Start the Conversation

By Heather MarieNovember 9, 2015

For most of my life, I’ve fought a battle I could never win – not on my own anyway.

Each day passed as empty as the next. Each week. Each month. Each year. And during all of this, I continued to force down the words I’d been so desperate to say. They clawed and ripped their way up my throat, but despite all the damage they had done, they never came. It didn’t matter what I knew in my heart was best for me; I remained silent.

Until now.

I never thought I could live a life without depression. The very idea of feeling balanced, normal even, was absolutely terrifying to me. It still is.

Even now I have days where I panic because that feeling of hopelessness has been absent for so long. Sometimes I even worry that it’ll never come back. As awful as it was, depression had become a comfort to me. It was something I knew inside and out. It was a part of me; it was me. I’m a little scared of what it means to leave that part of me behind.

How will I handle my day-to-day struggles without it? How will I understand my emotions if the thing I’ve come to rely on is no longer present? Who will I be if that was never me at all?

It’s been nine months since I finally spoke out. Thirty years old and I’m still trying to understand what being happy means.

The passing of Robin Williams was the first time I really opened my eyes to the truth: that someone as seemingly happy and successful as a man I’ve admired all my life could find himself so lost and broken that he sought his own way out.

I felt the weight of that loss—a loss of a man I’ve never even met before. His death changed everything for me because that was the first time I’d witnessed the world truly acknowledge the heartache of suicide. It showed me how each of us, no matter how known or unknown, need people in our lives to help us break free of our struggles. It showed me how the stigma surrounding suicide has become more damaging than ever. People pleaded for those struggling to speak out, to ask for help, to turn to one another for love and understanding. Instead of spreading words of hate, I watched as people came together to support one another. Their words awakened something inside of me: a hope that had never been there before.

But before his passing, there was nothing but my silence, and within that silence I found TWLOHA. I’ve been an advocate of the nonprofit for the last six years, but you would never have known it. I was worried about what people would think if they knew, as if my support for this movement would allow them to see the truth I’d kept hidden all these years—a secret darkness inside of me that made me do things they could never know.

I hurt myself.

I pushed people away.

I self-medicated until I was numb.

I did things that made me as invisible as I felt.

But all of this changed when I found the courage to ask for help. After years of fighting this lonely battle, it was time for me to save myself. I told my husband first—I’ve been with him for years, but even he never knew what I’d been hiding. He helped me research doctors until I found someone I could trust. When that was done, I told my best friends. I told them everything I possibly could. I needed them to be there every step of the way because more than anything in this world, I just needed to know they were there. Next, I had to tell my parents. I knew that in order for my recovery to be successful, I would have to rely on a support system. I was going to need those closest to me on board in order to have the strength to seek change.

Admitting my secret was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My depression was mine and mine alone, but now my burden rests on others, and that’s OK. That’s because it’s not a burden to those who love me. Those people want me to be healthy. They want me to be happy. But more than anything else in this entire world, they want me to live.

I know my recovery is going to be a long road, but I’m more ready than ever. And in order to break the stigma, I now talk about my mental illness every day. Starting that conversation used to be so hard, but now the words flow as naturally and freely as anything else. Speaking out makes me stronger. It makes me braver. My heart feels less heavy, my soul less dark. And now I wear my TWLOHA T-shirt like a badge of honor. I am proud of what it means to be a mental health advocate, and I am honored to be here today telling you my story.

Even if you don’t believe it right now, please know you are worthy of happiness. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of this life. This world hasn’t given up on you, so please don’t give up on the world. From my heart to yours, I hope you find peace, love, and understanding. Recovery is out there, and it is yours. You just have to reach out and say the word.

