Last night something happened that made me question this whole thing. It made me wonder if I should stop writing so intimately about my struggle with depression. It made me wonder if I should be embarrassed by it all. Should I shut down the site? Should I stop posting on social media?
The event that sparked this was enough to trigger my depression so, of course, I ended up in bed early. As I began to fade in and out these questions peppered my brain at an overwhelming frequency.
Should I really be ashamed of my depression and anxiety?
“$@$# that!” was the last thing my heart said before I passed out.
While the expletive-laced response may bother some it truly represents a hardness I have when it comes to my depression. My refusal to be ashamed is almost as strong as my refusal to give up. I feel like my illness has left me weak in so many areas of life. To me, I’m clearly limping along. Yet when it comes to this point I’ve never been stronger. I refuse to be ashamed of my depression.
This morning I woke up with an even stronger resolve but I was curious where it all came from. Why do I feel so strongly about wearing my depression on my sleeve?
I managed to narrow it down to five for you. So let’s jump in…
1. It is not my fault
It was never my intention to spend my days fighting depression. I never planned to spend year 30 of my life in bed. We used to think the chemical change occurred because I took ephedra (when it was legal) in high school. I now realize my depression and anxiety goes as far back as I do. We just never diagnosed or treated it. Why would we? I have enough positive traits in my personality that I can fake it with the best of them.
The point is that I was born this way so I can’t blame myself for being like this. I should not feel ashamed or guilty because this is not my fault.
Now what I do with this life, broken to hell as it may be, is on me. My focus should not be on shame but on action. What can I do to not waste this? What can I do to create some positivity out of all this crap?
2. It doesn’t change my value
Look, it’s taken 31 years of super-encouraging family and friends, 17 years of therapy, and a whole lot of Bible study to finally be able to tell you that I’m pretty freaking valuable. I have worth. So do you.
Depression doesn’t change that, in any way.
Let me challenge you. You are as valuable as you believe you are. Every delusional reality ’star’ is proof of that.
If you believe depression alters your value and you think you are worthless then here’s what you do:
First, start writing down the stuff you don’t believe about yourself on Post-It notes or 3×5 cards. Write down that you are loved. Write down that you are valuable. Write down that you love making sales calls (that’s one I did once). Tape those guys all over your home and whenever you see one you recite it out loud to yourself. Once you get used to seeing them, change up the colors and positions so your eyes keep catching them.
I’m telling you nothing has shifted how I view myself more than that. I did more for my self-confidence in 6 months of doing that than in 6 years of therapy. It’s remarkable.
Second, if you do not feel you are valuable then provide value to someone else. Give of yourself to somebody. If your depression doesn’t let you do it today then keep it on the list for tomorrow. Create some value for this world. That’s what Sad Runner is. I don’t want any part of my life wasted even the BS depression I’m stuck with. If I waste it, it’s worthless.
What if I can take this horrible illness and create some positivity in the world and help other people who are going through the same thing? How cool would that be?! That is making a beautiful mark with an otherwise ugly pen. So go provide some value. Share your story with someone who is hurting like you. Text a friend to see how they are doing even though you can’t possibly handle your emotional issues and their’s too. Do it anyway. Provide some value.
But, let’s not forget, you are still valuable to begin with.
3. I’m not the only one
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that about 9 percent of adult Americans have feelings that generate a depression diagnosis.
Here’s the stat that gets me: About 3 percent have major depression. 3 percent! That means that if I’m in a room with 99 other people there’s a good chance that 2 other people feel similarly to me. Scale that up however you want. You’re not the only one at your school, in your company, or in your city dealing with this. Yes, each case is unique but you can’t tell me being part of that large number makes you alone.
Here’s another statistic for you: Major depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44. That’s a big age range in an even bigger sample size. Why should I be ashamed of something that’s pretty common?
Are you ashamed of your migraines? What about your cold? Obviously the difference is the stigma. That sucks. It shouldn’t be that way. Look at how many people are suffering with depression. Look how many people have given up and killed themselves. You aren’t the first one. You won’t be the last. You aren’t even the only person with your name and ethnicity that will ever have it.
Stop making a crappy situation worse by feeling guilty and ashamed. It is wasted energy and we both know you need that energy to fight this depression.
The knife’s already in you dude, you don’t need to twist the blade too.
4. Because I’m loved anyway
I believe the only true unconditional love comes from God. Second to that is my parents and wife. I don’t think anybody could love someone as much as they love me. I’m lucky. Not everybody has that. But whether you’re surrounded by parents who don’t know how to express it or you’re battling this thing quietly, afraid to tell anyone, I want to tell you that you are loved despite your illness.
Your depression is not a reason someone should or should not love you. Most of all your depression is not a reason YOU should or should not love you. So many people are making their depression worse by hating themselves for it. Depression is hard enough without pouring hate and guilt on top of it.
I have a tendency to apologize to my wife whenever my depression ruins our plans. Most of the time she gets frustrated with me because she doesn’t see a point in apologizing for something like that. To her it’s my depression’s fault not mine. To her we’re on the same side of this battle. It’s clear that my wife hates my depression but she loves me.
We have to be that way to ourselves. We are not our depression. It’s us vs. our depression. We must learn to hate the depression but still love ourselves. We cannot continue to hate ourselves. That helps us in no way.
At times I’ve used both hate and love to fuel myself and get me closer to a goal. But I will tell you without any doubt that I’ve never crossed a finish line by hating myself. That leads me to failure every time.
5. Because too many others are ashamed
This is why I won’t hide my depression. This is why I write about it publicly. There are so many out there who are too ashamed to share their hurts. That makes it harder for the rest of us. When you keep quiet then people think they are the only ones. When they think they are the only ones they feel like outcasts. They feel alone. They feel unloved. They feel worthless. They think they did something wrong. They are ashamed.
Shame hurts. It doesn’t help. Those who can speak should speak so that the ones who can’t know they aren’t alone.
You should not feel ashamed of your depression. Today, make these five reasons yours. Own them, make an impact both on your own mental health and the health of others.
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