Anyone who has been around here for a little while knows that I am passionate about mental health. Not only am I passionate, I advocate for seeking help in any way that is beneficial for you – whether that is talking it through with a friend or close family member, seeking out a therapist, medicine, in-patient treatment, etc. With the death of Kate Spade this week ruled officially a suicide and a greater spotlight put on the epidemic of depression in our country, I can’t help but feel compelled to pen my own thoughts on mental health and why I have such a strong call to be a voice within the community.
I have talked at length previously, but for anyone who may be new – HI! I’m glad you’re here, especially today where I’m talking about a topic I feel so strongly about. Mental health is a topic I became so intertwined with and aware of after I was sexually assaulted in 2015. I painted on an exterior facial shield, but at home, I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming and crying, reliving it all over again in my dreams, leaving me feeling helpless and without a proper way to explain what was going on inside my head and Dane reeling on what to do for his wife. But I was determined to “fix it” on my own, so to avoid the night terrors I just stopped sleeping. As you can imagine, this left me as a shell of myself as I continued to navigate on autopilot going through the motions of life. I was strong and capable, so why wasn’t I mentally just “handling it”?
The Army took Dane away shortly after it happened, so sitting at home alone in silence became my reality. I sank into a life of sitting on my couch alone and staring at the wall, because that was easier than trying to leave the house and force emotion of any kind. I felt blank, empty and wondered if life as I knew it would ever be the same again. Was this feeling my new normal? Again I wondered – why can’t I just fix this?
During this time, a good friend of mine asked me how I was doing. I said “Oh I’m fine.” (That’s a good autopilot answer, if you were wondering). But she knew I wasn’t. I lacked my usual zest for life. She practically forced my hand when she suggested we get lunch. I made every excuse not to go, but I found myself sitting at a table across from her a few hours later in the Ala Moana shopping mall. She looked me square in the eye and said…Kait, you need help. You cannot do this alone.
We need more people in this world like my friend Caitlin. The world needs more good friends — more people who genuinely want to know how you are when they ask and more friends who know when something is amiss and aren’t afraid to dig past your forced smile and lead your charge when you aren’t feeling up for the challenge. Be that friend.
People have said to me…I don’t get it, you don’t look depressed. I sometimes feel like, as a society, we need to see a tangible wound that needs fixed in order to appropriately “bandage and heal” or a visible diagnosis that makes it easy to differentiate sick from not sick. But the reality is that depression can be a cruel chameleon and doesn’t know gender, race or socioeconomic standing. It moonlights in moms, dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles….anyone. It’s not a broken bone or outward injury, but an inner inferno that burns your psyche — a diagnosis that only the person suffering can feel and leaves others at a loss on what to do. It is – quite possibly – the most dangerous disease of all, because it so often gets ignored, pushed aside and remains invisible.
I think we also live in a world where social media makes it increasingly easy to paint our lives with a very specific brush. Where we can make ourselves appear on top of the world and inside, our worlds are falling down around us.
3 years later, I still see a therapist, take medication and turn to alternative healing outlets like running to live a life that makes me truly happy both internally and externally. I am not ashamed to admit any of these things – I don’t call them crazy pills (I’m not crazy), or feel shameful when I say “That time doesn’t work for me, I am meeting with my therapist”. I am making choices that benefit my long term health and happiness.
If anyone reading takes one thing from this post today, let it be this: Be that that safe space and confidant for someone. Whether it’s a friend or family member, colleague or acquaintance – be there. Show up. Lend an ear. Having the courage to reach out to someone to say “hey, I’m not okay” or “I don’t feel like myself” is sometimes an overwhelmingly courageous decision and one that doesn’t come easily to many. And if those same friends, family members or colleagues don’t quite seem like themselves, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. You never know who around you might be trying to heal from things they don’t talk about.
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