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Comments (20)

  1. Nicole

    I am rather new to TWLOHA however I am not new to depression and anxiety. I have battled them both for 15 years due to a childhood trauma. With days to weeks of feeling nothing at all to feeling an overwhelming surge of emotion that ends in a 25 minute anxiety attack. I used to self harm and also self medicate for years because I wasn’t receiving the proper care. Although I am much healthier now, I still struggle. Almost weekly my husband and I have that conversation about, “what if”. What if it comes back again? What if I try to self harm again? I honestly fear what it will be like when they day is offered to be completely free. I look forward to it, but with a hint (a ton rather) of hesitation.
    Thank you for starting this blog. It’s really helpful to know that there are others who fear the thought of totally letting go of what is such a major part of ourselves and lives.

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  2. Madison

    Thanks for this – very encouraging 🙂

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  3. Debbie

    I understand this to the very core. I have been struggling for 30+ years. I am so tired and so ready to give up. Doctors, meds, ECT, therapy. I have done it all. I am so ready to be done. I don’t know what happy is or who I am any longer.

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    1. Beth

      thats the beauty of this community: we have all been there, are there. struggling with the same things. you are not alone…no matter how isolated you feel. you are worth it.

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  4. Jeanne Plaumann

    “As awful as it was, depression had become a comfort to me. It was something I knew inside and out. It was a part of me; it was me. I’m a little scared of what it means to leave that part of me behind.”
    I’m honestly so happy and grateful for you to put this out there. I’m sure this part of recovery sounds really weird/confusing to the people around me, everytime I mention it, but this is how I often felt during recovery and sometimes still feel. When I feel like crawling back into that dark corner because I know my way around there I remember though: I am not alone – we are not alone, and depression doesn’t own me/us.
    Thank you for this amazingly written piece, Heather.

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    1. Tanya

      Jeanne that part really caught my attention as well. I call it my “Old Friend”, my “Shadow”. There’s a certain comfort in depression when you just allow it to take over. Fighting it is so hard some days. However, I know if I allow myself to fall into that black pit I may never come out again, so I keep fighting. I hope you keep fighting as well.

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  5. Grace

    The words I have just read could not be from your own mind. Is it possible for someone of a different age, a complete stranger, to think the same as myself? I am a little behind where you are now: it has been 1 week since I started the conversation. It was the first time I have ever been completely honest with another human being about the feelings I have kept locked deep within myself. All the fear you shared, the constant desire to speak, but the inability to do so, I get it. I get all of it. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  6. Austin Lear

    Great article, Heather! I really enjoyed this, and I know more people than just me are thankful for your words.

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  7. Krista

    Thank you. I have suffered with depression and anxiety for years. I am 54. I am 6 weeks clean from my addiction to prescription pain medication and my depression is very bad now. I don’t feel happy about being clean. I just feel sad and hopeless, tired and weak. I am happy to read about your success

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    1. Julie Ann

      There is help out there!! Treatment centers with in-patient or out-patient services that will work with you. Maybe try a depression medication that you cannot abuse like prescription pain killers. I have a year and a half clean and it wasn’t easy but it is worth it, trust me it WILL get better. This is just the beginning for you. Have faith and don’t give up! You are loved <3

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  8. Julie Ann

    I love this so much. Thank you for being so fearless and honest. And for sharing your story.

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  9. Toni

    I love this.
    But at the same time, I’ve never told anyone except one friend. My struggle is pretty much mine alone. I’ve known for a long time that complete healing can only come by being willing to be open and honest and share what we’re going through-the light comes in when we are open to receive it. But I don’t talk about it. It takes so much strength. So much courage. The stigma is real, and I know most people would probably see me as weak and needy the rest of my life. Right now I don’t feel like I have enough strength to combat those voices.

    I also know the fear of the hopelessness not coming back. I DON’T want it back. But I don’t know how to do life without it, and for sure not without the vague sense of fear and dread of the future. I don’t really know what hope is, and I don’t know how to know. It takes strength to face a future so unfamiliar, but I want to keep fighting towards it.

