Take a second and think about your day…
How did you feel?
Were you relatively comfortable within your skin?
As you made your way out of bed did you do so without a struggle?
Did the simple tasks in front of you fail to overwhelm you?
Did you keep your fears at bay?
Were you able to quiet the voices of insecurity and anxiety when they began to whisper?
Did you interact with people without fighting back a hot rush of panic?
Did you find joy in the simple act of living?
Did breathing come easily.
If so, then give thanks.
And as with all privilege it’s probably not something you’re normally aware of.
You may not realize that your default brain setting isn’t something all people have access to.
Some sharing this space and time with you aren’t so lucky.
For some the monsters are real and close.
Some people live always outnumbered.
With everything they have to battle in this life; all the wounds and trials and failures common to everyone—many people also have to battle themselves.
They have to overcome their minds acting as their own prosecuting attorney, always making the iron-clad case why they should be without hope, why they aren’t worth loving, why they should give up, why they deserve to feel this way.
Mental illness isn’t a fair fight, because no matter what you do it’s impossible to escape you.
In every season and every circumstance and in every instance, you are the constant. And that means sabotage is never far away, betrayal is always close by, peace is always precarious.
Depression has been a companion for much of my adult life. For decades I’ve struggled with those self-contained demons and I know the specific hell they bring and how persistent they are.
I understand the duplicity of everyday existence.
I know what it is to have a really good life and to still be miserable,
to have the markers of success yet be certain I am failing,
to be surrounded and feel alone,
to be well-loved and deem myself unlovable,
to have abundance and feel desperation,
to be suffocating right there out in the open,
to have every reason to have hope and yet still be hopeless.
And as a believer I understand the guilt for not being thankful for what I have and the shame of feeling that if I really believed in God, that if my faith was strong enough—I would just snap out of it.
And above all, I know the silence that you can imprison yourself in because you’re sure you’d be a burden to people around you.
Depression and anxiety and the other dark spaces our minds manufacture do their worst damage by putting distance between us and the world; keeping us sequestered in the despair where the only voice we can hear clearly is our own.
If this is your story, I know that I can’t speak any words to magically change any of this for you, but just know that I understand. Know that many people walk this road with you in silent solidarity. You are far more normal than you believe yourself to be.
And though there are all sorts of tools to help you carry this incredible burden; counseling, meditation, prayer, exercise, medication, life coping skills (and I encourage you to use as many as you can), the fact is that this will simply always be part of your journey, part of our journey. And like any other illness, it isn’t your fault and it doesn’t define you even though it my feel that way at times.
You are bigger than your demons.
And for those who rarely experience this kind of counterintuitive despair, this all may be difficult to wrap your head around. But I need you to try.
Because here’s the thing: Your mental health is a privilege. It’s gives you an advantage that many do not have. This isn’t your fault and it’s not something to feel guilty about, but as with all privilege it does come with responsibility.
Look for those of us who are hurting and move toward us. Even if we tell you we’re fine, look deeply enough to really see us. Many times you will have to overcome us just to get to us.
Don’t mistake our silence for wellness. That may just be the dark corner our minds have forced us into.
We may be difficult to reach and we need you to be as relentless in your compassion as we can be in our rejection of it. Though it may sometimes seem as though you aren’t getting through, know that no kindness is ever wasted; that deep within us in the places where words fail, it matters.
The privilege of mental health isn’t something you’ll ever be able to fully share with those of us who struggle, but every loving moment tips the scales just a little bit.
And for some of us, that may be enough.
Previously Published on johnpavlvovitz.com