For those of you who don’t have a mental disorder or have never experienced someone with a mental disorder, it goes a little something like this: imagine you’ve fallen down into a well. The well is deep enough where you feel scared, alone, frightened, and hopeless… But when you look up, you can see the opening of the well, getting out is possible. There are days you push yourself to climb up the well and escape the darkness that surrounds you. You dig your fingers into the stones, and force yourself up the walls of the deep well. On the way up you experience exhaustion and pain, slowing your climb, and sometimes it ultimately causes you to fall back to the bottom of the miserable well. Other days, you are so tired from all the attempts to get out the well, you decide to just sit at the bottom of your well of hopelessness and wonder if you’ll ever actually get out. You ponder what life would be like if you never fell into the well, what life could be like if you ever get out the well, why no one understands it’s not as easy as it looks to get out this fucking well… Will you be trapped at the bottom of this well forever? The Well of Depression…sucks.
Many people think that when you have a mental disorder such as bipolar, anxiety, or depression you have a troubled past or you’re psychotic. Interestingly enough – these people are your neighbors, your friends, your family, your co-workers, etc. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t like being sad all the time — that sadness weighs us down, and makes it difficult for us to enjoy the things we love in life, things that once made us pretty happy. There is nothing we want more than to be that happy again, and the phrase “just be happy” isn’t applicable when you suffer from a mental disorder – the walls of that well surround you.
In fact we spend most of our time trying to get our shit together in order to convince the world that we are okay, doing just enough to get by. We have to strive to make it out of bed, make it through the work day without getting fired, getting through that outing, eating… everyday tasks seem like an iron man marathon for someone with a mental disorder. This is where most of our energy is lost; in the lies we tell other people and ourselves that we are “Okay.” No, we are not okay, and it upsets us that you can’t tell and force us to live life like we are “Okay.” What is most frustrating is when we are judged and questioned why we feel the way we feel, when we “have everything.”
I don’t want to take away from my accomplishments, throw myself a pity party, or make you believe that I am ignorant of the fact there are people in the world who are suffering more than I can begin to imagine. I came from a beautiful home, with two loving parents, attended the finest private schools, interned at some of the most prestigious fashion companies in New York City, graduated college with honors, got a job shortly after, picked up a passion for beauty pageants – won, bringing national success to my home state two years in a row, was given multiple modeling opportunities along the way, all before I turned 24. From a completely objective perspective – my life has been a delightful picnic, many people come to emulate and praise. If only we were able to see our own lives from a perspective view, such disorders may not exist.
I was officially diagnosed with major depression when I was 19 years old, and after intense therapy, lack of mental improvement, two attempts, and multiple in-patient visits – I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Bipolar II is similar to bipolar I disorder, except the “up” moods never reach full blown mania – these elevated moods are called hypomanic episodes, or hypomania. A person affected by bipolar II disorder suffer more often from episodes of depression, or manic depression – but in between hypomania and episodes of manic depression, people with bipolar disorder live pretty normal lives.
This means some days I am pushing myself up the wall of my deep well, other days I’m still hanging by a brick on to the wall, looking up and down weighing my options, but most of my days I sit exhausted at the bottom of my sad little well. No matter what I do, there is an absence, and emptiness that even all my successes, wins, and possessions just can’t fill.
But no one would ever know how bad I feel, thanks to social media and the online persona I have built for myself. Yes – there’s that infamous lie I told you about earlier. In today’s digital age, lying to everyone about how awesome we are all doing has become easier than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, everything I post on social media is 100% accurate and true – nothing manipulated and misconstrued, I do cool shit. Pageants, photo shoots, appearances, pictures with celebrities, and a social outing here at there – has people convinced, I really have my shit together and I’m happy. I mad you think, I was the “it” girl.
What I eliminate or “don’t share” are the days when I can barely pull myself out of bed, or the days I spend hours in my office crying, the sleepless nights I have because my mind is racing with my worries and concerns, or the countless relationships I’ve lost because they can’t accept all of me for my ups and downs… literally. You would never know – because I have manipulated how the public perceives my life.
No surprise, no one actually posts the shitty aspects of their lives online, and if they do, they are labeled as an “attention seeker” – this is why we hate social media. It’s not real. But we know this to be true, and continue to subject ourselves to digital torture anyway. No, we don’t measure our worth in the amount of “likes,” followers, friends, shares, comments, etc that we get – in fact we could care less. All we want you to know [think] is that we are “OK.” In hopes we can buy time to convince you that we are just peachy enough to perhaps feel as good as we make you think we feel. I look at myself on social media and think, “wow, she has a pretty dope life” and hope that maybe one day I can convince myself that I really do have a pretty dope life, behind the good and bad, and it’s a life worth climbing out of the well and enjoying.