I woke up to a note on my pillow; it said “I’m sad and I want to die”, it was from my seven year old son. It broke my heart. I was in physical pain from it. I was guilty and petrified. I wondered if he had the same mental illness that I suffered from my entire life. I had spent the better part of the last three years in the bottom of the deepest depression I had ever felt. I gave up. I gave up completely. I had given up before, but this was different. It was deeper. I felt it in my marrow. It defined my life. I stopped leaving my home and I quit speaking to everyone. My kids and wife couldn’t reach me if I was sitting next to them. I wanted to lay down and not move until I stopped breathing -no matter how long that took. I was exhausted. I just wanted it to be over.
Then my son leaves me this note. My best friend tells me that -at seven- he feels despair so deeply that he can’t find a way to deal with it except to wish he wasn’t here. At that moment I decided that this wasn’t acceptable. I couldn’t live in a world where my son or any other child or adult feels like the only option is dying. It is not ok for anyone to feel this way without someone taking it seriously, and most importantly, without that disgusting stigma that comes with mental illness.
I started @SaneSideOut on instagram, and I began very openly and honestly speaking about my own depression and anxiety. I opened a line of communication between myself and anyone that felt like I do. I wanted people to know that I understood and related to what they were going through and I have felt what they felt. I wanted them to know that they truly weren’t alone. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety since my early childhood. I’m still here. I found a way to cope in helping others and hopefully giving my son and my other two children a path in which they can be honest and open and ask for help.
I decided that I would use my depression and anxiety to make sure others had somewhere to go when I felt I didn’t, somewhere they could ask for help without feeling anything but compassion. All I ever wanted was some undivided attention, I just wanted to be heard, saved, important, and a place to go where I would be truly heard and attended to -someplace where there was no shame or judgment. I will continue to do that for others as long as they need.
When I feel that shadow coming over me, I find a way to use that to do something good for someone else. I make sure to be very conscious of how I get through it so I can remember it and pass it along. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but I have to try. That gives me purpose and motivation to keep going. I am determined to let as many people as I can know, they are not alone. Truly not alone.
I always tell my kid to love his “weird”. I want him to love all of his differences. I love everything about him and I want him to see himself the way I see him and my other two. The way I see people. The way I want to see myself as well. I always end my posts with, “We are not alone. We are all different but we are not unique.” Unique is singular, different is what makes us human. We should revel in difference.