#HealthyAuthors: Mental Health
Amber Page kicks off our new #HealthyAuthors column, talking about writing through depression.
I’ve dealt with depression for as long as I can remember. Although, honestly, I didn’t know that’s what it was for a long, long time. I just knew that every once in a while, the color would seep out of my world, taking everything that made life good with it.
When it took over, I hated everyone and everything—especially myself. All I wanted to do was huddle in a corner, waiting for sleep to take me away from the black fog of despair that threatened to suffocate me. And if someone or something disturbed me (like, you know, my job, my family, or my friends), it was all I could do not to lash out in anger.
But you know what? No one around me had a clue. If you had asked most of the people who knew me, they would have said something like, “Amber? She’s not depressed. She’s always smiling.”
That’s because I knew what I was feeling wasn’t normal. And I was pretty sure that if anyone knew what was really going on in my head, they’d be disgusted.
So the worse I hurt, the more I pretended. And the more I pretended, the worse I hurt. It was a never-ending spiral of awfulness.
Eventually, I hit rock bottom. And when that happened, I gave in to my husband’s pleas to get help (it turns out it’s impossible to hide something that big from the person who loves you best).
When the dust settled, I had a diagnosis of mental illness with a label of “chronic clinical depression.”
As I struggled to come to terms with it, I reached out to a few people for help—which turned out to be a giant mistake. Most had no idea what to do. Some distanced themselves from me. Some told me that the doctors were wrong—there was no way I had a mental illness. Others just blew it off.
I still felt completely isolated and alone. Until, that is, blogging became a thing.
Suddenly, I had an outlet—and a community. Through the internet, I could connect with people all over the world. People who got me. People who struggled with the same issues—and had the same demons.
So, one day when my daughter was a little over four months old, I took a risk. I published a post admitting that I thought I might be struggling with another bout of depression.
After I hit the publish button, I almost puked. I expected my new friends to react the same way my real life community did—with confusion at best and disgust at worst.
I was wrong.
You can’t see the comments any longer (I switched blogging platforms and lost them), but my virtual community did the complete opposite of what I expected them to do.
They supported me.
They comforted me.
And best of all, they said, “me too.”
I wasn’t alone anymore. There were people I could talk to. People who understood. People who were struggling with it themselves—and who were just as determined to come out on top.
I’ve written about it again and again over the years. And every time I’ve published a post about my depression, I’ve gotten the same support.
It’s been incredibly freeing.
Even better, I’ve gotten notes back from readers thanking me for my posts. People who are struggling, and feeling completely isolated, and who have no idea who they can talk to.
To know I’ve been able to help someone—even in a tiny way—almost makes it all worthwhile. Almost.
So if you’re out there right now, feeling like there’s no hope for you—or nothing for you at all—know you’re not alone. And you’re not broken. Or worthless. Or stupid. Or ugly. Or any of the five million other terrible things your brain is telling you right now.
Depression lies. It lies and it steals and it hurts, but it isn’t you.
You are a beautiful person. You are loved, you are needed, and you can beat this. And we can help you, if you let us.
If you just need to talk to someone, please feel free to email me at writeamberwrite (at) gmail dot com.
If you need professional help, there are lots of resources out there. Here are just a few:
In the U.S.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (http://www.nami.org/Find-Support)
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (http://www.dbsalliance.org/)
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (https://www.adaa.org/)
In the U.K.
Depression Alliance (http://www.mind.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/depression-alliance/)
Mental Health UK (https://www.mentalhealth-uk.org)