world health day
Each year on April 7th, the World Health Organization marks the anniversary of it's founding by celebrating World Health Day. Each year they have a theme. Typically something considered a current public health priority. This year's theme is depression. This is important.
Mental health has been somewhat of a fad as of late, but the stigma surrounding mental health, and particularly depression, is very, very real. Which is unfortunate, because in reality, close to 10% of the world's population is said to suffer from depression or anxiety, or some sort of combination of both. This is a lot of people.
I could continue to rattle off a bunch of facts about how many people are affected, who is high risk, what the signs and symptoms are and what could cause it, but I won't (don't worry, there are helpful links at the bottom here for you to learn more, because learning these things is still very important). Instead, I'm going to get a little bit personal here.
Let me begin by saying that depression IS personal. It manifests itself in different people in different ways. It shows up at different times and for different reasons. It can be all consuming or it can be a nagging annoyance. What it is to me, and my story, is not anyone else's. But I hope that by sharing it, someone might recognize a little bit of themselves in it. Perhaps just to know that they're not alone, perhaps to gain the courage to take a step towards getting help, perhaps to realize that it's ok, or perhaps just to begin to understand a little bit more about something unknown.
For years, the way I felt didn't have a label. A nagging pit in my stomach that I was fucking up, that everything, all of the time, was my fault. That I would never be happy, because I would never be good enough. That no matter what I did I couldn't get my head above water. That despite the straight A's, surviving living in a foreign country, getting a good job in a competitive industry - that I was a failure. Getting out of bed most mornings was, quite literally, a physical challenge. A weight, 100 tons, just sitting on my chest, daring me not to move. I got quite good at putting on a smile, becoming the life of the party (as long as there was an excess of booze).
Fake it til you make it, right?
It worked for a while. And some days better than others. Breakdown after breakdown came. Often arriving at the most inconvenient of times. Typically with no warning at all. New York was finally home, a place I had been lusting after since I first stepped foot in Times Square at age 17. But I couldn't enjoy it. I have no other words to describe it other than a fog, clouding my head and thoughts at all times. I lost interest in things I used to like. I became apathetic about my job. I stopped trying to make friends. I slept, a lot. I couldn't concentrate, yet my brain was never off. I felt helpless, lost, confused, tired. I didn't know why. I still don't really know why. But the longer this went on, the more often I started wondering why I was even here to begin with.
In all honesty, I didn't have a "come to Jesus" moment. I had a lot of them. And throughout the years one finally stuck. At some point I knew I had to make a change. This is where I should be telling you I went to seek professional help, but that actually came later. Instead, this is where I tell you I started writing. And going to yoga.
I found, slowly, that putting words down on pages started to chip away at some of that weight. I don't think I knew it at the time, but the process of taking the crazy, jumbled, nonsensical, real, terrifying, and downright bananas thoughts I had in my head was a very real source of therapy. I haven't gone back to read any of it, but it's there. I started going to the gym more, and returned to my yoga mat. Growing up, dancing was my biggest release, and I thought maybe I'd find that again through yoga (which I did). But more than the physical act, it was a time to force my brain to slow down. To look in a mirror and watch progress. To see tangible change and growth and improvement and success. To know that I could do things, and to start to understand failure as a necessary footpath for growth.
About a year ago now is when I was officially diagnosed. And I'm ok. That weight on my chest is still there, but it's not nearly as heavy. Those thoughts are still there, but nearly as pervasive. I'm happy. I fall down. I fail. I question things. But I'm happy.
I tell this story because I want it to be ok, not just for me, but for everyone. I also tell this story to get it off my chest. Most people that know me well know that I was diasgnosed. They probably don't know just how that came to be, or what I deal with on a daily basis. It's funny, as I never thought I'd be putting this out there on the internet for the world to see, but it feels right. Words saved me, privately, at home. So maybe my words can help someone else too.
The slogan for today is "Depression: let's talk" - so I finally am. Let's talk about it publicly, to make sure that everyone know's that it's ok, That its not a weakness or a fault. That its something that can be treated. That its not something you can prevent, but that it is something you can work to control. Let's talk about where to go to get help. Let's talk about our fears, the consequences. Let's talk about the love and support. Let's talk about our stories, so that we know we're not alone.
as promised, here are some helpful links to learn more about depression, what it is, where it comes from, why is important.
here are some helpful websites and phone numbers should you be looking for help. and remember, in case of emergency fuck all this and call 911. you're too important not to.
national suicide prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
and lastly, share your stories with me. reach out. or don't. but know that I am a resource too, and that I love you.