“Go away,” I shout angrily as I squish my head beneath the pillow. I blink my eyes in the dark, desperately trying to slip back into the bliss of unconsciousness. No luck.
I take a deep breath trying to calm the storm swirling within my brain.
“Nobody wants you here,” I yell with my abnormally low-pitched morning voice, my body spread out like a starfish.
With a heavy sigh I can already tell, he’s here to stay.
This unwanted house guest doesn’t stop by as much as he used to. In fact, I haven’t seen a trace of him in months. Yet somehow he always manages to sneak back in through the window. No, I’m not talking about Antoine Dodson—the Hide Your Kids/Hide Your Wife Guy from that 2010 viral youtube video—I’m talking about someone far less charismatic: this awful companion of mine called depression.
The truth is I super don’t want to talk to you about this. Mostly because no matter how much I talk about it, you’re probably not going to get it and in your attempts to “understand” you’re going to end up throwing it in my face.
Now Sam, aren’t you being a little harsh.
Honestly, I’m really not.
As I’ve become more open about my struggles, I’ve realized why nobody talks about it. It’s far less painful to navigate the social awkwardness of saying “I’m just tired,” or “sorry, not feeling well,” than open up about what depression and suicidal thoughts look like and feel like.
Especially because in the depths of the struggle, it’s the last thing I want to talk about.
Yet here I am begrudgingly sharing again about the UHG (unwanted house guest). He has been getting a lot more air time lately on the blog, on my speaking tour and even in my in-progress book (which of course he loves, little paralyzing ego-maniac that he is).
I keep talking about my depression not because I want to but because someone has to. I’m speaking up for the millions of those who aren’t strong enough yet.
Don’t worry friend, I’ve got you. Share this on your Facebook wall. Like my Facebook Page. Subscribe to my blog and we’ll fight this thing together. This reluctant post is for you my friend, the one who gets it, in hopes that someone in your life will slowly start to get it too.
So why do I and millions of others hate talking about our depression?
Role the tape boyz.
1.) The Stigma
While we’re just starting to make strides at how to talk about this, we’re still far from calling it what it is—an illness.
It took about 1.4 seconds for my first counselor to say, “Don’t worry, I won’t write down a diagnosis if you don’t want me to.”
That’s perplexing, I thought. Why would medical professional all but advise me to keep quiet about this very real thing in my life? Turns out, a diagnosis of depression can follow you around for a long time. For example, it can prevent you from serving in the military unless you can prove you are symptom free for an entire year.
“Once it’s out there, it’s documented,” he continued. My eyes narrowed at his grey cardigan and plastic, tortoise-shell-rimmed glasses until he spoke again, “but I can write that diagnosis if it’s needed for insurance purposes.”
Hmm, yeah I’ll pass on the label today—kthanksbye.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 15 million adults currently struggle with depression… that’s 6.7% of the population.
WHY ARE WE SO TERRIFIED TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING THAT IS EVERYWHERE.
I hate talking about my depression because most people are afraid to even hear the word. It makes them uncomfortable so they whisper about it or say nothing at all.
The truth is, we fight the stigma by being brave enough to start the conversation (especially when we don’t want to).
2.) Depression Looks CRAZY Different in Different People
Depression is a shape-shifting, sneaky, opportunistic little bugger. For some people, he comes to stay for a short season following a heart-breaking event or the birth of a beautiful baby. For others, he can stay years. Sometimes depression is a reverse snowbird who shows up only for the winter when it’s dark, cold and lonely.
Mild, Moderate, Severe, Seasonal, Post-Partum are all horribly vague descriptors for the wide spectrum that this illness can encompass.
While I’ve battled severe depression in the past, I don’t live there now. I think a lot of people stay quiet because they’re afraid people will jump to the worst possible scenario…like a new mother with WebMD at her finger tips.
I hate talking about depression because I don’t want you to jump the conclusion that I’m crazy. I don’t want your assumptions about this illness to misinform what it’s like to actually love me. And history shows you probably will. We change this by telling people about our journey and letting them into the struggles.
3.) It’s Terrifying to Talk About
For most of my life I had no vocabulary to talk about what it’s like to sit in the shower and cry for hours at a time. I believed I couldn’t trust anyone to see me in the depths of the darkness and not run away—so I kept it hidden. I lived in condemnation and shame.
But God doesn’t call us to walk in darkness. Anyone who decides to follow Jesus walks in the light:
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12)
And that is my story, to a T. My biggest breakthroughs in this fight have been following what the bible says about how to live a full and beautiful life. The most dramatic changes finally took hold when I started following Jesus with my whole heart and gave up living for all the crap that left me empty and lifeless.
