I was having a conversation with a good friend on Friday, someone I had not spoken to in a while. We both have had a lot going on in our lives, between work and whatever life has thrown at us. I was talking about how I was feeling (sad, anxious, emotional, fragile, unable to handle crowds/interact with others) and how I was not able to attend an event. I said that I felt like my reasons for not going “sounded stupid” and people wouldn’t understand.
My friend said something along the lines of, “Don’t stay it’s stupid, it’s not, don’t put yourself down- don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone experiences things differently. Something big may seem small to one person or something small may seem big to another person. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
I tearfully said, “You’re right. I guess I am in such a bad place my thoughts are telling me no one will understand and that it’s stupid and not real.” Hearing this from him and the words coming out of my mouth made me realize I was invalidating my own feelings and telling myself my emotions/feelings/thoughts don’t mean anything. I was judging myself.
It made me realize that I am in a darker place than I would like to be in right now. My friend, who had experienced depression before, tried to remind me that it can’t last forever and it will pass and though I won’t know when it will happen, the important thing is that it will happen. He also said, “There is a saying, life is no picnic.” The pessimist in me says, “I hate the idea of a picnic and being outside with bugs,” but the optimist in me says, “We would never know strength or appreciate what we have if we didn’t experience challenges.”
I know I have been in this dark place before but I don’t remember what brought me out of it. It’s a strange feeling to be in a mixed state and feel the symptoms of depression, hypomania, sadness, feel hyper, hopeless, have insomnia, anxious, tired, confused and frustrated. I can go from wanting to eat a whole bag of sour cream and onion chips to being completely disinterested in food and insisting I don’t need to eat. So, from emotional eating to avoidance of food. I feel all over the place and nowhere at the same time. I feel inflated and deflated. I try on numbness to shield myself but it doesn’t always work. I try to shield myself from myself, but the shield isn’t always strong enough.
It’s frustrating to know I can’t fix certain situations and I can’t fix my own brain, but, I can learn to reframe my thoughts, to distract myself, to try to stick to a routine and to watch out for triggers. I always remind myself of all I have learned about myself and this illness over the past 6 years, so I can remember that while life isn’t a picnic or a walk in the park, there are many reasons to keep on going.
What I do know (or as Oprah says, “What I know for sure”) is that having friends who care about you, who are like family, helps. If you can’t be yourself around someone, or worry about being judged, then that someone just isn’t for you. Just remember my favourite Dr. Seuss Quote, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” If you can be at your worst and let someone in or let them be there for you without you protesting, that says a lot. There are very few people I let in (aside from my husband), but those friends are like family to me. They know my patterns and know when I need them the most. I am always grateful for the text messages, impromptu visits, late night chats with friends who keep me company during these times. I think you know who you are, and thank you a million times over.
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!