I’ve often wondered what depression would look like from the inside out. If we could use a microscope and snap a photo of what it looked like festering and burning inside someone’s body, I would submit that it would be a frightening sight and one that we would never forget. So, why is it that we focus on diseases or medical conditions that we can see and/or touch the symptoms and side effects before we address those that we have to treat based solely on the word of the victim living with it?
When I first discovered that I was a human with full-on depression I was scared. At the budding, young age of 19, I was scared to open my mouth and describe my inner turmoil because I thought no one would believe me. On the outside, I looked “fine.” I was thriving in school, had a great job, went to church and didn’t have any physical signs of harm on my body. But on the inside, I felt like I was being ruled by demons that were eating my insides by the minute. I remember sitting in my doctor’s office reading a pharmaceutical advertisement that asked about symptoms that categorized PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder) and I answered in the affirmative to all but one or two of the questions. I knew I needed help and I prayed that my doctor would see past my external fake state of being and help me. She did, and to this day I am eternally grateful for her belief in my self-diagnosis and for being instrumental in starting my path of coping and healing.
Over the last 15+ years I have had numerous encounters with people in which they voiced their utter disbelief that I live with depression every single day. Things like “you don’t look depressed” or “but you’re so positive about life, that’s not depression” or my favorite “wow, you’ve lost weight and look so great; life must be treating you well!” The last statement was said to me often when I had my first battle with clinical depression. I lost 50 pounds in 6 months by doing nothing. Well, if nothing is defined as not eating or sleeping and trying to curb thoughts of self-harm. One instance in particular really shook me up and I remember coming home from church (of all places) and crying while looking at myself in the mirror because what I saw on the outside was NOT what I felt on the inside.
As a society we automatically assume that the way a person looks clearly defines how they feel. Not so. What I also found with depression was the fact that it was and is the biggest paradox. Just when you want to crawl in a hole and die is exactly when you need to get up, make yourself exercise and talk to someone about your feelings. We are surrounded by people who live in silent self-shame because they aren’t perfect and suck at coping, thus the reason for not talking. If we lived in a perfect world with people who were total rock stars at coping, we would all have a stellar therapist on speed dial, our insurance coverage would include an unlimited amount of therapy visits and Zoloft would be free under all prescription plans. Sadly, that is not the case, so anyone who has depression is tasked with fighting the good fight both internally and externally as they try to move forward with life.
I am here to tell you that life does move forward; the fog does lift; the sunshine does return; and the calm after the storm does last longer than you think. I can also attest to the power that comes from organized therapy and stripping away the hurt and hate that builds up and causes triggers for depression. A couple of years ago I set out on a social media mission to change the face of depression among women and share my story so that those who suffered in silence (like me so many years ago) would find solace and an oasis of hope in their quest for peace. What I found was the fact that many women hide behind cute clothes and seemingly perfect faces of makeup while they struggle to feel their worth in a world full of photo-shopped supermodels and staged perfect homes that are never messy or chaotic. I have tried to break down those barriers through a blog that focuses on women’s empowerment, mental health awareness and fashion. The triple play of awesome occurs when I can incorporate all three themes in a single post. Surprisingly it happens more often than I expected when I chose those focuses many years ago. The fact of the matter is our outward appearance is greatly affected by how we feel on the inside. When depression becomes the most challenging is when we feel like trash on the inside, but can’t bring ourselves to portray that on the outside because someone might judge. Stop with the stigma definitions and compartment creation and play nice with people. It is a curious phenomenon to be a “recovering depressed person” because I feel a sense of empathy to many that I may have never noticed if this wasn’t my life. I’ve had women reach out to me who have nearly lost hope, but gave life a second chance because of my story. I’ve also had women who have pulled themselves up out of a postpartum slump because I offered encouragement and kind words through social media. If you have lived through the fog and are here to talk about it, there is a reason. THAT is your life path; to buoy and encourage those who are still out to sea in the storm. Be the lighthouse for someone because the secret is: that is the true healer. Healing continues as we look past ourselves and help others cope alongside ourselves.
If I can do it, you can too. As I always say at the end of each blog post; until next time, my lovelies.
Raylynn Sleight is proud to call Ogden, Utah, a quirky and charming railroad town, her home sweet home. Raylynn is the creator and primary author of a women’s empowerment, mental health awareness and fashion blog called “Let It Be & Celebrate.” Raylynn is a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and staying at the front of the line in discussions about traditional and non traditional healing and coping methods. Additionally she is proud to live a happy, fulfilling life that is breaking the stigma of depression. In her personal life, her most prized role is aunt to four little humans and one rowdy four-legged fur baby.
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