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  10. Pingback: from Heather Marie: TWLOHA Start the Conversation | No One Else Can Play Your Part

  11. Simina

    Been there, done that .
    I’ve been fighting depression like 2 years ago. And i’m still in i think .
    But i can’t ask for help. I don’t have friends, and i don’t want to tell my mom everything .
    After 2 years, i’m still _______ myself sometimes. I’m feeling so alone.
    And we born alone and we die alone.
    I don’t have friends, just people i hang out with .
    And i’m from Romania. This country is a bullshit. Everyone is bullying you, and u can’t eat, without someone to judge you
    everything is a bullshit
    i hope y’all getting better. pray for u

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    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Simina,

      Thank you for your comment. We’re so sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling with depression for two years. We’d love to send some encouragement your way. Would you mind e-mailing us at [email protected]?

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  12. vandernildo

    Meus pais não sabem, mais a 3 meses eu sou usuário de drogas e nunca pede ajuda deles de com medo da reação deles e de como eles vão se sentir, também tenho medo de como as pessoas que moran ao meu redor vai pensar de mim, tenho medo de perder meus amigos…

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    1. Claire Biggs

      We’re so sorry to hear that you’re going through this right now. We encourage you to talk to your parents or friends or someone you trust. You deserve to get the help you need. If you need some encouragement, we’d love to send some to you. Please email us at [email protected].

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  13. Erin

    “I never thought I could live a life without depression. The very idea of feeling balanced, normal even, was absolutely terrifying to me. It still is.”

    Thank you so much for writing that. I am so thankful to know that I am not the only person that has felt – still feels – this way.
    How do we go about combatting that? How can we break through to the other side where we truly let go? I want so badly to feel normal and whole but the thought terrifies me.

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  14. Claire Hancock

    This truly is a lovely piece to read. I struggled a lot to not only recognise my depression and admit it to myself, but to also admit it to family, peers, work and even the GP. When I accepted my own depression I thought I’d be okay, no need to involve others, I’m big enough and strong enough to validate my own life I don’t want or need others to do it for me, I don’t need their pity, worried looks and fake concern. I was wrong, so, so wrong. Hiding it was so detrimental, it was effort, it was stress and it was exhausting to not “let it show” to pretend and be someone I’m not. I thought I was good at it, but it was clear to everyone else that something was wrong, my mood swings were out of control, my work ethic plummeted and my care and attention ceased. It took me to a place that I shan’t disclose as it might be a trigger, but I blindly ended up there and realised how much help I needed. It was terrifying to say it out loud, to say and have the words “I am suffering with depression” escape my mouth was terrifying, but it felt good once it opened doors leading to help, it felt good to cry, it felt good to shout and it felt good to see an outcome and have a set plan and aim.

    Was I “cured”? No. First stage was complete, check. Telling friends and family… Nah, let’s not. I’ll keep this a secret. Where am I going every Saturday between 10:00 and 11:00? Swimming, a walk, post office, shopping. Just not therapy! A year later I told them and the support network grew and all those fears of rejection or being mocked left.

    It’s two years later and I’ve returned once more to the place I was three years ago, the coping mechnisms are fading, but the ability to ask for help came back to me. This time my fears became reality, I saw a GP and the doctor looked at me amd said “you don’t look depressed” in that moment I felt small and felt I had to prove I was. I did the questionnaire and scored highly as I expected, but that didn’t stop the doctor from saying “you’re young, why are so many young people on anti-depressants?” “You don’t have cuts on your arms, you look healthy and well kept” “why are you depressed? You have a good job, you seem to have everything, what more do you need?” This is all from a doctor, a doctor I went to for help, a doctor who should have supported me not question my wellbeing and mental state. I put in a complaint and since then I’ve made it my mission to talk about my health, to have those discussions to end the stigma.

    This is real, mental health is real. You can’t see a heart defect (unless obviously you’re a doctor and have scanned it) but you won’t see a stranger and see their heart defect, but if it’s mentioned you believe it’s real, right? If someone mentions their mental health, believe that it’s real, because it is.

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  15. Judy

    Thank you. When my depression became overwhelming I came the the Women’s Refuge and found help! I am free!

    Reply  |  
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