Sometimes The Bravest Thing You Can Do Is Get Help

I can’t pinpoint when my depression started, but I would say it followed when I was diagnosed with lupus in 2013. I had started an independent life all on my own in the mountains of Colorado only to have to move back to my parent’s home a year later because I could barely pour a cup of coffee.

I ignored my depression for years after moving back home, blaming it solely on the fact that I was physically ill for life. But when medicine started working, and I could pour a cup of coffee without searing pain, my depression became naked.

Blaming it on my illness only lasted so long before the people closest to me could see the pain in my eyes – even when I was laughing.

I met the love of my life in 2016 and we married in sweet November of 2017. Our first year of marriage was a beautiful hot mess. We fought all the time. I cried a lot. He got frustrated. I threw things at doors. He cleaned up broken glass. We didn’t know how to communicate. I was sick – a lot. I winced every time someone awed us saying, “Enjoy that honeymoon stage.” And then, my depression woke up – I hid it under my pillow every night until it was no longer comfortable.

I began to self-harm in 2018 and I did it six times. Every moment was different, but every moment I felt the same hopeless feeling. My brain started to connect the relief from my emotional pain with the act of cutting, and so, it became easier every time.

Try holding this away from your spouse – it ain’t gonna happen. Especially when your spouse is a therapist. My husband knew I hid a lot of my childhood, as well as the ache of my father’s abandonment at 18 and a whole lotta family dysfunction. Maybe it all added up and became too much to bear. My husband did everything he could to prevent my self harming. He hid knives and sharp objects – I tear up as I write it. I was stubborn and didn’t think I needed help.

My body has wounds on my arms and legs, but there were wounds that went so much deeper than anything that bled – than anything you could see. And I needed help.

One morning, with a crick in my neck after how much I had stuffed under my pillow, I agreed to get help. It took everything in me to accept it because accepting it meant I had to face really scary things.

And it was the bravest thing I could’ve done.

I started medication and saw a counselor for a while and today, I’m better for it. And then, as my life would have it, I was diagnosed with a very rare, incurable disease in October that makes me painfully half-blind for months and feels like jellyfish live inside my body. It’s called Neuromyelitis optica – I have my good days, I have my bad days. It’s been easy to fall into depression, but by the grace of God, it’s not prevailed.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m winning, but maybe sometimes we have to fight battles more than once to win. I like to think of my depression as part of my story that had to happen in order for me to be where I’m at today.

I think people who’ve been depressed have a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion and a sincere kindness for others. Maybe we’d not know this deep empathy if we’d not lived through our depression.

If you struggle with depression, here’s a virtual hug and a gentle nudge to seek help if you haven’t. It’s OK. You’re not depression. You have a powerful story to tell. You have a past, a name, and your own quirky awesome characteristics that make you who you are. None of that goes away because you seek help. You’re still you. I’m still me.

You’re already brave.

Who knows, maybe you’ll better for it.

Chronic-Pain: I’m Done Apologizing For Not Showing Up

I have a rare, chronic neurological disease that affects my central nervous system. It’s caused me to become temporarily half-blind and feel throbbing pain everywhere.

I was diagnosed with Devic’s disease (the sister of MS) last month after my MRI scans showed optic neuritis and brain lesions — and it’s completely shattered me.

Seven years ago, I experienced the same heartbreak in a cold office when the doctor told me I had systemic lupus. No matter how long you’ve lived with chronic pain, you’re never quite prepared for the next invasion of torment. The pain from Devic’s disease fused with the suffering of lupus are unbearable at times. I feel ambushed. Walking is a joke as my knees have turned to brick. The pain is unreal. All I want to do is curl up in a blanket, take pain medicine, and sleep all the time (if I could sleep). At least when I’m sleeping, I’m not crying from the unbearable waves of pain or feeling the sting of missing the things I could once do normally.

Living with chronic disease wrecks you emotionally and it devastates all parts of your life. I’m a teacher, and I’ve missed sixteen days of work and it’s barely November. I have to apply for disability in my twenties and stay on a life-long treatment of IV infusions every two weeks.

I live in a world of uncharted, scary possibilities; the only known thing being the familiar pain I know I’ll face the moment my eyes awake in the morning.

And I’m done . . . I’m done apologizing for not showing up when I’m in the pit of hell swelling with tears every hour. I’m done pushing through physical suffering. I’m done pretending I’m OK; being able to walk without showing my pain is a skill I shouldn’t have mastered. I’m done pretending that I’m not absolutely wrecked by this physical, mental, and emotional assault on my body.

I’ve no reason to miss work. I love what I do and I’ve worked damned hard to be a teacher. Forget sick days, I’m just losing income now. But I can’t worry about things like that. I have to have an unrelenting faith that things are going to work out. That the things that I desire to do now may not happen today, but they will. That I will be back on my feet, warm mug in hand, ready to face anything in my day — pain-free.

I saw this on Twitter once:

Chronic illness: no one gets it, until they get it.

Pretty accurate I’d say. I can’t worry myself with what people think of me. They’ve no idea the pain is still there even when I’m smiling. That the pain is still within, even when I’m not talking about it.

I don’t want my struggle to make me a victim. I want my battle to give others the courage to keep going even if that means — not going. Not showing up. Not saying yes to every — single — thing. Staying in. Crying if you need to. Putting comfy clothes on and eating more chocolate than usual. Putting you first.

People need to understand that saying no takes just as much courage as saying yes. It hurts us to say no — to not show up because we’re struck with an incurable illness that we can’t control. It hurts us to not show up to the birthday party you had planned or the coffee date to catch up on life. We wish we could have control over when our pain strikes us, but we never will. It knocks, comes in uninvited, and changes everything we thought we’d be doing. Sometimes it’s manageable, most times it’s not. In a flare, it’s usually a high pain day, week, or month — and we’re probably staying in our PJ’s.

The thing with a chronic illness is that it’s not going anywhere. It’s made it’s incurable home and we have to arrange our furniture — some things are thrown out, some things collect dust, some things get broken.

Chronic pain isn’t a cry for attention. It’s not something we ask for or choose. Chronic illness is something that happens. It’s a disability. It’s real. The unknown is scary and most days, we don’t know how we’re going to manage the pain, we’ve just learned to. But we can’t always be strong.

And for pete’s sake, we don’t always have to be grateful it’s not worse.

So, I’m done apologizing for not showing up when I simply cannot. I’m done being ungentle to myself and forcing my body to push through the pain when every second it’s begging me to just stop. I need to heal the way that is right for me. It’s the only way I’ll get better — and I’m done apologizing for it.

Also published on: The Mighty