Scroll Right: [Listen While You Read: Heart in a Cage by The Strokes]
I got caught up in reading @ButterflyBlu 's post regarding "International Invisible Illness" week. She beautifully explains the concept in her card, which you can read here. It really got me thinking of some of the demons we live with during our hardest days, and the reason we conceal ourselves from the pain rather than dealing with it up front. I use writing and music as an outlet, but still hold up walls around me. I decided to channel the spirit of @ButterflyBlu's card and try to find something constructive about my invisible illness which is Clinical Depression, Panic Disorder and Anxiety. It's a hard thing to admit that you're depressed, but once you do...you can get a little more free of what's holding on to you. Here are 22 things I've learned while dealing with this beast. I've learned them all within a pretty short amount of time, as recently I've realized how deep it runs. That doesn't mean it will control me, and now, after a lot of changes I'm ready to move forward. I am not at the end of this journey, and some days I fear that it will overtake me completely. But I am confident in the fact that I'm going to try really hard to change, and put these realizations to good uses. Here are 22 things I've learned in 22 years.
1. Talking never hurts.
I have a constant fear of screwing up and sometimes that holds me back from what I need to accomplish. I've learned, recently that it's always better to be up-front and honest about the struggle rather than attempt to cover it up. Nothing good can come of repressing feelings. It just makes you sad and angry.
2. Trust doesn't come easy, but there's always room for more.
It's hard to open up after being burned by something invisible and insidious like depression. There's an inescapable grating that not everyone will understand, but you don't have to fault them for that. Trusting is hard. It takes years to truly gain it. But at some point you have to give over, because more than likely you're just holding yourself back.
3. The world isn't out to get you...you're out to get you.
We tend to blame the world or outside circumstances for our feelings or our hardships...but sometimes we have to come to terms with our own self-destruction. It's been a hard road, but I'm ready to accept that most of the fear and pressure I put on myself is just that...self-inflicted. Better attention to my own goals and interests is going to help me grow as a person. And that's a great thing to know.
4. Admitting failure is essential to success.
I'm still working on this...but I am slowly getting better at it. Admitting when shit is hard or bad is always better than holding it in, goes along with the whole "not repressing feelings" thing. And though depression adds to this, it is not the only thing at fault.
5. Your friends may not always be there.
It's a sad but true fact. But this fact makes it more essential to be able to stand alone. Things are going to change for you and your buddies, but that doesn't mean they're bad people, it just means they're different.
6. Change is not the devil.
It's actually an angel in disguise. A lot has changed for me in the past few months, and I can tell you that it hasn't been easy. But all of these things that are happening are in service of positive change.
7. You MUST ask for help.
I was raised to stand tall, strong and impenetrable. But that doesn't always produce the best results. I sometimes feel like I lose the respect and faith instilled in me by my peers or friends when I ask for help. But that's not even true. There is an inherent value in being able to say, "look, I fucked up". And this is probably the hardest lesson of them all. Because yeah...we want to appear strong, happy, successful. We want to be the asset, but more often than not, the strongest, happiest and most successful people are REAL. Easier said than done, but it's a work in progress. I struggle with this every day. I recently have found solace in a small fan group for the band The Libertines, on facebook. The people I've met there have really shown me kindness, and it's because I sincerely asked for help. It's amazing. :,)
8. Not everything is going to make or break you.
This is hard. God, all of this is hard. I have a very Do or Die attitude. But that just isn't practical. Little decisions and victories make us who we are, and those small things don't lead to death or glory, sometimes they just lead to an e-mail or funny exchange you know?
9. Be careful about the company you keep.
You are a product of your surroundings, and the people you surround yourself with. If you hang with productive people who work a lot and want success, you'll adopt their habits. If you hang with people who watch TV and do nothing...guess what, you'll do the same. I'm not saying you have to ditch your friends, just be aware that you naturally will take on the behavior of people close to you. It's just a fact.
10. You've got to look for happiness within. It's nearly impossible, but you have to try.
Some people just have that knack for confidence. And others (like myself) feel like strangers in their own skin. Whichever you are, it's good to know that other people are never going to validate us the way we want. It's a harsh fact. But it's a fact nonetheless. So we've got to make a better effort to search within. Because though we are our own worst enemy, we're also our best asset.
11/12. I know everything and nothing at the same time.
