I’ve thought about this post for a long time…and I’ve started this post a couple times and then just backed away from it. So, since you’re reading this it means I finally went through with writing this all out and sharing it. Which is pretty terrifying – if I’m being honest. And I might as well be honest about that, since this entire post is pretty honest! This post is also pretty long…
May is Mental Health Awareness Month – did you know that? I didn’t until a few weeks ago, which I find a bit ironic since I’ve dealt with a mental health problem: I suffered from depression for a number of years and I’ve never really said that out loud to too many people. And I just put it on a blog that anyone and everyone can read. Wow. Deep breaths. The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month is “Life with a Mental Illness” and people are being encouraged to share their stories through social media…all in an effort to remove the stigma that comes with mental illness.
Obviously there is a stigma – if there wasn’t, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to share this…
I started college at Mississippi State University in the Fall of 2006; I was a born and raised MSU fan and I had very definite ideas about how the next few years would unfold. Funnily enough, life usually doesn’t take your plans into consideration and if I had to choose a time in my life that I would NEVER want to return to, it would be those five months spent at MSU. I moved into an apartment with two girls who were nice enough…but we didn’t ever quite seem to mesh. And yes; I moved into an apartment and not a dorm, I just didn’t think dorm life was for me. I went to class and came home…went to class and came home… I tried to get involved in the BSU but after one afternoon spent with some really sweet girls, no further invites were extended and because I tend to be shy, I didn’t venture out on my own too much.
As the semester progressed, I spent a good bit of time with my friend Dee – but you certainly can’t expect one person to be your lifeline – it’s not fair to anyone involved. When I wasn’t with Dee or in class, I was at my apartment…which was miserable. I didn’t get along with the people I lived with or their strange friends, they kept the main living space of the apartment filthy (ex: a stove so filthy it caught fire when I tried to cook…a pumpkin that grew fur…a roach that crawled over dishes piled in the sink…) and so I stayed holed up in my room and did my best to eat things that didn’t require I use the kitchen too often. By October I’d gained twenty pounds, was sleeping erratically and skipping class…but I didn’t say anything to anyone because I thought it all just sounded silly and pathetic and I told myself I needed to get it together.
In November my family went to New York City for Thanksgiving; a trip we’d had planned and I’d been looking forward to for months. I couldn’t enjoy the trip though. At this point, I was staying awake until 2:00, 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, sleeping until the late afternoon, I’d miss so much class that I had no clue how I’d ever make it up and I couldn’t find the energy to care about anything – all I wanted to do was sleep. I knew I’d messed up badly and I’d have to tell my parents – but how would I tell them? I couldn’t tell them all the things going through my head – because it sounded crazy…and what’s worse, I felt crazy! I felt like a failure…but I also didn’t have the strength to do anything to deal with it; I just wanted it to all disappear…
|In the middle of NYC…& in a complete daze…|
After our trip to New York, I let it all out in a tear-filled confession. My parents were able to get me out of the year long lease I’d signed, I moved home and was at a bit of a loss as to what I was going to do with myself…but at least for the time being, maybe things would go back to “normal” for me. I got a job and tried to steady myself a little bit…. I didn’t know what the next step would be and I wasn’t ready to admit that there had truly been anything wrong. I figured it would all work out eventually…
I worked for the next little bit and in the Spring of 2007, I decided to look into returning to college…but this time at the University of Southern Mississippi. My Mom accompanied me to a college visit day, I discovered that a close acquaintance (soon to become a very dear friend) was starting her second year at Southern and she; along with two other girls, were looking for a fourth roommate for an apartment situated right near the campus. Plans were made, leases were signed and I felt like I was ready to do this thing again. My first year went wonderfully – I made friends, went to events, made good grades and had that college experience that I’d imagined in my head. It was so awesome and the problems that had plagued me at Mississippi State seemed like a bump in the road.
|The college experience…as it was “meant” to be!|
In the Fall of 2008 I was set to start my second and final year at Southern and my friend Kristen (the aforementioned acquaintance turned dear friend) and I decided to move into our own apartment; she would be working and I’d be going to school. The Fall semester started well enough but within a couple months I could feel it…that feeling creeping back into my life…like something that takes hold of you and won’t let go, slowly enveloping your whole life in a fog. Developments all around me; in my life, in friend’s lives, schoolwork, just life in general…it all started to become too much and I found myself back where I’d been before.
|May 2010 – Mission Accomplished|
Why am I sharing all of this now? You might be asking that as you read this – and honestly, I can’t necessarily tell you why. Except that maybe I’ve reached a place in my life where I know that depression doesn’t define me – it’s an illness – just like any other illness that someone experiences.
Mental illness is not like other illnesses; you can’t see what is happening to the other person, but I can assure you that it’s very real. Mental illness isn’t something that should be trivialized or stigmatized – it’s a very real thing and when you consider that one in eight women will experience clinical depression at some point in their life – well, you may not realize it – but you probably know more than one person who has dealt with depression. They just may not feel like sharing that with the world.
People tend to take a very harsh view of mental illness – and I’ve learned that almost everyone has an opinion about mental illness. If you are reading this and you’ve never experienced mental illness – I’d caution you to form opinions about people who have – people who are dealing with something that you likely can’t imagine. I once had a person assure me that my depression simply sprung from my lack of a strong relationship with the Lord – which – wow. Talk about kicking a person when they’re down.
The truth is that depression is a real thing. It is a real illness that so many people suffer from and when we don’t share it perpetuates the idea that there is something “wrong” with a person that is suffering. That’s simply not true!
I often wonder when I post things on my blog…I wonder if anyone reads the things I post. I wonder if it matters to anyone or if I’m making any kind of impact on anyone at all…which I suppose is a little silly, since I post about my puppy and day to day life and baseball. This post is different. And maybe it won’t help anyone – but it’s helped me just to write it. To share that I dealt with depression and I fought through it and I’m victorious on the other side. And maybe…just maybe…someone will read this and it will be a help to them. It will inspire them to tell someone. Either way – a weight has been lifted for me.