Watching What You Say

By Cat TinkerJune 16, 2016

It was the day after I picked up my first prescription for antidepressants, and I was telling my mom about a movie I had seen recently, “The Skeleton Twins.” Having lost their father to suicide, the two main characters struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide throughout the film. After I described the plot, my mom said, “Oh, that’s good. When you get better you can write things like that to help others.”

I want to believe that her use of the word “when” was meant with the sincerest of hopes. I want to trust that she firmly believes that one day the fog I live in will clear up or at least that I will learn to navigate my life in spite of it. Some days are definitely brighter than others, but that fog is still always there, surrounding me.

I don’t want my depression to hold me back. I don’t want my low days to blur out the moments when I actually feel like I’m a part of the world rather than a removed observer. I don’t want to be accused of being lazy or moping around; I even kept my prescription receipt in my backpack the entire school year because I didn’t want my professors to think any subpar work I turned in was a sign of disrespect. I wanted to be able to show them, if necessary, that I was trying my best while adjusting to the medication.

Even though I don’t want to keep quiet about my struggles with depression and anxiety, the stigma surrounding these issues often keeps me silent. As much as I want to be honest about the fact that sometimes it’s hard for me to stay interested in life, part of me still hears this nearly instinctual internal voice saying, “Everyone gets it. You’re depressed. Stop bringing it up already.”

That voice didn’t start out as mine. It started as the voices of everyone who told me to stop complaining, to stop making excuses, to clean my room, or do all my homework already. For years, I didn’t have the words to express that I felt like I had a glass of water on my head and any sudden movements would cause a bigger mess than I could begin to fix. I never felt completely calm or safe in my own mind. It would take me hours to be able to focus on one assignment. No matter how I tried to explain myself, I was written off as simply choosing to not live up to my potential.

Part of me fears that my mom’s use of the word “when” implies that she believes the misconception that recovery is a one-way tunnel where eventually you’re out of the dark and you’ll never have to face it again. But living with depression and anxiety means waking up and never being completely sure if today will be up or down; often you aren’t even sure how the day was when you go to bed at night. While the lapses will never erase the victories, recovery is far from a neat and linear progression. Every new day is uncharted territory.

I’m scared to talk about my depression too much. I don’t want to get special treatment for waving my prescription receipt at my professors. As often as I am reminded that being honest is the first step to dismantling the stigma surrounding mental illness, I’m still scared. I’m scared that if I’m too honest about it, I’ll lose friends for sounding like a broken, whiny record. I can almost hear them asking me, “If you’ve really been on medication for a year, shouldn’t you be way better by now? Are you just refusing to feel better?”

That’s where depression and anxiety do the most damage; they try to trap me by zooming in on the lie that stigma screams: that we only ever get to speak up once, unless we want to be seen as hopeless, helpless, and completely at fault for our struggles. But we’re never beyond hope or help. Staying silent only allows the lies of stigma to keep speaking up against us. Nobody can tell your story better than you can. When watching what you say, remember to be honest.

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Comments (14)

  1. Amit Soni

    Amazingly well written mate. The way you have constructed your thoughts, it will make everyone hopeful. Thanks 🙂

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  2. Catie

    I am in a stage where this is how I feel. I feel that if I don’t keep quiet about it, I will lose who ever is left in my life, which isn’t a lot. Thank you for writing this.

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  3. Cindy

    Thank you for being so honest about your depression and anxiety, and sharing in through your incredible gift of writing. Your openness and honesty is incredible. I love and admire greatly who you are, and how you are dealing with the realities in your life.
    I love you dearly!
    Aunt Cindy

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  4. Kristin

    Cat, thanks so much for sharing your story – your words are so important. I turned to TWLOHA when I first realized I was depressed and it was words like yours that helped me realize I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I, too, struggle with whether or not to talk about it, and hope not to “burden” my friends with it. I will tell you – the people who are most important will stay and love you. You are brave and your words are powerful. Keep speaking your truth. With hugs and love

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  5. Hootie

    I have been dealing with depression since my childhood and if it were not for people like you sharing there story I would have never gone for help. In my generation we were told to suck it up, stop the self pitty party or stop crying or I’ll give you a reason to cry. My favorite was “If you tell people they will know your mental and lock you up.” With reading thiese stories I have been able to seek help for my Depressin Anxiety and PTSD. I pray no one ever has to go 40 years without help because of a false stigma. God Bless you.

