I would like to first apologize to Bob Dylan for this title, but also I’m not really sorry.
A few weeks ago my friend, Kathy Karlo, posted a completely black image on her Instagram page. She captioned it with this:
“How do you tell the internet when you are feeling sad? […] It’s hard to curate and choose the perfect image to go along with it. I woke up sad today, and I don’t write that for sympathy or for an array of “are you ok?”s. (In fact, please don’t ask me anything along those lines.) I’m writing this because sometimes it’s important to let the world know that you don’t have the words, or that something feels heavy, or that your body and heart feel exhaustion but explaining to people why seems even more exhausting—that life isn’t a series of boxes that you can fill with nature and doggos and climbing.”
When she wrote this, it was like she had plucked words from my brain but that I couldn’t write down in my tiny Instagram caption- in fact, later that day I posted a photo that I had wanted to caption similarly but instead just complained about how badly I wanted to go camping. The truth behind that post was that in reality, all I wanted was to be plucked from the universe for a little while.
Living in Utah this last summer was as close as I could get to that. I had escaped the universe of Atlanta and all that it embodied. I no longer had to worry about bumping into my ex or being asked if I was “____’s ex-girlfriend” (which is a terrible fucking way to relate to anyone). I wasn’t in school. I was an entirely new person. Unfortunately, it didn’t keep me from wandering onto his Instagram once and realizing he’d already started dating someone else. Unfortunately, living in Utah didn’t actually get rid of or mitigate any of the problems I had left back in Atlanta, and upon returning to this city, I also returned to them.
I’ve been in and out of therapy for the last four years. I’ve taken medication for anxiety. I’ve made lists of things I was grateful for in an effort to change my perspective about the world. I’ve even journaled (not counting this blog), which I hate. According to 2016 statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, “an estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode.” Having had friends that have contemplated, attempted, and committed suicide, it’s hard for me to put myself in the same group but when looking up symptoms associated with the term “suicidal ideation” or the fleeting thought of suicide, I can easily tick off a handful of symptoms I can relate to-
- experiencing depression, panic attacks, impaired concentration
- having mood swings, either happy or sad
- feeling or appearing to feel trapped or hopeless
- feeling intolerable emotional pain
- severe remorse and self-criticism
- seeming to be unable to experience pleasurable emotions from normally pleasurable life events such as eating, exercise, social interaction, or sex
On Monday I emailed a professor of mine, apologizing for turning an assignment in late due to personal emotional struggles (listing off my looming anxiety over graduating and overall sense of apathy for everything about Atlanta) and admitting that I was thoroughly annoyed with myself for letting my emotional distress overwhelm me. I had done this last semester during the break-up and was rewarded by generally positive responses and “I hope you feel better”s. This professor, however, sent me back three paragraphs.
“[…]I hope you might perhaps come to see and understand that it took courage to send your email. In other words, even though your emotions may themselves be telling you something different, your emotions are not a manifestation of failure nor of weakness, and that to offer anyone openness and sincerity about the emotional struggles you may be shouldering is actually a very admirable testament to the strength and quality of your character.”
This is only a small excerpt of the email. I forget sometimes, that I am a very openly emotional person. I often like to pretend that I don’t like talking about my emotions or being open to people, but the truth is that being emotionally vulnerable, while scary and exhausting, creates more meaningful relationships. The truth is that I’m not just sad- I’m scared, exhausted, mentally unhealthy right now, over-worked, waiting for others to decide if I can or cannot graduate, trapped for another 6 months in a city I can’t stand to be in, and still trying to navigate social interactions with people and places post a mentally traumatic break-up.
There are days when I am sad. There are days when I am far more than sad. There are days when I no longer wish to exist for a moment because I can’t handle the intensity of everything happening in the world. It is hard and scary to admit those things. No photo can truly encompass those feelings, but they are important to talk about. They are important to acknowledge. They are important to get help with.
Depression/Mental Health Hotlines:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
SAMHSA’s behavioral health treatment services locator is an easy and anonymous way to locate treatment facilities and other resources, such as support groups and counselors, to treat and manage depression.
- National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
If your depression is leading to suicidal thoughts, call the National Hopeline to connect with a depression treatment center in your area. The Hopeline also offers a live chat feature for those who don’t want to (or are unable to) call and can dispatch emergency crews to your location if necessary.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
This national hotline is another valuable resource for people whose depression has escalated to suicidal or other harmful thoughts. Their network of crisis centers provide emotional support and guidance to people in distress and are also available via a chat service and a special hotline number for the hearing impaired: 1-800-799-4889.
- National Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-4663
This resource provides brief interventions for youth who are dealing with pregnancy, sexual abuse, child abuse, depression and suicidal thoughts. They also provide referrals to local counseling, treatment centers, and shelters.