ~ Melissa