I wish I could honestly say that I no longer any wasted energy on worrying about what other people think of me, but it would be a lie. Sometimes I feel carefree and I think I’m beyond caring. But if I’m honest, that only happens when everything is going well, so its easy. When there’s a bump in the road (or a deep dark hole that I get lost in) the shame flows over me like a wave that knocks me off my feet and can feel like I’m drowning in it. Then I realize the shame was never really gone.
If I had cancer they would say that I had been in remission and then the cancer came back. But with depression, what do you say: “Ive been feeling really good for months and then for no apparent reason I feel like Ive been hit by a bus”? There are no words that adequate explain how I’m feeling physically or mentally in those moments. So if I can’t explain it, how can I expect others to understand and how can it be ‘normal’? This is another example of where shame creeps in. This was obvious to me one day when I went to a new dentist and I had to fill out the form on my medical history. I paused at the question about medications. Did I really want to list the medications I’m on?
So you may be wondering why I am even writing this blog, why would I share this part of my life if I feel ashamed of it? Quite simply it’s because I’m learning about how our mind can play tricks on us (depression/anxiety/PTSD will do that). I’m realizing that just because I may feel something does not make it real. I may feel ashamed, but I also know that I have no reason to be ashamed. I am also learning that I am not alone, other people feel ashamed but have no reason to. However if we feel the need to whisper about it, or hide it altogether, then the shame is going to thrive. My hope is by talking about it in a honest and open way, it will remind us all that this is just another symptom that we need to cope with, but it does not need to be accepted as ‘real’.
There is also so much hype in the media these days about ‘staying positive’ and ‘choosing happiness’, which are in themselves positive messages. But they can also inadvertently add to the shame and guilt for people who are clinically depressed. I remember feeling like society in general was judging me for not being able to take better care of myself whenever I heard these kinds of comments. As if I could just read a certain book, or meditate, or eat better, or exercise more, my depression would disappear…But of course it is never that simple, if it were no one would be depressed. No one would choose to be depressed if there was a formula or strategy to avoid it. Just like no one would choose to have cancer.
So I will keep writing about depression, and the various feelings that can accompany it and hopefully the shame will subside. Besides, people with mental health challenges are some of the strongest, bravest people I know.