It's Mental Health Awareness Month and, I have to be honest, I haven't seen a whole lot of talk about this topic in the female creative/entrepreneur circles. I'm going to change that.
I have spent years—more than half of my life—with depression.
We are far from just being on a first-name basis; no, not just acquaintances. We go everywhere together and do everything together. It’s sort of like having a bestfriend, but…
So much of this time, I’ve felt shamed, broken, less-than, damaged and alone. If you take meds, people think you are a complete psycho. If you see a therapist—cringe! And that’s just the surface! They don’t know what goes on inside while they are pushing you to the outside.
Depression is more than a cloud over me; it’s more than the proverbial “wet blanket”. It’s part of me. Not outside me peering down with sad, puppy dog eyes. It’s part of who I am as a person. Why should I feel like I have to hide behind fake smiles and awkward interactions because of what people think depression is?
I’m not going to try to make you understand my depression because the reality is that you can't. Depression is real. It’s debilitating. It’s raw. It’s hard. And there is nothing wrong with it. Nothing. If you’re dealing with it, don’t hide behind the fake smiles, but please don’t stuff yourself into the back of the closet either. If that’s where you are right now, I’m reaching my hand in there to pull you out.
After all these years, let me give you a few depression do’s and don’ts:
- Do acknowledge that depression is real. // Don’t pretend that nothing is wrong. It’s not true. And that’s ok. You don’t have to have it figured out all the time.
- Do get help. There is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist and/or psychiatrist. There is nothing wrong with taking prescribed medication. // Don’t think that getting help means that you are weak and failing. It actually means you’re strong.
- Do tell others. Your friends may not understand, but if they are real friends, they will listen and support you. (It’s also important for those around you to know when you’re showing signs that you may need help.) // Don’t keep it to yourself out of shame. Who knows who you might touch with your story or vulnerability?
- Do take care of yourself. Yes, exercise is important. But I’m talking about the kind of self-care that fills you up. Whether it’s spoiling yourself with a mani/pedi, having a night out with your girlfriends, or curling up in bed at 7 pm with a good book--do it. // Don’t take your health for granted. Sometimes things sneak up. Best to have some good practices in place.
- Do be you. // Don’t try to be anyone other than who you are, who you were created to be. Your depression doesn’t define you, but it does describe part of who you are. Embrace it for what it is. Sometimes our weaknesses are strengths hidden in disguise.