Last night I had my first anxiety attack in several months…
Today, my first full blown “breakdown” accompanied by the question, “Why am I here?”
All of this was brought on by not expressing the fact that I had/have been having one of my “depressive episodes” (for some reason I don’t like calling it that, but that’s what it is… textbook). For a while I have been sort of isolating, hiding how I feel, and believing there isn’t anyone I can talk to because I put on the funny face or I’m always attempting to be supportive of others, which doesn’t leave time for me to fully express myself. It’s only by the grace of God that I even had the energy to listen to anyone for the past week.
Which of course is the reason why my sleep was interrupted by an anxiety attack and I finally broke down today.
You see the thing is, I’ve always been taught either directly or indirectly that I needed to be strong. Even within my family, since the male presence didn’t really exist much, the females had to take on roles they were never meant to and that of course passed down to me. There are many instances in which I had to put on my “strong face.” For example:
– I was raised with the notion that you can’t tell people most if not all things because it could be perceived as weakness, and those things could be used against you.
– I was molested from 7-9 with the belief that me speaking about it was weakness, and that “our little secret” gave me power.
– Oddly enough, subconsciously (and this is in retrospect) that instance of sexual abuse led me to cover EVERYTHING. My emotions, and let’s just say I dressed pretty warmly regardless of the weather.
– When I was raped as a teenager I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to be seen as a victim and since everyone knew me to be a tomboy by this point, I believed that no one would believe that I couldn’t fight back.
– When my grandmother passed away it took me years to fully grieve her loss, because at the time of her death I was being strong for my mother (shhh… don’t tell her that).
– Hearing the phrase “You are so strong” from damn near everyone, which meant that I had to live up to that (so I thought… I mean.. err.. still think sometimes).
– Having what is perceived as a weak moment and being rejected because of it.
– Living in a culture where the belief is that I needed to strengthen my Christian walk or that I was not fully with Christ if my emotions were not in check (luckily for me, I haven’t stopped believing and a quick sidenote: there are many who Christians deal with mental health issues yet still have a strong belief in God. It is VERY possible, as mental illness is not discriminatory).
– Having to keep silent (or being kept silent) after both of my suicide attempts, and not revealing to the world I did so until starting You’re Not Finished in 2012.
The theme of this recent episode and breakdown: I am SO tired of being strong.
It was only after I calmed down enough that I was able to realize that, it’s almost impossible for people to support me in moments like these because it is engrained in me to prove to others I don’t need said support, and since actions tend to speak louder than words my “strong face” is going to overwhelmingly be louder than me asking for help.
Now don’t get me wrong, with time, growth, and true openness there have been great moments of support and love from those closest to me… and I’m confident it will happen again once I hit “Publish” at the end of this post.
Just like I am confident that there is a strong possibility that I will get depressed, isolate, and potentially have suicidal thoughts in another episode after this one. But those episodes are less frequent and don’t last as long as they used to. Those anxiety attacks have gone from daily to rarely.
I am living proof that it does get better, because I went from putting on a strong face to being one of the strong faces that is an advocate for preventing suicide and raising awareness for mental illness and mood disorders.
If you feel like you always have to put on a strong/brave face there is help available for you, and many people including myself that can relate to you. There is hope, survivors. You and I will go from surviving… to thriving; and we’ll never be the same again. Much love.
Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-8433
[Written in collaboration with 100 Voices for Suicide Prevention, hosted by the Masters of Social Work program at the University of Southern California. Follow them on Twitter @MSWatUSC, and get more resources and support from them here: http://msw.usc.edu/category/100-voices-for-suicide-prevention/
More helpful resources online at: https://yourenotfinished.com/get-help-2/%5D