Getting Real about Depression and Anxiety

Ok, friends, let’s get real for a bit, shall we? This morning I’ve just heard of yet another celebrity suicide. Two in one week. Celebrities who, when observed from the outside, seemed really happy and full of life. I’ve seen social media posts and heard radio interviews with people expressing shock and sadness. It is very sad. A shock? I’m not sure. 

I can’t lie. I’m concerned about the culture we’ve created that values success and beauty and the pursuit of happiness so much we don’t seem to tolerate struggle, especially in our heroes. 

But, even as I write that statement, I wonder how true it really is. How much of our intolerance for struggle is perceived rather than real? 

You see, I’m one of those people who has greater admiration and respect for people, especially my heroes, who don’t pretend to have it all together. Who can talk about where they struggle, where they’ve fallen or failed. Who don’t need to have all the answers. 

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in my desire for more real in this world. The question I’m thinking about this morning is, do I invite it? Do I invite people to be real, or am I giving off a vibe that suggests people need to feign composure or pretend all is well? I hope not. 

I, for one, am quite often an absolute mess on the inside. Does it always show? I doubt it — even when I think it’s painfully obvious how discombobulated I am, most people tend to read me as calm, cool, and collected. 

Here’s the truth: I struggle. Daily. I suffered my first diagnosed major depressive episode 18 years ago. I was a seminary student. I was overwhelmed and overstimulated and primed for the deep dark dive. Thankfully, I was in a safe place with tons of support. I got help. I got better. 

Since then, (and, truthfully well before then), I have battled depressive tendencies and anxiety. It’s my reality. It isn’t seasons of my life, it’s daily dips and dives. I know my triggers. I try to take care of myself. I exercise. I’m on medication. I have a wonderful tribe. I claim God’s grace, daily. 

Why am I sharing this? Because I think it’s so easy to scroll through social media feeds and compare our worst to everybody else’s carefully curated best. I think it’s easy to convince ourselves that we’re the only ones who can’t get our shit together. I think it’s easy to believe that struggle is for sissies. I think it’s easy to assume that people like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain live charmed lives. 

Listen, I’m not suggesting we all start airing our dirty laundry on social media. I really don’t think that’s the answer. I amsuggesting, however, that we not make assumptions about peoples’ lives based solely on what we see of them in public. 

I’m suggesting we be open with our tribes and reach out when we’re struggling. 

I’m suggesting we offer ourselves and others some grace when we can’t get it together. 

I’m suggesting those with public voices raise them to normalize and de-stigmatize depression and anxiety. 

I’m suggesting we all get real with ourselves and with one another. 

I’m guessing right now your heart rate is either increasing out of terror or settling into a relaxed rhythm of relief. Mine is racing a little. This is vulnerable stuff. It takes courage and a little moxie to be real. I’m imagining hitting “publish” on this post and crawling back in the bed to hide. 

Most of us want to present ourselves at our best. Most of us want to appear successful and together, rather than messy and imperfect (as if those are mutually exclusive qualities). 

What if we can be both? Successful and messy. Together and imperfect. Brave and afraid. 

Friends, I think it’s time to get real about life. It’s messy and hard and wonderful and awful and beautiful and confusing. None of us are going to sail through unscathed. We will all struggle. We will all fall. We will all know heartache. 

The question is: will we attempt to navigate life on our own, or will we do this thing together? 

I’m voting for together. We need each other. We need to know we’re not alone. We need to realize we’re not the only ones. 

If you’re reading this in the midst of a struggle and need help, please reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255. They’re available 24/seven. Their website is https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.  If you don’t need help quite that specific, call a friend. Find a therapist. Talk to someone who is willing to listen without offering easy answers. 

The struggle is real, friends, and we’re all in it together. Please don’t feel like you have to go it alone. Let’s get real side by side, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder. We really do need each other.