I sat at my desk, staring at the computer screen with tears in my eyes, struggling to keep it together. There was no reason to be crying; nothing had happened to make me upset. But there I was, tears and all. A deep, dark, unsettling feeling lay heavy on my heart. It was the kind of feeling capable of making you believe something is going seriously, horribly wrong.
I was devastated and I had no idea why. If I’m being honest, I still am.
My heart is so weighed down every little thing feels like the end of the world.
I have been in and out of this darkness for over a year now. It started shortly before I was sent on stress leave from my previous job. At first, I didn’t realise it was there. The stress and lack of sleep were triggering episodes from my BiPolar, so I immediately assumed this was simply the accompanying black cloud of darkness my illness often brings.
As days turned to weeks, then months, the darkness lingered even though my BiPolar had retreated back into the darkest places of my soul.
During this same time, my best friend had been getting sicker. Her cancer was coming back with a vengeance, and she was in and out of the hospital. She passed away days before my return to work, and my heart began to hurt in ways I never knew it could.
I was still so tired, mentally, physically, and emotionally when I returned to work. The criticisms from random strangers that normally rolled off my shoulders were stabbing me into the depths of my very being. I’d try to sing along to worship songs promising hope and joy at church, but it just made me feel like a liar.
Then, I lost my other best friend, and it felt like the world was slipping out of my fingers.
When my new job started, I thought all was well, but the darkness still lingered.
Yesterday, I had to finally admit the darkness is still there and it’s getting heavier. I’m stubborn and independent as hell, and admitting things aren’t okay is one of the most difficult things for me to do. It’s almost as difficult for me to admit it as it is for me to ask for help.
One would think being an advocate in the mental health world, I would be the first to want to admit when I’m struggling, to help normalise it. But while I am the first to say to someone ‘it’s okay to say you’re having a tough go of it’, I rarely apply that advice to myself.
I’m working on it.
It is okay to admit you’re struggling. To your friends, to your family, to people who can care, and if necessary, to your managers at work.
Attached with this stigma of mental illness is this warped idea that if we’re not at our best, if we’re not okay, or if we’re struggling, we’re somehow less capable.
When I admit I’m not doing well, I feel like I am justifying the person who says I can’t really be trusted if I have a mental illness. I feel like I am invalidating any genuine concerns in my life, because then managers and people can say ‘well it’s because she’s not mentally stable.’ And all of that is absolute bullshit.
There’s no magic eraser when it comes to mental health issues.
Even when things are going great, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or a myriad of other conditions can rear their ugly heads and fight to drag you down.
We have this stupid idea that somehow we need to have it all together. Especially when we’ve been doing well or been in recovery for a long time. Like somehow, we’re not allowed to struggle anymore.
Again, I call bullshit.
If I try to hide the part of myself that is depressed, sad, and lonely, all of the time, it will eventually swallow me whole. There are places where, yes, we definitely need to hold it together. We also need places where we can be real with people, where we don’t have to hide from the state we’re in.
It’s something I’m working on. I’m working on letting those close to me know when I’m having a hard time. Even though I feel like it’s a burden to them, I let them in. I’m challenging myself to be willing to ask for prayer from those who believe in that. I do it even if the prayer is simply to ask for strength to hold it together and make it through each day. I’m learning it’s okay to cry when my heart is heavy and my chest feels like it’s crushing me. It’s okay to cry, even in front of other people.
I’m also learning even though most people get weird and awkward, wanting nothing to do with you when you admit these things, there are also a lot of people who want to help. Who recognise that, even if there’s nothing they can actually do to fix it, there are things they can do. Like just being able to say ‘hey, how’re you doing today’ can make a difference.
It’s okay to admit you’re struggling.
Don’t let anyone make you feel like your suffering is too insignificant to speak about.