I've been reading and reading and reading all of the wonderful posts about Robin Williams over the days since his death and the outpouring of love is truly amazing. I'm so glad that, from what I've seen, people are being respectful and kind. And the fact that this has opened up more of a dialog about mental health issues might be the one silver lining.
I've been lucky, incredibly lucky. I found the right medications, dosages, doctors, and now, thankfully, I don't need the meds. But if either depression or anxiety reared its ugly head again I would be back on those meds in a hot second.
I feel terrible for folks new to the mental health issues family (welcome!). But not for the reasons you might think. Yes, I feel bad that anyone has to deal with it at all but one of THE hardest parts about the whole mess is the getting help of it all. Asking for help. Knowing how to get help.
Depression, anxiety, panic attacks - I believe those are all probably emotions that we all deal with from time to time. When we have loss in our life or stress, those are natural emotions. It's when they become chronic and debilitating that we need to seek help. But here's the thing - seeking help, asking for help, letting others know that you need help...that's a helluva lot easier said than done! I've read countless posts over the last few days, folks begging people to get help when they need it - but often the truth is, we ARE asking but those pleas for help are falling on deaf ears. Not intentionally of course! But lets face it, we are a fucking judgmental society! We expect A LOT from our friends, family, coworkers, spouses, parents, children... and those of us who do suffer with mental health issues, we try communicating that we are struggling, we try saying "no", we try asking for help, we try! We try in subtle ways at first, we share how stressed we are, we share how hard a time we are having getting everything done, we share how tired we are, we share how hard it is just to get out of bed, we say "its all just too much!", we come right out and say We Need Help! But most of the time, in my experience, that is perceived as everything but a plea for help. It is seen as weakness, laziness, that we aren't trying hard enough, that we don't care, we aren't giving enough, we aren't being a good friend/child/parent/coworker. And let me tell you, when it is taking every. last. bit. of. energy. you. have. just to get through each day and you are met with judgement ... well, it's easy to think "what do I have to do so that anyone, someone might see how far I've have fallen?"
I've found that most friends and family think that they WANT to help, but they don't really want to hear you "whine". They don't want to hear you cry or be depressed. It's not fun. Who wants to be around the sad, mopey girl? Uh, no one, that's who. We might be depressed but we aren't dumb. We realize when our Eeyoreness is becoming a bummer to those around us. So we pull inside even further. We start to lie about why we can't do stuff. We are "sick" a lot. And that brings up another point - sometimes you just don't want to share and that needs to be ok! But it's not always that we don't want to share, more that we know people don't really want to hear the real answer to "how are you?". Someone says, to your face or you hear what folks are saying though the rumor mill, "where have you been hiding?" do you a.) say "Oh, we've just been really busy. You know, life!" or b.) develop diarrhea of the mouth and tell them all of the REAL reasons why you haven't been able to face the light of day in weeks. I generally opt for option a. And while judgey judgerson is probably thinking, "lazy bastard hermit!" they probably would be eternally grateful if they knew that they had just dodged a bullet! The fact is, I just don't always want to tell everyone what is "really" going on but I also don't want everyone judging me for not poking my head out of my hole for weeks on end! Maybe I don't want to tell everyone and their dog that I'm depressed because my dad has cancer, I've lost six of my precious animals in the last three years, I am suddenly the parent of a 17 year old, my dogs are all old as Methuselah, and some things even too personal to share here ...maybe I just want to say "Sorry, I have a headache."
So all I want to ask is that everyone try to love a bit more and judge a lot less. When a friend says she can't do something don't assume it's because she's a shitty friend. Maybe, just maybe she is struggling. Instead of guilt tripping someone for not living up to all of your expectations maybe consider that life is rough sometimes...sometimes people are doing everything just to keep their head above water. Maybe each time we feel disappointment or jump to judgement we should consider - hmmm, wonder if something is going on? Maybe they have a full plate? Maybe they are dealing with something too emotional to explain? Maybe instead of assuming the negative we start to have a little compassion...can you just imagine what the world would be like if we all just had a little more compassion?