This is my first letter in some time and it goes a bit off topic for a fitness blog. But May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we’re in this terrible pandemic that has found a lot of people working from home and isolated, and just about all of us missing social interactions at work and with friends.
Right now, it seems especially important to address this topic. Depression is something that is really close to my heart and I hope you keep reading.
When you visit my website, read my blog posts or train with me, what do you see? An independent and tough-minded woman who is never afraid of change? Yeah, that’s me: I’m mentally strong, a competitor. But somewhere along the way I found myself losing interest in life, in everything. I didn’t want to do any of the things I used to want to do, and I didn’t know why.
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We think that depression is the opposite of happiness, but it wasn’t happiness I was lacking. It was energy. Everything seemed like too much work. Emails, calls and text messages from friends did not excite me; they filled me with the heavy burden of having to respond. Meeting with friends was so much effort that I began to isolate myself. And I was embarrassed for my friends to see me this way, so far from my best.
At meal times, I’d get hungry. I’d decide that it was time to eat, only then I would think: but I have to get the food out and pots and pans and silverware and find the dishes and it’s just too much. And the hardest thing to explain is why you’re acting this way, because you know it’s ridiculous. You know that other people manage to respond to their messages and eat their lunch and brush their teeth and go to work and that it’s no big deal. Yet here you are, mentally paralyzed, unable to figure out a way to do any of it.
And so I started doing less and thinking less and feeling less. Unfortunately that does not help with the anxiety. Not one bit. You start to feel afraid all the time and you don’t know why and what it is you are afraid of. And then you begin to think that it’s all just too painful. That the only reason to keep living is so as not to hurt other people. Many times, I found myself in bed thinking, “This isn’t good and I really need help.” Hours later, I’d still be in the same position unable to move.
After years of going it alone, I’m back on medication. After many relapses, I now understand that I will probably be on medication forever.
Depression is exhausting. It takes up so much of your time and energy, but silence about it makes it worse.
I’d be lying if I said that I share my story openly. But I am getting better at it. My closest friends and my family know about my struggles with depression, and I feel relieved that I don’t have to hide it from them.
I share this with you in the hopes that you will share your story, too. I believe that talking about depression is the best way to help others who might be suffering know they are not alone.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this pandemic, it’s that no one is immune to feeling this way. When you lose social contact with people, when you feel alone, or trapped, or you’re struggling with childcare responsibilities, it’s so easy to lose sight of yourself. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to stay in touch with friends and family regardless of whether they deal with depression. We might not be able to hold each other, but we can reach out and offer support.
Along my journey, I’ve learned a lot about the different facets of depression. I haven’t found all the answers. Sometimes I struggle a lot. But medication helps. And time with friends, and meditation – which in my case means a challenging, focused session in the gym – and a mostly healthy diet. It helps to play to your strengths.
I’m telling you this as much as I’m saying it to myself: Life is challenging right now, and it’s scary. But with a support system to guide you through it, things will be alright. If we remember to stay in contact with each other, and let people know that we are there to listen and talk, then we can get through this. Together.
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