A friend who struggles with depression and anxiety texted me one day and asked what I did on the bad days when I couldn’t get out of bed.
It’s a good question. I stared at her text and collected my thoughts. I certainly had those days, but as I formulated an answer, tears stung my eyes.
I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t get out of bed. Months? Maybe years? I can’t even remember a day when I woke up slow, even though my son’s internal wake-up time is 5 a.m.
Just a few years ago, I pretended to have a migraine so I could stay in bed. I made excuse after excuse to my husband why I couldn’t get up. I slept until mid-morning or mid-afternoon and then worried about picking up the kids. I felt the depression pressing on my limbs, but I didn’t notice that it had become a ball and chain. I was stuck and hopeless, unable to move forward.
I could only do the bare minimum with my kids. My husband and my mother-in-law picked up the slack with the kids, which piled up the guilt and exacerbated my depression.
I was desperate for help, but my doctor said I had treatment-resistant depression and that medication probably wouldn’t help. He didn’t mention any other treatments, so I didn’t realize there were any until my best friend stepped in and recommended The Menninger Clinic in Houston.
I stayed there for six weeks and it changed my life. The doctors changed my medication and I tried electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I learned coping skills and attended intensive therapy.
But I felt so all alone. I knew better, but my insidious brain told me I did. I didn’t know anyone who went through the same thing. It took me a while to realize it was the stigma that kept others quiet. It’s that bleak emptiness that makes some want to commit suicide. It did me. I’ve been suicidal more times than I can count, but I’m one of the lucky ones who lived.
Mental health is important: Struggling with depression? Don’t forget to celebrate your victories.
That’s why I talk so much about my experience – I had no guide or directions on how to live with my conditions. But luckily things are changing. People talk about mental illness, and the more we normalize it, the more we clear up misconceptions and misinformation. More people will seek help and actually receive it.
Then one day someone will ask about your experience, and you will realize how much better, healthier you are. Your answers will write the pages in what will become their guide. It will not feel like unnecessary suffering.
You’re going to sing again. And laugh, even a chuckle. You may become depressed and anxious again, but you will learn that it is only temporary and that joy can live in you again. That there is always hope.
You will be stronger than you’ve ever been, the very best version of yourself.
You don’t have to work so hard to get out of bed.
Heather Loeb has struggled with major depression, anxiety and a personality disorder for over 20 years, while also battling the stigma of mental health. She is the creator of Unruly Neurons (www.unrulyneurons.com), a blog devoted to normalizing depression and a member of State Representative Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Taskforce.
MIND IS IMPORTANT
Now more than ever, we need to take care of our mental health. Guest columnist Heather Loeb discusses why and explores other important mental health topics in this special series.