This is me reaching out to the people who are in a dark space and beating themselves up about it.
Keeping your head above water can be tough. Figuring out just what is dragging you down into the water is often not straight forward and the process can take so long that despite your best efforts, you need to tap out and stop struggling.
When I think of my mental health, I imagine myself treading water in a pool. When things are going well, I’m floating around and having a nice, relaxing time while not forgetting that I exist in an element that could kill me effortlessly if I was foolish enough to make a mistake.
When things are going badly, I feel like I’ve been yanked into the middle of the deep end and I’m rooted into place. I’ve no way to get to the shelter of solid ground and there’s water starting to go into my ears. Soon enough, it’ll cover my face and that’ll be the end of it.
I’ll sink. Perhaps I’ll even drown.
I’ve spoken before about my experiences with depression and suicidal feelings. I’ve spoken about my own impatience with myself as well. What I’ve shied away from admitting is that I’ve felt depression slinking around my ankles quite recently.
The last time I felt suicidal? That was last month.
Even now, I cringe and feel shame at the thought. Because I have a good life. I have a great deal to be grateful for. I should appreciate what I have – I do! I try to. But see, depression doesn’t play fair.
Depression, to me, is a voice in my head constantly overanalysing. It’s a feeling that burrows deep in my bones, dragging me under. It’s an awful, cold certainty that I don’t deserve to stand where I do, that I’m a fraud and I need to expose myself before I’m forcibly exposed as all those who are false will eventually be.
Depression has told me many lies that seem like truth. It has told me that I’m unworthy, that I should be ashamed, that I’ll never be rid of it. Depression has told me that I could never shine with clarity or beauty.
And then there’s the all-time favourite. I have lost count of the times that depression has told me I’m doomed, for a variety of reasons. I’ve agonized over my sins and shied from my Creator because of fear and shame, and the unshakable belief that I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve the attention or the forgiveness or the mercy.
That’s depression for me.
I often find that my mental health goes through cycles, and it can be daunting to be in a low stage while it seems as though for so many others, once they began to work on themselves, they put their heads down and made steady progress and never slid right back to the beginning – or worse, even further down.
I’m not making steady progress. If you were to chart my mental health, it would look a bit like a roller-coaster – down and then up, then up and down, then to the side and wobbly, then right off the tracks.
If you’ve come off the rails, know that you’re not the only one. Just as depression isn’t that slow sink to the floor so often portrayed in movies, so is recovery not the whirlwind montage that it’s so often depicted as. There isn’t just one hiccup to be smoothed over, there are many. New ones crop up at the most inconvenient times.
Here’s another overlooked truth: mental health needs consistent, sometimes constant maintenance but it’s sometimes impossible to grant yourself that maintenance. Therapy is exhausting, expensive, and it can sometimes feel as though it’s making things worse for a long time before it starts to help make things better.
Antidepressants can do the same.
I’ve had to make my peace with the fact that my mental health cannot always be at the top of my list of priorities, because sometimes my physical health needs to top that list. Sometimes, my job needs to top that list otherwise I won’t be able to take care of either my physical or mental health, or even possibly my basic needs.
And my final truth: guilt is paralyzing and very often entirely pointless. I’ve been sucked down into spirals of guilt and agony over the neglect I’ve put my body and mind through and often come out the other side feeling as though my health issues are punishment for my ill-treatment of myself and so must be endured.
That’s ridiculous. My health issues need to be fixed, as much as I can fix them and when I can fix them. Accepting them as some form of penance makes exactly zero sense, when you look at it logically. But mental health issues often tie logic up and chuck it away in the metaphorical rubbish bin of a mind.
This is when hopelessness sets in. Hopelessness fuels depression. I’ve made it one of my missions in life to eradicate hopelessness from my personal world. I don’t know how yet, and I don’t know when yet. But I do know that it’s going to happen In Shaa Allah.
There are rough days and sometimes those days outnumber the good. There are all-nighters and pots of coffee, and an all-too-familiar ache in my chest where I can’t breathe. There’s extra fat where I don’t want it and there’s self-doubt where I don’t need it.
I struggled with depression and I wanted to kill myself. I picked myself back up. And then it happened again, and I had to start over. You’re not alone. Not if you’re in an entirely new dark place and not if you’ve fallen somewhere you know intimately which has the power to terrify you.
I’m on a roller coaster, and it’s okay if you are too. Forgive the moments of weakness and celebrate the moments of strength. Take a break when you need it, and maybe another one for good measure. And when you’re ready, keep fighting the fight.