I’m sad. I’m sad and to tell you the truth, I couldn’t even tell you why. It’s 12:27am, I’m sitting on the floor of the guest bedroom with my computer on my lap and I have tears streaming down my face as I write this. I feel a crushing sadness – one that feels like an elephant on my chest. Suffocating me, ensuring that I don’t catch my breath, knocking the wind straight out of me. As I’ve grown into adulthood I’ve learned more and more how important it is to not only take responsibility for your mental health, but how crucial it is to learn your triggers, to learn ways to recognize what has the capability to knock you off track so you can learn to mitigate them. It is not an easy or fast process. It is frustrating, it is exhausting, and it is hard work, but it can be done. If I have learned anything about adult-Hannah, it’s that she is more than capable of putting in that hard work. I’ve done it time and time again, since I was 16 years old and was able to put a name to the ailment that had been living in me for as long as I could remember. I will admit, when I was 16 I was much more dramatic and I thought I was forever doomed to the prison of misery in my mind; a damsel in distress with no one to rescue her. Seasoned with almost a decade of experience living somewhat of an adult life, I have a few pointers for that sad, confused 16-year-old girl. Hindsight 20/20.
Fortunately, I have a smart, capable, talented, beautiful little sister. Unfortunately, she struggles with depression too. While I remember being that age and I can remember what that hollowness and helplessness felt like, it also seems like it was a lifetime ago. Everyone struggles differently, and everybody heals differently. What has worked for me may not work for my sister. We do bond over the fact that we understand each other’s minds, but I do struggle to come up with advice for her because frankly, there is none. The thing I remember most from the time in my life that she is currently in, all I can feel is the negative. All I can remember is wanting to escape, to get away from home and to feel something – anything that wasn’t this. It’s hard to live with a not-so-inaccurate dark cloud looming above you; like the ones in the antidepressant commercials. Only sometimes it feels like a cloud and sometimes it feels like an elephant. I wish I could do more, but I try to do whatever I can to make my sister’s experience a little better, a little less lonely, and to let her know that I understand her. The feeling of being truly understood when you are in a depressive state is more comforting than any “chin up, it’ll be okay” or “I’m sorry, everything is going to get better.” Feeling misunderstood when you are in a place where you can’t even understand yourself is alienating at the least and maddening at the worst. While I do empathize for my sister I am honest with her. I tell her that it’s so important to learn to take care of herself when she gets into a bad place, because this feeling she has may not go away. I am honest with her about my struggles too, so she sees that while you might not be able to stop it from coming, you can get better at making the bad times shorter and the good times longer. It makes me sad to know that my sister may continue to feel this for another decade. But I know she’ll be strong and she will get through it. She’ll learn that there are more good days than bad, and that it gets a little bit easier every time she works through it. She’s stronger than she thinks she is.