Opinion: I am a survivor of severe depression
March 17, 2015
It's time to stand up and be counted. It's time to set the record straight. It's time to step out of the shadows and be brave and speak my truth. Alcoholics do it. Weight watchers do it. Homosexuals do it. Really, it's time.
My name is Lin, and I have battled mental illness. While growing up, I just thought I was moody, more sensitive or emotional than many. This ran in my family. But it was never discussed.
The typical message was "don't ever air your dirty laundry in public. Get over it, be happy, find something that makes you happy."
Well, most adults realize you can't chase happiness — doing that makes it more elusive. Plus, happiness isn't really a goal to achieve. Realistically, being a kind, tolerant, generous spiritual person and sharing your life's journey with like minded people — that's the path I'm walking on.
“I am a survivor of severe depression. From my words, I hope at least one person will realize there is hope back to the light, back to feeling human and worthy of love and belonging.”
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So, I've decided it is vitally important for me to explain, as succinctly as I possibly can, what it feels like to be completely beaten down by severe depression.
It's a bottomless pit of self hatred. There is inescapable nonstop chatter about how worthless, hopeless and useless we are. Our family and friends, basically the whole world, will be better off if we aren't in it taking up space.
I live at Lake Tahoe, inarguably one of the most beautiful places in the world, but that doesn't matter because you can't see the beauty when you're severely depressed.
Go get some exercise, listen to music, read a book, do something, you might say. Are you kidding? I'm too exhausted from not sleeping and not being able to focus or turn off the thoughts racing through my brain.
Motivation to do something, to eat, to do chores, to reach out to friends is close to impossible. Your heart is not just broken, it's leaking, and your soul is so dark that it's difficult to give or show love to your spouse, your kids your friends even your dog.
So, feeling dark, unlovable and lost, you grab the tiniest bits of energy you do have inside you to fight off the enemies in your mind. You truly are your worst enemy, and it's a constant battle.
It's not about self pity. You don't feel sorry for yourself, you feel sorry for being a burden to those around you. The lifeline needed the most — finding the connection to someone else who has also fought or is fighting the battle, who has struggled to get out of the quicksand, and somehow made it out of the darkness — often doesn't come because we are too ashamed to reach out.
Mental illness carries so much stigma, so much shame, so much fear of discovery with letting people down, which could lead to losing your job, your family, your friends.
How does our community help people who are suffering and can't help themselves? Here's how — by trying not to be judgmental (funny word if you think about it) by being compassionate, by learning the early signs of depression before it becomes the severe kind.
Currently, I am pleased to report that I am not in severe depression because I have reached out for help in many forms, through therapy, medication, creativity, community involvement, and most importantly, learning to love myself as an imperfect person, but a perfect me.
I am a survivor of severe depression. From my words, I hope at least one person will realize there is hope back to the light, back to feeling human and worthy of love and belonging.
A friend once suggested if you're having a bad day, go outside and skip. At first it makes you feel silly and childish, but it actually takes the edge off, allows you a break from the negative chatter, sort of like a reset button.
Maybe I will organize a skipping club — won't cost a dime, anyone can join, it's good exercise, no special skills necessary. Maybe nurturing the child in us will protect us from ourselves.
Lin Winetrub is an Alpine Meadows resident, and she would like people to reach out to her if they have questions or need someone with whom to talk. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.