Banding Together: Knowing You’re Not Alone

Earlier this week, I have been struggling with depressive episodes.

In fact, I haven’t been in the best of moods for a while. Between my money problems and feelings of failure, my attitude consists of me not wanting to be bothered.  I often feel that no matter what I do, there is often some sort of reminder (in my mind at least) that something is bound to go horribly awry.

When I get this way, I tend not to express how I’m feeling verbally.  I keep my feelings to myself for the most part because 1) I’m introverted, 2) I don’t wish to worry anyone and 3) I don’t wish to be seen as an emotional burden to anyone.  So when people ask me what this matter is, I say “I’m good.” That’s my automatic response, despite the fact that not many may not believe me.

To break this pattern, I attend the Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS) classes three days a week.  For those who know about it, PROS is an out-patient program that allows people with mental illness to attend workshops based on their individual needs.  My psychiatrist has recommended it after my first meeting with him, so I decide to give it a shot.

I have only been there for a week and I like it so far.  I’m actually comfortable enough to speak up in class when I need to.  But as comfortable as I am, I’m still unable to talk about my emotional responses to life’s struggles unless it becomes unbearable.

For instance, my depression makes itself known in one of my classes.  The night before, I find out the night before that my unemployment benefits have been suspended due to uncompleted paperwork. Then five minutes before my Depression and Anxiety class starts, I find out that my Care Management Specialist has not handed in my application for subsidized housing because she has mistaken my staying with friends as a permanent situation.   So by the time I take my seat in class, I’m depressed, anxious and pissed.

I eventually end up sharing briefly my struggles with the entire group because I couldn’t even concentrate.  I tell them about my housing situation, lack of funds and my overall feelings of failure because I am 34 years old, yet struggling to function like a whole human being.  Instead of being annoyed, however, each group member tells me about their struggles.  One man shares that he has been in a shelter while a woman speaks up about her trials. When I tell the class about my Masters in Social Work, even the instructor states that clients would rather work with someone who has been through similar struggles than with someone who hasn’t.

“Just know that you are not alone,” one of my classmates reminds me.  “You have support here.  We’re here for you.  Just keep coming to PROS cuz it really does help.”

When he says this, I can tell that he isn’t just giving me lip service.  His words—and that of the others—are sincere.  I walk out of the class reenergized and feeling like myself to a certain extent.

When I log on to Facebook later on that day, I see that one of my friends posts a status about him isolating when he’s experiences an episode.  I respond by stating that, by forcing myself to act, I find that reaching out before the situation becomes dire and stress that if we come together to socialize instead of isolating, we would be helping each other.

I can’t tell you how true this is.  When I isolate, I stay in my room (especially during the winter period) and watch Netflix, neither not wanting to be bothered by anyone nor wanting to bother anyone with my negativity. When my depression is bad enough, my Dark Passenger comes through and tells me that no one cares and that loneliness or death are the most logical options.

For many people with depression, isolation is dangerous at the very least.  It is when we tend to think the worst of ourselves, our lives and possibly wondering what purpose we have if one even exists.  But I also feel strongly that folks struggling with mental illness must band together.  We must rely on one another in order to remain level headed enough to avoid going too deep into the Dark Side.

In order words:  We are not alone.


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