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  6. Smother Mother

    I Thank God for this website!!! My daughter needs you so very much to see that everyone of her thoughts and feelings are real and valid and everyday is different. Everyday past may or may not be an experience that so very many can relate to! I , too, need this website to understand my own feelings, less severe than hers, are no less the same as hers. Thank you!

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  7. JoAnn T

    It is a shame that we in our overall society place extra weight upon those, who like many of our brothers, sister, and selves, deal with these conditions. I know so many others who do and who have not articulated their struggles as well as you have. THANK YOU! for stating that it is not laziness, or whining, but a real struggle and real emotional pain. You may only know how far you have come when you glance at the path behind you, yet choose to go onward in hope.

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  8. Mariah

    I love this!!!!

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  9. Tammy G

    I’m so glad that I found this. Thank you. I’m not feeling my best right now and cannot understand why I keep feeling this way. I feel so alone but I don’t want to feel alone anymore. Thank you for speaking up.

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  10. Jenn

    Thank you for this . I just recently came across this site as I was looking for tattoo ideas for dealing with depression and thinking maybe I have bipolar disorder. A lot of people mentioned TWLOHA so I did my researched and I am glad I did. These blogs is helping me feel like I am not alone at all. After a long night of craziness last night , from happiness to angry to crying and feeling down, I finally went to sleep and woke up this morning like I really can’t wait to see a psychiatrist on July 14,2016 because I want to feel like I have control in my life, control my emotions like everyone else and I think I am afraid to hear someone tell me I can’t do this, I can’t be normal. I can’t feel normal. Being hearing impaired since the age of 4, that was the start point of long lasting depression and possibly bipolar disorder and now that I am going to be 25 years old in july, I really want to get help and finally live the life I’ve always wanted . to finally be happy, I mean really happy without forcing it. I can’t wait for that day . until then, I am glad I can go to this site and not feel alone so thank you so much .

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  11. angela

    boy do i feel this , i at times am scared to admit i am depreessed and then they ask why and i don’t know why, i really don’t i just know that i am down

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  12. K

    This speaks huge volumes to me. Ive been past the worst parts of my struggle for awhile now and my life is looking up and getting a little easier but im tired of feeling down sometimes and then hearing “trying isnt good enough you have to do it to make a difference”. I cant seem to find the words to show that alot of the time trying is all I have because its so hard to jump the day or weeks hurdles. I wish more people out there understood it never goes away. I wish people understood that as long as we are making a n effort to go forward it shows a huge accomplishment. If i could magically snap my fingers and never be depressed again I would but thats not how life goes. Thank you for writing this to remind me I cant focus on that people around me think it should just be over and thats it.

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  13. Alex

    Cat, thanks for this. At the time that I’m writing this comment, I’m feeling this same way and I’m sharing some of your experiences. I just started medication, but I feel that my family frowns upon it and sees it as me being overly dramatic. And sometimes, I’m not sure if I’m being overly dramatic or if what I’m feeling is wholesomely honest. Nonetheless, I’m gonna continue it but I’m also feeling like I want to reach out into a void of those that I know that I can trust with my emotions and feelings but I’m scared that I talk about it too much. I don’t really know why I’m commenting, maybe because I just felt a strong sense of resonance. Whatever the reason, I hope your road to recovery is still strong and I’m rooting for you.

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  14. Faith

    Thank you for this

    Reply  |  
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