My Dear Beautiful Reader:
I wanted to talk to you about something important. This week is National Suicide Prevention Week and it is great that many are being made aware of something that occurs more than we think. This awareness can save lives, but I worry that it takes more than one day to understand the gravity of mental illness. We must constantly talk about mental illness because there is no more deafening silence than the silence of depression.
Let’s talk depression
Depression can manifest itself in the strangest ways. It makes its presence felt by removing every ounce of energy in you. It urges you to leave your hair unbrushed, knotting it up so much you have to cut it off. Depression can lay next to you in the tub as scalding water runs over you and tears stream down your face. It helps you sever ties, engage in reckless behavior, but worst of all — it will make you forget who you are. Or, at least, whoever you thought you wanted to be.
But, somehow, better days do come
Going through depression is more common than you’d think. In fact, mental health issues are on the rise for the Latinx community for individuals between the ages of 12-49, according to a SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted in 2018. Meaning, you’re not alone (as cliche as this may sound.)
Depression can straight-up be terrifying. For the most part, you know you want to feel something other than depressed, but that sometimes becomes a feat too difficult to accomplish.
That has been my personal experience.
I thought I was only meant to drown in my triggers, trauma, and some of my overexaggerated woes. Instead of talking about it, I’d communicate with myself via a sharp blade. Or I’d get black-out drunk until I’d created enough damage in my life to follow me for years. That’s how I dealt with it at first. I allowed it to consume me because I didn’t think there was a way out. To make matters worse, it became part of my identity. Would even a snippet of mental sanity fit into my persona after all of that?
To my surprise, it does fit
There came a point where I decided I wanted to cultivate an enjoyable life. One that would make me proud. This decision wasn’t easy. I struggled plenty to even try to materialize what the beginning steps would be.
As my first steps to combat my depression, my dipping a toe in the waters — if you will — I began with my environment. I realized my circle was composed of people who encouraged my failures, and this could’ve easily been the root of my demise. That’s not something you want when you are trying to get into a better headspace.
There’s no denying that this was lonely at first. Yet, I came to understand that true loneliness takes the form of empty relationships and friendships. It is worth waiting for the right people to enter your life. I’ll tell you that having people of value around me has been a great help.
By the way, when I say people of “value,” I mean those who are willing to be patient with you on your dark days as much as they are on your good days. I’m talking about people who will not judge your actions but will still try to help you do the right thing. You know who they are because they’ll always hype you up and, in turn, you’ll become the person to hype others up. It’s a full circle, and the best one at that — if you ask me.
As I started detaching myself from mental leeches, I incorporated more physical activity into my life. I pushed myself to exercise and do some cardio at least three times a week. I was completely out of my comfort zone, but it worked. The truth is that I often skipped my sessions, and still do. However, I’ve made it clear to myself that this is something that will help me get out of a funk whenever I fall into it. Oh, yes. Depression comes and goes. The plus side is that it gets easier to manage every time. Well, for the most part. It can vary and that’s okay, too.
Now, I have to stress how vital my therapist has been in the improvement of my mental health. She listens to me, even if I feel I’m just telling her gibberish. Her recommendations have been life-saving and I’ll always be in awe of how she’s kept me sane. It’s important that people realize how a good therapist can make all the difference.
If you’ve been thinking about seeing a therapist, I highly recommend it. There are a few free resources online to speak to a therapist or someone trained to deal with mental health issues. Look into it. It’s not as bad as it seems.
For those in the Latinx community, I know seeing a therapist can result in some people thinking you’re crazy because mental illness tends to be a taboo in Latino families. But, that’s far from reality. What’s crazy is not getting the help you need. Besides, praying the depression away is not too reliable.
I can’t remember how many times I was advised to pray the rosary so that my ill feelings would dissipate. What a waste of time! Please take it from someone who was submerged in the world of religion, Catholicism to be exact, and see a professional who’s trained in mental health. If you want to continue being devout to your religion, go for it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, understand that mental health sometimes needs more.
Suicide awareness has been diminished to a few posts here and there saying “check on your friends” or “share this hotline.” There’s no doubt that this can help and can be welcomed. However, educating others on why it’s so complicated to get things rolling in the right direction is also necessary. It’s more than one check-in. It’s more than sharing meaningful posts. It’s about being there and modeling yourself to be a decent human being as well.
Nevertheless, I believe that the strength of someone who has dealt with and continues to deal with depression is insurmountable.
My dear beautiful reader, depression is not the endgame. It can get better. Keep staying strong because someone will need your story in the future. You’ll see.