This time last year my depression was a shameful secret, a secret I kept from most of my friends and family. This time last year I wasn’t writing; I wasn’t living. This time last year I was considering suicide.
What a difference a year can make!
While I won’t say “it gets better” I will say that “it will change,” because you — suffering from a mental illness or not — will change. It is the one constant in this otherwise inconsistent world and, in my case, change was the best thing that could have happened.
As my readers already know, mental health has become my platform. Having struggled with depression since I was 15 years old, and after wrestling with postpartum depression for 16 months, I feel very strongly in sharing what I have learned with others. And whether it be my own postpartum story, an explanation of the difference between depression and sadness, or a piece aimed to find the silver lining in a shitty situation, i.e. how depression has made me a better mom, I plan to continue to share everything I can in an effort to #STOPthestigma associated with mental illnesses.
In an effort to do just that I started the #snapshotsforsanity social media movement, and I invite all of you to join me. I need all of you to join me.
The idea is simple: Take a picture of yourself once-a-day for a week, a month, a year, or however long you like and tag it #snapshotsforsanity. You can be happy, stressed, sad, or excited; you can be alone, with your kids, your friends, your french bulldog. You can be you! The point is not what you look like, who you are with, or what you are doing — or not doing — the point is to highlight that depression takes on many faces, and not all of them are weepy. Have you seen depression commercials lately, or even how it is portrayed in the movies? Women and men stare longingly through rain covered windows, their knees held to their chests and their hair hanging down over their eyes. Sure it conveys numbness, isolation, and an unending amount of sadness, but it also implies that is what depression looks like — all day, everyday. Not only is this imagery trite and cliched, it’s downright misleading! While some days I do look like that. MOST of the year I do not…which is why so very many people were surprised to discover I suffered from depression. I didn’t “look the part.”
I looked “normal.”
Well guess what? Mental illnesses are normal. In fact, mental illnesses affect 18.2% of the U.S. population. That’s right, 1 in 5 Americans struggles with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or various other conditions outlined in the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The problem is not whether or not it is normal, the problem is how abnormally such diseases tend to play out on screen or in the mass media.
But we can change that perception, and our perception of ourselves, one single snapshot at a time.