There is a version of my life where no one would have ever known about my suicide attempt. I could have kept it hidden in my mind in a folder stamped classified.
But then I prayed a terrifying prayer, I asked God to show me how to use all of the pain and darkness I’ve experienced to help others. His answer is this blog, the speaking tour and my in-progress manuscript.
I hate talking about it because I’m afraid for you to know the worst moments of my story, but don’t you see, that’s the only way anyone can ever truly love you for who you are.
4.) It’s Used Against Me
“I know you were in a dark place during that time.”
Wait, how do you know that when I’ve never said…
“I know you get locked inside yourself.”
I’m sorry what? what does that even mean…
“I know how you get sometimes.”
Personally, this is the hardest out of all 8 reasons for me by far. If you talk to the people you love about depression I guarantee, out of their ignorance, they will throw it in your face.
If you share anything about your mental illness, suddenly it’s used to draw conclusions about certain events or seasons of your life. The Unwanted House Guest becomes the scapegoat for anything that has happened.
I am learning to love these people for trying to get it. It’s a process. But the only way to have deep, meaningful relationships is to let people into the struggle.
I hate talking about depression because it’s messy and hard and complicated.
5.) I Don’t Fully Get it Myself.
I’ve found a lot of ways to fight my depression (Here’s my post with 25 of them). Navigating the Unwanted House Guest is an on-going battle that I am defeating more than ever. I can feel the signs coming on and I can get myself to the gym or out on a walk or playing worship music or to a friends house.
But there are other times I don’t see him coming and sleep the day away. The truth is, all of that is okay. It’s all just part of the journey.
I hate talking about depression because sometimes I couldn’t tell you why life is wonderful one second and crazy hard the next.
6.) It’s Exhausting
Being an advocate for mental health and suicide awareness is exhausting. It takes more energy and vulnerability than I knew I had. And sometimes, I just want out.
Truthfully, I’ve almost pulled the plug on this blog thing more than a couple times. I don’t love having so much of my life out here for all you yahoos to see and judge (love you…).
But then I think about all the people who have lost this fight and somehow, there’s this unbelievable source fight in my backbone to keep going. To save even one person from the depths of hell I was living in will make all of this worth it.
I hate talking about depression because it’s an exhausting uphill battle. But despite my fatigue, I’ll keep fighting this good fight. Will you join me?
7.) I Hate Asking for Help
I have spent my whole life working towards complete self-sufficiency; trying to prove I don’t actually need anyone. But in this fight, you can’t make it alone.
You have to have people in it with you. This illness in my life means sometimes I have to just sit there and receive love. It means I can’t always be the hero, sometimes I have let someone rescue me.
And that feels worse than the depression. It feels yucky and naked.
I’ve had to retrain my brain to believe this truth: asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. We all need help sometimes. If you’re struggling, ask someone. Go visit your doctor, talk to a counselor at your school or workplace. (many insurances cover the first several sessions and many therapists offer sliding fees that allow you to pay what you can afford based on your income). If you’re in crisis mode, call the Talk LINE 24/7 – 1-800-273-8255. They’ll talk to you as long as you need and provide the resources to help you get better.
Your journey towards beating this thing back starts with asking for help.
I hate talking about my depression because it inevitably will involve me asking for help and forgiveness. Gross.
8.) It Doesn’t Define Me
Here’s the biggest reason I hate talking about this stuff:
I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY DEPRESSION OR SUICIDAL THOUGHTS.
I don’t want to be known as the depression guy or the suicide guy. I don’t want to talk about this because it isn’t a part of who I am. Not even a little it.
You see, He says I wasn’t accident and that he knew me before I was in the womb.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. -Jeremiah 1:5
He says that He chose me:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. -1 Peter 2:9
and loves seeing my face:
My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. -Song of Soloman 2:14
He says I was created in his image:
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. -Genesis 1:27
and I have His spirit and the light of his son Jesus, living inside me:
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? -1 Corinthians 3:16
I don’t want to talk to you about depression because I don’t really care about it that much.
- I care a lot more that you know God and how crazy he is about you.
- I care more that you know that his Son died on a cross so that you could be forgiven of all the stupid things you’ve done.
- I care more that you know God placed you here for a reason and prepared good things for you to do.
One of those good things he’s asking me to do is help people escape the shame and condemnation of mental illness.
So, despite my fear, despite the stigma and stupid labels, despite the ignorance and the painful words, despite misunderstandings and misrepresentations, despite my insane stubbornness to never ask for help… here I am.
Standing. Fighting. Being the man God has called me to be. Chasing a life that is fully and recklessly alive to the very best of my ability and inviting you come to join me.
That’s why I am still talking about my depression.
And that’s why I won’t stop.