This post was inspired by Jenny Lawson. http://thebloggess.com/2011/01/coming-out/
If you don't care to zoom off to her page straight away because you have restraint and a greater attention span then I do, I will briefly surmise Jenny's post. Jenny herself suffers from depression, anxiety disorder, OCD, and (just to fuck with her a little more) Rheumatoid Arthritis. She has spoken up before about her struggles with all of these things on her Blog. I have been quietly reading about these things and not saying anything.
My own struggles with Depression started before I actually knew there was a mental illness called Depression. I can narrow them down to the exact date: June 8th, 1992. The day my father committed suicide. I was 18.
The grief of losing my father is still palatable, even almost 20 years later. When I think about it. And I try to go days, even months without thinking about it. Certain times it hits me like a fist in the throat: that he didn't get to meet my husband. That he never walked me down the aisle. That he never got to see his grandsons. Those are the "easy to explain my sadness" moments. Understandable.
Mental Illness doesn't have many understandable moments. When you suffer from Depression as I do, you take any proffered straw when it is given to you. I took those straws as proof that I didn't need help or medication. I just needed a moment. Regular people without mental illnesses need moments. I so desperately wanted to be one of those. To not be my father's daughter.
There was a tidal wave of grief when my father was found, it swept me away from everything I knew to feeling like a castaway on a desert island. I blamed myself for not seeing it. I blamed my step-mother who was in the midst of divorcing him for sending him over the edge. Ultimately, I blamed him. Coward. Selfish asshole. How could he do this to us? I denounced him in my teenage way and went flung myself into a series of bad relationships that were fueled by recreational drug use. I explained it all away. I was young, reckless, rebellious. All this is perfectly normal. Experimenting, not escaping.
Oh ho ho, how we bullshit ourselves. But we do it because we feel we have to. To avoid sinking, to give us something to hang onto, sometimes bullshit is our only option. And sometimes we realize it's all bullshit and cannot face it any more. If we're strong enough, we ask for help. We discover that help is there. We reach out. But some people aren't that lucky. My father was physically very strong, on his way to a third degree black belt in Taekwondo, and worked as a martial arts instructor. For years after his death, I had thought if only he was as mentally strong as he had been physically, he would still be here.
My brother, sister and I all made a pact that whoever had the first Grandson would name him after our father. At least as a middle name. To keep his memory alive. When the time came and I had the first grandson, I bulked at the idea of having my son carry a name with so much sadness and grief attached to it. As consolation prize we choose Berlin as 1st son's middle name. To honor my German heritage (inherited through my father's side) and the fact my husband had lived and worked in Berlin for three years before he came to Canada and married me. It was a cop-out explained as a compromise; a skill I have perfected throughout the years.
I had my second son (and last child) and still couldn't bare to give him my father's name. I was too cowardly to face it. But my sister had a son 18 months later and did it for me.
Anything is better than the truth when you're mentally ill. My Dad's truth and my truth, too. I hide from it just as he did. I went to therapy years ago and took antidepressants that made me feel detached from the rest of the world and made me completely unable to write.
The truth is, mental illness isn't about strength. It cannot be cured with push-ups or diet or Sucking It Up Like a Man. All of that is bullshit. And I'll let you know the worst bullshit of all. That I think to myself: "I went through today doing perfectly normal, mundane things and that makes me a perfectly normal person." Because I am normal and struggling with mental illness. And it's a struggle that shouldn't be happening in silence.
To all of you who are struggling, I want to say this.
You have a voice. You are worthwhile. You are unique and deserve to be here. You deserve happiness. Speak up, reach out and that action: that one action of using your voice and speaking, which I know, I know is terrifying, because what if you speak up and no one hears you? What if it just echoes into an endless scream? For me, that was the unbearable, un-dislodgeable thought. And that was (and still is) the Depression talking.
No. Using your voice can only make things better. Because the worst things, the most insidious things? Those are part of your illness. Speaking up will become easier as you do it, I promise you that. Removing the silence is the first way to distinguish yourself from your disease. It is part of you, don't let it take all of you. There are ways to live with it. So that you can live.
If you don't feel ready to talk to a professional or your family, you can leave me a comment and I promise I will answer you.
I'm dedicating this post to my Dad, Randy Liebrecht. Sorry it took me so long to get here, Daddy. x