The beginning stage of love is an intoxicating experience; that holds true for every single person who has fallen in love. It’s so easy to become enveloped by the emotions and feelings of a new relationship that it temporarily takes over your mind, body, and spirit; it’s easy to forget about the bad parts of life for a while. To forget about our demons, our pain, our struggles. Back then, we were so wrapped up in the newness of us that I forgot about my real life for a while. I forgot about where I came from; the abuse and the trauma and the pain and all that followed it. I was allowed, for the first time in my life, to be genuinely happy. Somehow I also forgot that the sadness would creep back in again and show her face, eventually. By no fault of mine or yours, it’s just how I’m wired. She made her slow and vicious return about four months in. The deliberate decline set in, and I had utterly forgotten how she takes her time, subtly hinting to her return as I slowly spiraled downwards. When she had the opportunity she pounced, unbeknownst to me, and suddenly I was suffocating. It was the feeling I had felt so many times before; the crushing feeling in my chest, so deep I could swear it dented my very soul.
It got to a point, as it always does (she’s a creature of habit, this imbalance) where I realized I could not go another day without explaining why I had become so withdrawn, irritated, cold, and sad. I wasn’t going to be able to fight through this wave in my natural state of silent struggle and elusiveness, nor could I next time she returned. The task of telling someone who I loved, but who had never seen that part of me was daunting to say the least. Not only was I crushed under the dark cloud that somehow seems to both elude and invade me simultaneously; I was hyper-anxious about the process of talking about it. When to have that drab of a conversation, figuring out how to tell you, deciding whether or not I would push you away before you had the chance to do it to me, trying to determine how this would affect the both of us moving forward. My brain is already wired to think the worst, so I tortured myself for weeks with the what ifs. I don’t think there’s a proper way to go about telling someone you love that you suffer from this disease. It’s not something you can really prepare or rehearse for – trust me, I spent weeks trying. I had to dive straight in; hope for the best, prepare for the worst, expect to not be fully understood, and be okay with that. So, I did and it was the scariest thing I have ever done. I had to put my truth out there and hope that you didn’t think I was crazy, or overly dramatic, or unstable. The propensity the mentally ill have to blame ourselves, or label ourselves as flawed and unlovable because of the disease is both prevalent and heartbreaking. Telling someone about my struggle with mental illness seemed impossible, because while the things I feel are very real to me, they are mostly invisible to outsiders.
“The propensity the mentally ill have to blame ourselves, or label ourselves as flawed and unlovable because of the disease is both prevalent and heartbreaking.”Tweet
It’s hard to sit someone down and say “I am sad, for no particular reason except that’s how my brain works. Not only am I sad, but I am so sad that sometimes I am not going to be able to function. And I work really hard, but sometimes I cannot stop it from coming. And there isn’t really anything you can do to help, except try to understand.” I cannot expect someone to understand that position when they have never been there. However, I did expect to feel crazy and judged. I did expect to say, “I am depressed and I cannot tell you why” and I did anticipate that might be too much for someone to handle. I expected to feel as if I was unloading my burden onto someone else, and I expected to feel like a burden myself once they knew.
I knew very well that could have been your reaction. I knew that there was a potential that you would underestimate the severity of my depression, or that you would think it was just a simple sad day every once in a while, or that you would think I was too much to deal with, or that you simply could never understand, not having experienced it. My fears were all rooted in the possibility that I would lose someone I loved because of a disease that was beyond my control. But do you know what’s funny about getting to that terrifying, vulnerable place? It only solidified that I knew I was madly in love with someone enough that I let them see the broken part of me, the part of me that I hate. I pride myself on being strong, and independent, and resilient. But the truth is I was – and am – a deeply broken person, and I would be lying to say I didn’t have a kryptonite. I had a lot to lose, but I jumped headfirst because the idea of keeping it inside for another day was killing me. Your reaction was confusion, which I had anticipated. It is very hard to put into words the deepness and seriousness of major depressive disorder. It is a hollowness, darkness, emptiness, so void of light it is hard to fathom. I knew that no matter what, you wouldn’t fully understand, but that was okay. You took the opportunity to reassure me; to comfort me and calm the fears and anxieties I’d had for weeks, just about having this conversation. The rest – the learning, the observation, the expanded understanding – was just going to take time.
Here we are, more than two years later, and she’s made her appearances. But you’ve taken each of those experiences and used them to learn; about me, about the disease, about what might be going through my mind – even when I’m rendered incapable of communication. You’ve learned that it’s okay to say nothing. You’ve learned that sometimes the most comforting thing is simply a hug and an acceptance of whatever is to come, so that I am free to express it however it may manifest. You have supported me in my worst moments. The ones that knock the wind out of me and cripple me with panic and pain and render me incapable of doing anything but laying under the covers with an empty expression and an even emptier bank of explanation. You’ve been there to quite literally pick me up off of the floor. I’m one of the lucky ones who has someone’s hand to hold while I drown. Nothing can stop the drowning; the water will come, again and again, just as the ocean never fails to return to shore. But this time, and every time moving forward, I know that I am not alone. I am reassured of your love for me because of your relentless understanding to your best ability and your compassion in my times of crisis. You know me, as much as anyone could, and it makes the dark times easier. I always know there is a light at the end of the tunnel; a hand to hold when the ocean returns to the shore.