Please be advised that this post discusses suicidal thoughts.
I took a break from writing this series on my experience with depression, but I’m back to writing a few more to close the series.
For a recap on the timeline, I finally started getting proper treatment for depression in summer 2019 after struggling with depressive cycles and symptoms for eight years. I started getting this help since my health had really declined and I clearly wasn’t functioning anymore. I was exhausted, depressed, and suicidal. I went on sick leave from work for a few months in fall 2019 and started my journey of recovery with the help of a new counsellor, medication, a support group, my church community, family, and friends. I went through a ton of emotional work, personal growth, recovery, healing, and ups and downs in 2020. A lot of that continued in 2021 and still continues but with less intensity since I went through so much of that in the first year. So, while I’m writing this in 2022, I’m thinking back to 2020 and 2021.
I realized through counselling and self-reflection that I have put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. I have tried really hard to be friendly, cheerful, and energetic. That comes from genuine parts of me. I am friendly and cheerful, but I have felt that I should always be cheerful and lively.
I think that comes from thinking about all the good things in my life and not validating challenging emotions, making me think I should always be happy. I have also worried about being a burden to people, so I haven’t wanted to be anything other than cheerful for them. I have also gotten compliments on being a kind, friendly person, and I’ve wanted to keep being that way and keep getting that positive feedback.
However, putting in such effort to always be “on” and lively is tiring. Trying to be chipper out of a sense of obligation, and not just when you really feel that way, is draining.
So, I’ve been trying to take that pressure to perform a certain way off myself. That pressure is not necessary. In fact, avoiding that performance makes me more authentic. It allows more of my true personality and nuance of who I am to show through. And it saves energy! Even when I do need to maintain a friendly presence, like at work, being more relaxed about it makes me feel calmer and more grounded.
Still, I have been concerned about not seeming as friendly. It was a relief when a coworker commented on my friendliness a few months into not trying so hard to be upbeat.
I have also become more aware of my energy levels and when I need to recharge. During a week-long family visit, I took some time on my own a few times. In the past, I would have been worried about missing out or seeming like I didn’t want to make the most of our family time. That visit, I took that time to take care of myself so I could stay energized for the family time. It was encouraging when my sister-in-law gave me positive feedback on that, saying it was good to see that I knew what I needed and that it was a good reminder for her to take care of herself too.
Another example of positive feedback that makes me smile was when I had a short visit with a friend and her daughters, who are my adopted nieces. I wasn’t feeling great that day, so I wasn’t super energetic with the toddler, but I did throw a few snowballs with her. When they left, I felt a bit guilty that I didn’t engage with the toddler more. However, my friend texted me shortly after to say her daughter had said, “Mommy, I think my auntie is so silly!”
Yay, I’m still a friendly person, and even silly sometimes! I didn’t need to be worried about not seeming friendly anymore. When I was trying so hard to be cheerful, I wasn’t trying to be a completely different person. I wasn’t trying to be something I’m not. I was emphasizing or exaggerating a real part of me. I’m still friendly. In taking that pressure off to perform, I have allowed myself to be more relaxed, grounded, and in a better position to be authentically friendly.
Suicide is terrible and tragic. It can be hard to talk about. It can be frightening to hear about. I am not encouraging suicidal ideation as a solution or trying to shock and harm with my words. I am sharing a part of my story, showing what depression can be like. This is one very real and serious part of my story that should not be left out. Talking about suicide can be difficult, but talking about these thoughts instead of hiding them can save lives. I am not the only person struggling with a mental illness who has been in this place. Thankfully, I also have other parts of my story that include difficult and ongoing healing.
Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line (24/7): 1-877-435-7170
Klinic Crisis Line (24/7): 1-888-322-3019
You do not have to be in immediate crisis to call these lines.