Let me start by getting one thing out in the open: I live with depression. I have for the majority of my life.
I didn’t know what was ‘wrong’ with me and I thought for a long time that was how everyone experienced life. It’s a bit startling to read that One in five young people have experienced depression, compared to only 16 percent of Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers (and yet, comforting to know it is not just me.)
There were days and weeks with a cloud in my brain; feeling weighed down in my body without energy to get out of bed or live life… I thought, didn’t everyone go through that? Or the times where uncontrollable dread, fear, and anxiety welled up and paralyzed me, often resulting in panic attacks and retreating back to the comfort and safety of my bed or couch…that wasn’t a part of your normal existence? How about the seemingly undeniable truth that played over in my head that the world, my family, everyone would be better off if I were dead.
That is a harsh, ugly and unpleasant thing for many to read. But that was where I lived in myself for years.
It is scary to talk about mental illness with people that I love, it’s far more intimidating letting it loose in the world where there isn’t a personal connection and safety net… but, I share because it is important. I bear witness to my own discomfort and allow my vulnerability to bear witness to others (often invisible) struggle. I find this important to share because as that statistic notes, we are not alone and often we feel that we are. Living in a world that is so connected, (thanks, technology!) we are more disconnected from ourselves and what real connection is that we are often more isolated now with 1000 ‘friends’ than we are with only 10.
Here are three reasons why I am opening myself up, sharing my truth and getting real:
Mental Health Stigma
While there is still a huge stigma around mental illness Millennial’s are challenging that stigma. This is the time for us all to show up and show out. If we are not willing to open ourselves up and be vulnerable with one another, how can we ask others to do the same? I want to exist in a world where when someone in my life needs help, we don’t shun or shame them into silence. We open our arms, embrace them and help them heal. I want to be a voice of change and that is why I share my stories and experiences, good bad and ugly. The more we talk about these uncomfortable truths and life experiences the more widespread positive change and acceptance we will create. We need to be able to start the conversations, shimmy the shame off and let the stigma go.
You Are Not Alone
I am speaking to you, yes, the one with the eyes and the uncertainty about why you’re reading some unknown person’s post about depression… I am speaking to the ones who don’t have the strength or ability to ask for help. I am speaking to your mother, your sister, your daughter, your niece, your partner your friend. I am speaking to people of all ages, classes, races, sexual identities, orientations, and abilities. Mental health issues do not discriminate. We are all exposed, vulnerable and it can happen to you. It is so important that we stand together and lift each other up in love and compassion. It is critical that our young people know that they are not alone in this struggle. Life is hard enough as a young person without the added struggle of depression or other mental health issues. Let’s rise up in love. When suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in our country I want to be sure that you, and everyone you know, understands that they have someone to turn to. They have someplace to get help. I have been down a very dark and narrow road that could have very easily crossed into that territory. I felt alone. I felt nothing. I want folks to know they are not alone, do not need to suffer in silence or feel that they are isolated in their experience. You are loved and you are of value.
You know how “reality” TV isn’t quite so real, but rather entertaining? Social Media has moved right on up into that same category it seems like. The sad truth is that Social media Comparison is real and it is known to cause or exacerbate depression and depressive tendencies. When we compare our social media feed to our own, we feel bad about the state of our lives and accomplishments. All of a sudden my trip to Thailand looks lackluster next to the Bucket list Family (I don’t actually feel that way but I’m trying to make a point here… but they are inspiring and if you don’t know their story already, read about them!).
When we find ourselves in this social media comparison vortex (endlessly scrolling, feeling worse and worse about ourselves) what we are doing is diminishing our self-worth and comparing our lives to someone else’s façade of a life. Yes, they may have a great life, but it isn’t as shiny and perfect as it appears. The thoughts start coming in fast, “I am not good enough / doing enough / traveling enough / my apartment is big enough / well decorated / I don’t make enough money / I don’t have a tiny dog that sings and paints and finds me when I am lost … or whatever it is… the message you are sending deep inside to your center is… you aren’t enough. So stop that, right now! Show up and be true. Recognize that social media is the reality TV or the photo-shopped magazine cover. Until we all start sharing our truths, most of what you see on social media is only a small part of real reality.
And life goes on…I share my ups and downs because that is my real life. I have good days, happy times and that is great! But sometimes it’s difficult and challenging and that is okay, too. When we allow ourselves to be seen for who we are: flaws, imperfections and all, that is where the root of all connection begins. Real connection with others around the world is absolutely happening and is made possible because of social media tools and the internet, thank goodness we live in a digital age! But let’s not allow that access and globalization to strip us of our essence and humanity which is inherent in our collective and connecting nature. Let’s all take steps to open ourselves up by living and breathing, posting and tweeting our truth. Sharing my stories and allowing my humanity be seen by you all is the best way I know how to do that.
Be on the lookout for Millennial Mindset: Part 2 for more insight and truth sharing, straight from a Millennial mouth (or rather, keyboard…)
If you — or someone you know — need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For international resources outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention.