So many people have asked me how I get through my depression and mental illness. Do you have a circle? I’m talking about a circle of good people around you to help you overcome the obstacles that you face when dealing with mental illness. I have a circle. There are many people in my circle, but for now, I’m going to choose to talk about my friend circle.
I have a friend circle that I often times depend on to pull myself out of a dark hole. We all should have that “one” best friend that we can confide in, and if you’re married, your spouse should be your best friend. Besides having my husband, I have that “one” best friend. In fact, I have a small handful of best friends that I can reach out to when I’m in need. My friends are all different, but together, blend so well into my life and help fulfill what I’m in need of with each particular friend that I reach out to. Can you imagine suffering with mental illness and not have a good circle of friends? I can’t begin to imagine. Not everyone suffers with mental illness. If you don’t, consider yourself lucky. It takes a village to successfully live a life with depression. In the realization of just how sick I was, I learned so much about my friends that I needed to realize.
You see, I walk a life of “normalcy” as best as I can. All having experienced their own fair share of obstacles, I can honestly say that none of my friends suffer with mental illness. A little situational anxiety here and there, but no true mental illness. My friends are all “normal”, but they get me. I don’t think that any of my them have ever realized the extent of my mental issues until I started writing about it, but none of them have judged me. In fact, they’re inspired by my willingness to open up and talk about it. They love this new me.
Living with mental illness shouldn’t label you. If you want to rise above your circumstances and get yourself help, maybe you need to take a look at your circle. Are your friends supportive and understanding of your mental illness, or are you finding yourself slip into a pity party and only hanging around with people in your life that are toxic for your mental health because you’re too ashamed to share your story? My friends “check” me. That’s right- my friends tell me like it is. I’ve found myself drowning in self-pity more times than I can count. I was once one who was too ashamed to talk about my mental illness and the dark path it was taking me on. However, I was losing the battle. Along with my husband, my best friends could see me spiraling. When I had the self-realization, only by God’s grace, that I was falling off of the cliff and needed help, I began talking to my friends about it.
One thing that’s not fair to my friends is that I was judging their character, simply because I wasn’t happy with my own. I began drifting away. If you know about suffering with depression, you know that talking on the phone or texting, or being around people, for that matter, is hard. It was becoming easier for me to ignore phone calls and texts from my friends than to answer the phone and allow them in on the extent of my misery. Let me tell you- I have persistent friends. My friends were becoming concerned about me. They KEPT calling and texting. They only wanted to know what was going on and they wanted to make sure that I knew that I could reach out to them.
Shortly, into my downward spiral with depression, my girlfriends and I had a trip to Florida planned. It was a trip planned to celebrate my upcoming wedding. It was a trip solely for me and the absolute best circle of friends that I have. Any woman with five kids would jump on the opportunity to take a weekend girls’ trip to the beach, simply just to get away. My friends put so much effort into planning the best trip for me. Sadly, deep down inside, my depression was taking over me so bad that I secretly did NOT want to go. When you’re faced with depression, your home is usually the most comfortable place to be. I wanted to be home. I wanted to be in the comfort of my own home, not interacting with society. I hadn’t explained to my friends just how sick I was. I can guarantee that if I would’ve explained my issue, I could have gotten out of it. But, part of me didn’t want to get out of going. I knew that I needed to get my shit together as best as I could and get my ass to Florida with my friends. On that trip, I wasn’t myself. Like I’ve mentioned before, the truly happy Erin was the life of the party- the one who never shuts up and loves to make everyone laugh. I faked it as much as I could, but they could tell. The personality that I was faking was obvious. I was sluggish. If it were a choice between a nap in the condo or sunbathing on the beach, secretly, I was hoping for a nap in the condo. Luckily, my one best friend, who’s like my sister, LOVES to nap. I got lucky and was able to get a few naps in. Unlike my best friend, though, I wasn’t napping just for the sake of napping. I was napping to escape. When I was awake, I was drinking and popping Ritalin to keep me going. Pathetically enough, I questioned my friend driving on whether or not she was packing an ice chest full of alcohol just for me to get through the ride. If I couldn’t drink in the car to get a temporary escape, then I might as well have put my seat back for the ride and sleep the whole way. I don’t think that my friends knew exactly what my problem was until I started writing.
Upon returning home from that weekend trip, I had a little revelation about my friends. I sat there and thought about each one of them, individually. With each one of them, I realized that there was something that existed within them that I needed. I needed my friends to help me get well. The only way I could get well was to expose my true self. As they’re learning more about me, the closer we’ve become. Trust me when I say this, they won’t let me fall again. They want the real me. They much prefer the version of myself that holds no secrets, that hides no addictions, and that wants self help. Part of my healing started after that trip, although I still hadn’t finished hitting, what I call, rock bottom. I still needed to go through more hell before I realized that my lifestyle, that I was choosing to live through my sickness, was killing me. I had to believe that, eventually, living that lifestyle of secret addiction and alcoholism to cope was going to kill everything I had- my marriage, the well-being of my children, and ultimately me. I was letting my depression kill me.
Like I mentioned above, everyone in my circle has had some sort of life altering event happen to them. But, we all have chosen to rise above it. It’s a little harder to go through a season when you’re mentally ill, but despite your mental illness, reach out. Surround yourself with a supportive, loving circle. Advocate for your own happiness. Question yourself on the life you’re living. Do you like it? If not, change it. Sometimes, it takes falling flat on your damn face before you can rise. God didn’t gift your life and being and purpose with misery. That’s so far from His actual will for your life. I can’t open your eyes for you, but I can share what helps me and what I need. I can attest to the fact that you, most likely, WILL fall into a dark pit before you get better. It takes a lot of self-realization to get better, and sometimes that self-realization is really ugly. Don’t allow Satan to consume your mind with thoughts of unworthiness. Once you begin to experience God’s purpose for you, you’ll notice how much easier life is. I can promise you, though, as you begin to accept God’s will for your life and live it out with purpose, Satan will be planning his next attack to bring you down. Do not let him. You’re stronger than that. God bless you.
Sidenote- if you’re into music, truly listen to the words of the song Hard Days by Brantley Gilbert. If that doesn’t inspire you, maybe me trying to sing it to you on a podcast might at least make you laugh! 🙂