This scene may feel all too familiar: A whole day wasted watching movies in your sweatpants, eating salty, sweet, crunchy, cheesy foods. Crying at that part in 10 Things I Hate About You when she reads her poem in class. Ignoring calls from your best friend because you do not have it in you to pick up. Sending a “sorry, it’s been a busy day!” text instead. Getting sucked up in a web of emotions and feeling sorry for yourself. Your internal narrative is cursing at you for not being productive. The dishes need to be washed. Your pile of dirty laundry is mocking you. You have a to-do list a mile long that seems to get bigger each hour. The day feels heavy and your heart feels heavier.
Unfortunately, we still live in a world where mental illness is misunderstood. It’s acceptable to take a sick day for the sniffles, but never for depression. Friends will bring you soup and Gatorade when you suffer from a virus, but they will distance themselves from your crippling anxiety. Having a mental illness can be extremely isolating. Even for the greatest of extroverts, depression creates a shell around you that keeps others out. It is hard to admit to yourself “I am depressed,” let alone say it to a close friend or boss. Nor is depression seen as a legitimate excuse for missing work or acting differently.
“Just be happy. It’s not that hard. I don’t understand why you’re so upset; your life is perfect.”
These types of messages cause a spiral in the wrong direction. It paints a picture that for some reason, these feelings are wrong. Your behaviors are abnormal. In turn, these thoughts manifest into resentment, self-pity, and hopelessness.
Sometimes, I have days I fall hard into a rut for no reason at all. Sometimes it is even days on end. No breakup, no fight, no looming work stress—nothing. I just feel blue. The deepest, darkest indigo. It seems like nothing can drag me out of this hole. No bubble bath, glass of wine, snuggles from my cat, or chocolate ice cream can possibly dissolve these feelings.
For most of my life, I hated myself for this. I felt weak. I despised these days, and I resented myself for weeks after. I told myself I needed to suck it up and stop being overemotional. If I didn’t have a “rational” reason to be upset, then I didn’t deserve a day to mope.
I still battle this mindset sometimes, but I try to instill these mantras.
You are not weak.
Depression is real, it is hard, and it is normal.
You don’t need a reason to feel deep emotions.
Do not ever be sorry for feeling.
Your mental illness does not define you.
You are strong.
Having an empathetic nature is not a weakness; it is not a curse.
Having a mental illness is not a weakness; it is not a curse.
Having a profound emotional depth is a gift that enables you to love harder and feel deeper.
Maybe one day we will live in a world that destigmatizes mental illness. That gives everyone around us the benefit of the doubt—the girl who turns to drugs to numb the pain inside her, the man that brings a smile to everyone’s face but never shows the struggles that rest inside him, the child that acts out because these feelings of unrest are foreign and scary. We all have feelings and we all struggle in our own way. But never underestimate how strong you are. Each day you persevere is a testament to your strength and character. Even on the hardest days, the deepest shade of indigo blues, remember you’re not alone and you never have to apologize.