I am no stranger to social anxiety, the fear of going places, meeting people you don't know, or even people you do. Of having to make conversation, small talk, when all you want to do is fade into the background and observe, and not interact. That yearning to hide away at a social gathering reading a book. The terror of stepping outside of your house, sometimes even your room, so that you become a hermit, your life stagnant, afraid of change.
I am no stranger to depression, that insidious liar that whispers in your head late at night and tells you all the things you fear are true about yourself, even though they aren't. That crushing blackness that sucks away your energy, your motivation, that makes it so you don't even want to get out of bed. That makes it so that even existing is difficult. That reaches its tendrils out to touch all those around you, who care about you, and want to help, but don't know how.
I do not have either, but rather have dealt with both, as an outsider, looking in, at people I care about that struggle with these daily. The view from out here can be terrifying, and frustrating, and exasperating. It can be hopeless, and hopeful. It is daunting, and rewarding, and sometimes overwhelming. It has also taught me a lesson in Strength vs.Weakness.
The people that I have encountered in my life that suffer from depression/anxiety are some of the strongest people I know. I have seen them at low points, so low to be dangerous, and yet they grimly carry on, they seek help, they don't give up even when giving up seems the easy way. They get up out of bed when they really don't want to, they interact with family, with friends, when all they want to do is hide under their blankets. They force themselves to eat, to bathe, to just KEEP GOING, when everything is dark and nothing has meaning and nothing seems important anymore. They know if they just keep going, things will eventually get light again, feeling will return, the panic will recede. I see that strength in every action they take to fight against that darkness. In every step they take towards that far light that they can't even see, but know from experience is waiting eventually for them again.
As someone trying to be a support person in these situations, it's tough. It's impossible to fully understand what someone is going through when you aren't and have never been in that place. You find yourself saying things like, "Why can't you just focus on the positive things in your life?" and.. "You have so many blessings and people that love you, why can't you see that??" And you can't understand WHY the person can't see those things, you don't realize that depression puts a blindfold on people, it doesn't LET them see those things. They can only focus inwards, on all the horrible things depression is telling them, that they are worthless, that they aren't worthy of love, that they will never succeed, that there's no point in trying, that it will never get better. And no matter what you say, Depression speaks louder than you, it drowns out your words. And the blindfold is there, so they can't see the love there right in front of them. Or if they can see, or hear, it is so muted and muffled it's like a whisper in a wind tunnel to them. So you try and give support, and listen, and never give up on trying to get them back into the light.
Until one day, maybe you do give up. And you realize you weren't the strong one, the brave one, the whole time. And all you can do is learn from the experience, learn about yourself, and maybe learn how to be strong for the next person that needs you.
This post is to remind all the people out there that struggle every day with their inner demons, with the darkness, that you are Strong. That the Light is there, even if you can't see it. Don't give up.