Taylor Lundy - A Picture Perfect Life
I struggle with depression.
Only four words, yet so difficult to share. Five years ago, I probably would have rather died than admit publicly that I battle depression. It was something that I was ashamed of, and felt overwhelmingly guilty about, for a long time. It has taken hard work, vulnerability and many uncomfortable conversations for me to get to this point.
If you were to look at my life from the outside, you likely wouldn’t see a severely depressed person. You would see someone who is extremely social and constantly surrounded by friends; who is always up for an adventure and loves traveling to places off the beaten path; who has the most supportive family anyone could ever ask for; someone who is successful in her work, her community, her social life; someone who has it all together.
What you don’t see behind this seemingly healthy, happy veneer is someone who has sunk down to her own private hell. Someone who must put in an unbelievable amount of effort just to get out of bed every single morning; who lacks any semblance of confidence or self-worth; who worries excessively about things that 'shouldn’t' matter; who feels too much and spends her time helping everyone else, rather than herself; who struggles intensely with insomnia; and who once thought she was going 'crazy' because she hadn’t slept more than an hour per night for two weeks straight.
Mental health doesn’t discriminate. You never know what is going on behind closed doors.
Like many of us who live with depression, I wear a brighter self in public to distract from the darkness that settles over me when I’m alone. I put on a big smile and a cheerful disposition, so as not to disappoint or worry my friends and family. As you can probably imagine, this takes an exhausting amount of effort.
It got to the point this past fall where I was extremely tired from struggling for so long that I didn’t know if I could go on. I had fallen to a new low, and all I wanted to do was get rid of the pain. I had reached my breaking point and I knew that I needed to ask for help.
"You would probably be better off dead. There is no point in continuing on.”
I could no longer take joy in anything, even what were previously some of my favourite activities. Girls’ nights, family dinners, gorgeous hikes, and glorious surfs didn't fill the void.
I would repeatedly find excuses not to see friends because I was too scared that they would see the real me, and not want to be associated with me anymore.
“You aren’t fun anymore. You have no personality left. No one should have to hang out with you.”
I felt like my previously quick, creative and clever mind had been replaced by someone else’s. I could no longer concentrate or finish anything I started. My brain felt like it was perpetually in a fog. My creativity was non-existent.
“You’ll never amount to anything or contribute to society in an even remotely meaningful way.”
My body felt weighed down. I gained about 20 pounds, likely from a combination of being on an anti-depressant known to cause weight gain, lacking the energy to work out often, and finding fleeting moments of happiness while indulging in Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream (seriously, that shit is dangerous).
“Things will never get better. Everything has always been miserable and always will be. You will be depressed forever.”
I was so utterly exhausted all the time that I could barely get out of bed. Simple things like showering required more effort than climbing a bloody mountain. Doing a load of laundry felt like running a fucking marathon. I seriously had the energy level of a three-toed sloth. Except I wasn’t nearly as cute.
“You’re an absolute burden, and your friends and family would be better off without you.”
I wanted to sleep all day long because it was my only escape from the pain I felt while awake.
“You’re not worthy of anyone’s love.”
And all the time, I'd feel horribly guilty about being depressed. How could I be depressed when there were so many people in the world worse off than I was?
Yes, these thoughts and feelings weren’t rational or healthy whatsoever. My brain had been taken over by a vicious monster which caused my sense of reality to be completely turned upside down.
At the time, all of these thoughts seemed completely natural and believable to me. I was caught in a dangerous cycle of negative thinking.
Akin to seeing everything in the world through a pair of grey tinted glasses.
I could no longer recall any happy memories. Looking at old pictures of myself smiling and having fun with friends made me think that they must be photos of someone else entirely.
Getting back on track required an incredible amount of effort, more tears than I would care to admit, and some truly unsettling moments of opening up to others about the demons in my mind that I had previously faced entirely on my own. I had struggled with depression on and off for over 12 years by that point, but I had never fallen quite so low. I knew that I needed to reach out and get help.
With the support of my family and close friends, alongside; anti-depressants, regular exercise, healthy eating, lots of time in nature, and a healthy sleep schedule, I was able to get to a better place.
It was obviously not nearly as easy as it seems neatly summarized in the above sentence. It was a full-fledged battle. And I am still very much a work in progress. Getting better has been a fine balancing act, and I know that I’ll have to deal with depression for the rest of my life - staying healthy is something I’ll have to consciously work towards every single day. And I’m willing to fight.
My hope is for people to be more open about mental health. It can affect the lives of anyone and everyone, and in my view, the more we talk and explore mental health issues, the better.
Not enough people talk about depression, even though it’s a substantial problem in our society. In Canada the reality is that 1 in 5 people will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life and, at this very moment, some 3 million Canadians are suffering from depression. Yet, according to the Canadian Mental Association, 2 in 3 people suffer in silence for fear of judgment and rejection.
We need to break the silence and properly educate people. We need to support more mental health programs and initiatives in our community. Stories of lived experience are the best way to eradicate stigma and that’s why I’m sharing mine.
Many people don’t understand the depths of depression and treat it like a weakness, rather than the debilitating disease it is. Depression is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not your fault. Know that if you are struggling, you have so much more strength than you think. You are loved. You are not alone. And things will get better, I can promise you that. I’ve been to hell and back several times, and have had thoughts that I would not wish upon anyone, yet I’ve come back. Every single time. If I can, you can.
“The prettiest smiles hide the deepest secrets, the brightest eyes have cried the most tears, and the kindest hearts have felt the most pain.”
By Taylor Lundy.
Taylor is a Marketing & Communications Specialist living in beautiful Victoria, BC. She’s an avid reader, a wannabe globetrotter, a bold adventurer and an indie rock enthusiast. In her spare time, she can be found fundraising for the causes she’s passionate about, surfing, hiking, camping and exploring. She’s always down to connect with likeminded people who are up for an adventure!
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