~ notes from an uncommon journey ~

My Depression: #WhatYouDontSee

Yesterday I saw on Twitter that it's Depression Awareness Week and that an organization called The Blurt Foundation was launching a social media campaign called #WhatYouDontSee. It's a genius concept because...that's the thing about mental illness: You literally cannot see it. In some cases (like when someone self harms, for example), you can see evidence of it. But you cannot see the illness itself. And as a result of that (and many other factors), misunderstanding and stigma abound. And these things only make it worse for sufferers. The Blurt Foundation said they were "determined to challenge the stigma around what depression 'should' look like, and show the world that ANYONE can be affected by poor mental health." So am I.

So during my lunch hour, I started tweeting and Faceboking (simultaneously, thanks to the Selective Tweets app) some of the ways that depression affects me. My first post announced that I was participating, and then another early post shared the link to Blurt's Huffington Post article about the week and the campaign.
Click on the image for Blurt's campaign announcement.

One thing I noticed pretty quickly: It was crazy easy to come up with examples. I found that to be quite telling.

But the other thing that happened was also telling. Because of the way Facebook works, some of my friends didn't see my first post or the one sharing the article. So they assumed I was posting about what I was going through right then, and they responded with care and concern. And of course, that's lovely. I certainly wouldn't want them to respond any other way. But what I'm betting a lot of them don't realize is....

I live with that shit every. damn. day.

And—that's sort of the point too, isn't it? I live with it all the time, and many in my life have no idea. Or at least...that is how it often seems.

Now, to be fair, some days are better than others. And, with the way my depression tends to work, some parts of days are better than others. It's not equally bad all day, every day. (And thank goodness for that.)

But depression (in a similar way to grief, actually...though the two are different) can rear its ugly head at any moment, and then I'm experiencing one or more of the things I posted about—or any of a myriad other things; it just depends.

Here are the majority of the campaign tweets I've posted in the last 2 days so you can get an idea of what this is like for me. (Keep in mind that others' experiences can and do differ.)

It's time we normalized the experiences of those with mental illness. In fact, it's way past time. And by "normalize," I mean: to help others living with it know that the things they experience are normal for their condition. And it's past time we helped those living with it know: You are not alone. And it's past time we corrected the many misconceptions that are out there, like...it's just a bit of sadness, and one could snap out of it if they wanted to. Nothing could be further from the truth.

These are the reasons I'm sharing so personally this week.

With sharing comes greater awareness. With awareness comes greater understanding. With understanding comes a greater capacity for connection and empathy. Both for those suffering and for others around them. (And as Brené Brown says, in the RSA video The Power of Empathy, "...rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.")

If you're living with depression and want to participate in the campaign, you can simply talk about it on social media, and use the hashtag #WhatYouDontSee.

If you're struggling with depression or think you might be, and you could use some help, start here.
© A Road Less Traveled

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