Sarah Baxter
October 29, 2015 2:08 pm

Depression is an isolating illness. A chemical imbalance in your brain makes negative thoughts whirl around in your head and constantly put you down. It also makes positive thoughts and emotions less able to stick, drains your energy, and messes up your sleeping and eating habits. It can even make you feel like your existence doesn’t matter and it would be better if you weren’t here. It’s serious and it’s scary and that can make it isolating.

People can’t visibly see what’s wrong with you so many doubt it’s even there. A lot of people just label you as “lazy” or “moody” because they can’t understand how you don’t have a choice when it comes to how feel. But the thing with depression is that it’s an invisible illness that affects how you feel. That’s literally what it means. People who care enough about you to get that—or at least try to—are people you should keep around.

But there’s already a huge group a people out there who not only sympathize with what you’re going through, but empathize with it as well.

When I finally opened up about my struggle with depression and anxiety, I received a surprising flood of support from all my friends and family on Facebook. Not that I was expecting heckling or anything, but I guess I wasn’t expecting that many people to care—let alone be supportive (one of those fun parts of depression is thinking no one cares). But the most life-changing experience I’ve had since I started talking about my mental illness is not just how supportive the world can be, but how many people know first-hand what I’m going through. Sure, mentally healthy people saying wonderful things means a lot, but knowing that there is a community of people out there who know exactly what I’m feeling makes me feel less isolated.

According to the American Psychological Association, 6.7% of Americans suffer from depression. That’s 14.8 Million people! In addition, 40 million suffer from anxiety and about half of people with one mental illness have another. There are a lot of people out there who have struggled with what’s going on inside their head and who know what you’re going through. Even though I’d never wish this illness on anyone, it’s comforting to find people who know what you’re feeling and people that you can reach out to.

Since I’ve started talking about my illness, I’ve gotten several personal messages from people reaching out to me to tell me they fight with their mind everyday too and they are here for me. It’s not that they know exactly what to say—they frequently don’t. because they’re aware depression can twist things people say—it’s just that they personally reach out to you to say they are there for you. And for me, when I’m in a low, it helps most to here from people who have been there and gotten out of it. It gives me hope. It’s like looking into your future when someone who’s in a better place now tells you it gets better.

Now when I’m feeling low, there are tons of people that I can reach out to if I need help. There’s an entire community of loving and kind people who don’t want to see people suffer who have opened their arms to me, and it feels amazing. Next time when I’m crying over an ex, tweeting remarks about loneliness, or struggling to get back on my feet after a let-down, there’s a handful of people reaching out to me to make sure I’m okay.

That’s one of the most important things I’ve experienced, and something I’ve noticed only those who have had depression do, is that they reach out first. They know first hand how hard it is to ask for help because of how your mind tells you “no one cares” and “you’re just a burden.” They know that people don’t always reach out and they aren’t willing to take the risk to let that person go ignored.

Every positive experience I have, they’re there cheering me on. Every set-back I have they’re there to lend a hand. They’re always there. I think it’s because they know how important that is. Like the late Robin Williams (who battled and lost his life to mental illness) said, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make other people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that.” My friends are proof of that.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them. Thank you, every one of you, for all that you’ve done to help me feel okay again. People like you are the reason people like me keep fighting.

If you are struggling with your mental health please seek help. There are hundreds of mental health professionals, counselors, doctors, and specialists waiting to offer their services.

[image via Shutterstock]

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