“Mom, can I talk to you?”
I was eight years old, and very, very afraid. I wiped my nose on my sleeve.
“What is it, Jill?” My mom asked. She gave me a hug when she saw the forlorn look on my face.
“Alone?” I asked.
We walked into my mom’s room, and I sat on the bed while she shut the door.
“What’s going on? Are you okay?”
Mom sat on the bed next to me and took my small hand. I looked away from her and stared out the dark window, gathering my courage.
“Jill?” My mom squeezed my hand.
I took a deep breath.
“I…I see things that aren’t there. What does that mean, Mommy?”
My mother immediately started to cry. I looked at her.
She held my head close to her chest and stroked my hair. I didn’t know yet what this one small confession would mean for my future, and I didn’t know that mental illness ran in my family, with my older sister suffering from schizoaffective disorder.
“We’ll make it better, Jill,” my mom cried. “We’ll make you better.”
It took years before any light came. Sixteen years, in fact, before I finally, finally, began to feel like I could breathe or that I could accomplish anything. There were many moments, too many moments, where I thought nothing was worth it. Nothing could ever make what I had been through worth it.
I’ve written before about depression and other forms of mental illness. I will continue to write about it, because it is an important topic and affects so many people. I will continue to write about it because while I’ve looked for things that make everything “worth it,” I’m discovering that I am worth it. And I want all of you to recognize that you are worth it, too.
Here is some advice for holding on.
- The person that will be most beneficial in treating you is YOU. Doctors will do what they can, but it comes down to what you do. Medications often help, but they won’t do all of the work. Be willing to open up to therapists and psychologists. They know how to help you, but it is ultimately up to you to get better.
- Try not to feel ashamed of your illness. The stigma surrounding mental illness is negative, at best, but you don’t have to fall into that category. Having a mental illness does not mean you’re bad or evil. It means that you’re sick, and you should treat this sickness just like you would any physical ailment. It is nothing to be ashamed of.
- Treasure all of your accomplishments, even if they’re as small as waking up each day. Sometimes, that’s all you can do, and that’s okay. Don’t discredit yourself. You’re still breathing, and you’re still trying. That is what matters.
- Be honest with yourself and with others about how you’re doing. You’re not doing yourself any favors by hiding behind a mask. Indeed, you’re heading toward a break down if you do this. Again, there is NO SHAME in suffering. Everyone suffers at some point or another, and if we can stop pretending to be perfect, we might just get better.
- Be around people you love. Isolating yourself will ultimately destroy you. I’m not saying you have to be around people 24/7, but don’t close yourself off from other people. Try to include them in your life. Like it or not, we need other people, even if it’s just one or two close friends or family members.
- Try to understand your limits. Don’t push yourself too hard, and don’t judge yourself for your limitations. We all have them, and recognizing where yours are will make you more productive, and will give you less reason to berate yourself. Don’t throw away the gift that is your own life. Suicide is tempting to many, as I know all too well. But what is there to do once you’ve given up? Yes, the pain is intense, and yes, it can be too much, far too much, at different points in time. But don’t just end your existence here. Even though I’m still struggling with depression, I can witness to you that light comes. Maybe it doesn’t overpower you, and maybe not all of the pain goes away, but if you reach out for help, you’ll be able to bear the pain, and you’ll be able to survive. Stay around for your loved ones. Stay around for YOU.
Because YOU ARE WORTH IT.