This is a hard post to write. I want to share some things with you. I want you to understand. It’s just so hard to be vulnerable right now. These past couple of days, I have been struggling to put into words how I feel. I’ve pulled back from blogging, partly because I didn’t know what to say. My words were gone and my brain felt muddled. But as I showered today, these simple words came to my mind–“Reach Out”. I resisted, because part of me doesn’t want to reach out right now. I just want to hide away for a bit, until I’m feeling stronger and more like myself. It’s not like me to feel this way or to pull away from people. In fact, it’s a red flag for me. I like being around people and I need them in my life! Right now I just need people to reach out to me. (Oh, that’s so hard to say!!)
On Sunday, my daughter was sick with a cold, fever, and cough. I stayed home from church to take care of her. My husband and other two children went to church without us. I was staying home because I needed to take care of my baby girl. But to be completely honest, I was kind of relieved to have an excuse not to go. I really didn’t feel up to it that day. It is hard to be around people when you are feeling down inside. I hate putting on a smile and pretending I’m fine when I’m not. I didn’t want people to know that I’m still struggling.
I have been thinking recently about anxiety and depression and how they tend to isolate us. It’s ironic, since having a strong support system is so critically important to someone dealing with mental illness! It’s as if our depression knows what will make us feel better and it tries to keep us from those things. It tells us to pull away. I know for a fact that I can’t do this alone. I know that I have people I can call. But sometimes, I start to feel like a burden. No one likes being around someone when they are depressed. Will they even notice if I fade into the background? Will anyone care?
The other day during my meditation, a deep emotional hurt rose to the surface of my consciousness. I wondered aloud, “Do people think I am too much?” Too emotional and erratic? Too up-and-down? Too needy? Too excited and exuberant? Too open? Too sensitive? Sharing too much? Posting too much? Reaching out too much, to the point of bugging people? I didn’t realize that I felt that way deep down. It was healing just to voice that hurt and acknowledge it. I realized that, deep down, I still cared about people’s approval of me. It’s a weakness that I’m working to overcome. But sometimes I need to be reminded that I’m lovable. I just want to be loved for who I am and not who others want me to be. I think that is something we all long for.
I started this blog in hopes that it would help others, but also that it would help me. And so far, it has. Through WordPress, I found a community of bloggers, like me, who are sharing their stories and fighting the stigma of mental illness. It was so encouraging to find them and to read their posts! I feel like I found my people! (My husband laughed when I told him that. But that’s how I feel!) Some of them are struggling with social anxiety or OCD. Some deal with depression. Some have bipolar disorder, like me. They are all doing something brave–they are trying to put mental illness into words. They are opening up and sharing with the world what it is like to live with a chronic mental illness. As I read their posts, I cry and laugh and think to myself, “Yes, that is how I feel too!! I’m not alone!” I needed that–to feel accepted and understood and part of a group of like-minded people. People who feel an urge to write and share and who want to make a difference.
I discovered that there are some excellent writers out there! Some passionate and brave people who have so much to offer the world! They inspire me! But they are struggling and sometimes hiding. They are battling with mental illness and encouraging each other to keep fighting. They are strong and talented and loving, but they are lonely. They feel misunderstood. They go through ups and downs and sometimes struggle to function day-to-day. Some of them have a community of online followers, but I wonder how many close friends they interact with in person. I hope they have a good support group, because it is so hard to battle mental illness alone. These people–they are so worth loving! They have so many gifts to share! I want you to know them and to be their friend. I want you to reach out, because the world is missing out on some incredible people!!
After church, I got a text from a friend. She had noticed that I wasn’t there and she was texting to check on me. Someone noticed! I told her that Maria was sick. I didn’t tell her that I was too. But just knowing that someone noticed I wasn’t there and missed me made me feel a little better.
Who do you know who is pulling away or hiding? Do you notice them not showing up to social activities? Are they less responsive to calls or texts? Are they not calling you or posting online or reaching out as often? Do you reach out to them to let them know that you missed them? Are you the kind of friend that reaches out and lets others know that you want them in your life? Sometimes people need to hear you say it. They need to know that you care about them personally and that you love them just the way they are. I am normally one who reaches out. I need connection like I need food to eat and air to breathe! But when I pull away, it’s a sign that I might be struggling.
I don’t expect you to read all my posts and comment on them. I don’t expect you to call or text me. (But it’s nice when you do!) I don’t expect you to always be aware of my mood state and be on constant alert. I don’t expect you to come and rescue me when I’m depressed. I’ll try to let you know when I need help. I’m ok today. I just want you to know how I am feeling today because I believe that you care. I believe that you are my friend. I feel your concern and I see you reaching out. Thank you for loving me! Thank you for calling and texting just to check in. Thanks for listening and for accepting me just as I am. And to all you other bloggers out there, let’s keep fighting the fight!