Every day I'm learning more. And at 22 a lot of signs point to me knowing nothing at all. I think the paradox of being at this age is the fact that we're solidifying our world view and being constantly questioned at the same time. Everything is in a state of "what if?" and yet...we're slowly figuring out who we are.
13. Excess sucks.
Drinking and partying and doing other things are pretty fun...but only in moderation. I feel like I'm waking up from a 5 year long hangover, and in the midst of this clarity I've found that those quacks who talk about "moderation" really have it figured out. If you're excessive in any part of your life, you're going to have a bad time...whether it's work or play. Watch that.
14. I spent a lot of time feeling left out, when I could have been having fun.
As I said earlier, we are our own worst enemy. And I definitely fought myself nearly to death. Looking back on my chaotic college years, I realize that I spent so much time brooding about what was wrong that I couldn't enjoy what was right. It's not an exercise in optimism or even reflection...it's just true. I fucked up a lot because I wanted so badly to belong.
15. That being said, being the odd one out has a lot more advantages than disadvantages.
I was singled out a lot, whether it was for music or writing...being a platinum blonde, or for just being a fucking weirdo. It's true. And for so long I tried to fight that. There was something different about me, and now that I know that difference has value...I'm going to do my damndest to keep exploring that, and embrace myself for the absolute fucking crazy person that I am. Because, there's a million put-together-down-to-earth people that will make fun of those on the outside, and I'm proud to not be one of them.
16. Covering shit up doesn't equal strength.
I always want to appear put together and professional, but that's not why people like me or want to be my friend...it's the darkness, the invisible illness of depression, the real thoughts and feelings I have, that make me valuable. And more often than not I'm too scared that people will abandon me or run away to reveal all of that...but in reality, that is the best part of me. It's what makes me unique. It's what makes me different. And I have to be PROUD of that.
17. Taking life too seriously is a death wish.
Life has become immeasurably better since I've begun to explore the laughing matter it really is. Honestly, the pressure to succeed and the pain I've endured because of the over-compensation for my depression has really taken a toll. And man, does it feel good to admit that. I am not bulletproof, but neither is this life I live. It only comes around one time, and though we all joke about that kind of thing...it's real. Stop and look around at all the funny and exciting things that are waiting for you while you have the chance.
18/19. Cutting bad people out of your life is fine, and it doesn't make you a bad person.
Recently, it's become apparent that people from my high school days, and even some college ones had become irrelevant to my growth as a person. For lack of a better way to say this: They fucking brought me down. I'm sure you have people in your life who are toxic, that drag you down. It is NOT THE END OF THE WORLD TO LET PEOPLE GO. Get them out of your life if they are a detriment. I tried so hard to hold on to certain ex boyfriends and ex-friend groups that I ended up questioning my own character. It was a nightmare. DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE, just have the courage to let go.
20. The people who really give a shit will issue you a good ass-kicking.
Man is this the truth. People close to you like your family, friends and even some co-workers will call you out when you're being silly or stupid. They'll tell you when you're fucking up so you have the chance to fix it. However harsh you think it is, it's all in the service of change. And the sooner you recognize that, the better off you'll be!
21. Never lose sight of why you love what you love.
Things can get cloudy once you make it to adulthood if my incoherent ramblings are any indication. When you start a venture, be it a job, or hobby...you have to keep in mind what the real reason you started was. If you are working toward a career as a professional singer or baseball player or whatever...it's essential to recognize why you started in the first place. Getting blindsided by money or goals won't help you. It'll just drive you into the ground.
22. We can figure this out.
Faith in yourself is your biggest asset as a person. We can talk all we want about change and confidence, how to get by but in the back of your mind, where the secrets of life can be found, there's nothing stopping you from your dream. Don't get in your own way. Live steadily and remember that underneath all of this superficial bullshit that you and I are guilty of spewing into the universe...is a human. Nothing more and nothing less. Remember that simple fact and try your hardest. Things will work out. You've got this. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you to @ButterflyBlu for the inspiration, and thank you Vingle family for being so supportive and strong! You all are a constant reminder that there is good in this world and anything can get better despite the struggles.
My name is Tess Stevens, and damn it I've got an invisible illness called "Depression." He's a piece of shit, but I won't let him define me, and I draw strength from his grip. If I can learn this much from him, anything is possible, even happiness.