Actually, that’s a lie, admittedly to get your attention. I’m truly convinced that the entire country is depressed. Yes, all of America is living in a soul-sucking black hole where we’re afraid to watch/read the news because our hearts can’t take another school shooting, Trump brat attack that puts our entire country in jeopardy, celebrity suicide, or sexual assault story. I mean, it’s just exhausting.
Here we are just trying to get through daily life, which usually consists of:
- waking up tired because we’ve all developed sleep problems due to anxiety and over-stimulation from our addiction to devices
- arriving at work already exhausted after a long and stressful commute because our cities are too crowded
- not having many moments of pride and satisfaction at work for myriad reasons (toxic office culture, poor leadership, time exhausted by pointless meetings and responding to email) so there’s no time to for deep and creative work
- if you have a family, constant worry about providing for them and yourself and the future of the world which IS going to hell in a hand basket
- if you don’t have a family, loneliness, because our culture is not set up to foster a sense of community and inclusion. And depending on what part of the country you live in, this can be even more pronounced because many cities are just not that friendly to newbies or outsiders
See what I mean? If you’re not struggling through life without a constant sense of at least minor unease, then you’ve probably disconnected to protect yourself so that you can function day-to-day. That’s some real talk.
But here’s the good news….people recognize what’s happening and are reaching out. We’ve realized that creating connection is necessary for the basic well-being of all humans.
Interestingly, one of the most shared quotes on connectedness is from mad scientist Albert Einstein. A humanitarian at heart, he knew that no man is an island, even if that island is shrouded in brilliance and invention. He said:
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
This is what’s happening now in the zeitgeist. In fact, I’m seeing it happen in one of the most unlikely spaces…social media, particularly Facebook. In the wake (pun not intended, sorry) of last week’s suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, people are now using the platform to connect, share, and most hopefully — reach fellow humans struggling with anxiety, depression, despair, and suicidal thoughts so they know they’re not alone. And to let them know that doing the copycat thing is not something we’re going to idly sit back and allow to happen.
Just in the last few days, people in my friends list have shared about deeply personal things like what is actually going on beneath the surface with their jobs, personal lives, relationships and health. They’re straight-up saying things like “Oftentimes, because of social media, we’re guilty of only sharing the perfect photos, the happy moments, and showing ‘off’ the best version of our lives. I think by sharing my own struggles perhaps we can relate to each other on more of an emotional understanding. ALL of us struggle and it’s ok.”
That this is happening more and more is a beautiful expression of human strength and compassion. The trend to be more REAL and authentic is one I’ve been seeing for awhile. Even as a marketer, I’ve always been averse to selling or promoting anything that smacks of bullshit. Whether I’m working for a brand or trying to sell myself, I’m basically incapable of putting anything out there I feel to be untrue. So, I’ve been elated by this new trend of showing up in the world with vulnerability. My recent writings reflect my own attempts to do this.
Is it scary as hell? Yes….but the feeling I get from someone reaching out to me or commenting and letting me know I helped or made an impact is WELL WORTH any temporary embarrassment I may feel. The fact is, I’m struggling to keep anxiety and depression at bay on a daily basis because I have so many factors in my life that lend to this: being an entrepreneur, being a parent, living in the world.
Last night I shared this article on Facebook:
Americans are depressed and suicidal because something is wrong with our culture
Don’t pathologize the despair that is a rational response to a culture that values people based on ever…www.usatoday.com
I added that I know mental illness has a lot to do with it and millions of Americans suffer from it (my own family is riddled with it), but it’s all made worse by our culture of isolation. I lost a cousin to suicide a few years ago (he was probably undiagnosed bipolar and jumped off a bridge), and possibly my brother as well (he battled mental illness and just disappeared without a trace 20 years ago). So I’m not at all blind to both how common it is to have some form of mental illness, but also the stigma that remains attached to it. This comment really resonated with people and motivated me to continue the discussion with a deeper exploration of my thoughts, to hopefully reach those that are struggling and help them feel less alone.
The structures that society was once based on barely exist anymore. Churches are mostly viewed with distrust (at least in my circles), and other institutions (schools, the government in general) care less about the individual person and more about just trying to manage problems.
Communities don’t seem to exist except for in small towns and rare situations where people work really hard to create them. People move away from their hometowns and families and end up raising their own families alone and without help. Speaking from personal experience, this makes it much, MUCH harder and more stressful than it needs to be.
What happens if, like me, you get hit with the worst type of postpartum depression you can get (a story I’ll elaborate on another time), but have no family nearby, and you go under so hard and fast you couldn’t have reached out in time anyway?
LUCKILY, family (on my husband’s side) stepped in to help, an amazing friend mobilized help for us via GoFundMe and just sending supplies we needed, and some of our friends in the city we’d only been living in for 2 years helped out in a major way. Without that, I truly don’t know what would have happened to us. And that was with me keeping it completely quiet on social media and only telling select people. I was afraid of the stigma, but with some distance now realize how common these situations are and how education and connection is the only way through it.
So yes, you could say I’ve had my own journey with mental illness. I know how terrifying it feels to have your brain basically break, end up hospitalized in an incredibly vulnerable and confused state but treated like an annoying child by medical staff, need to go on medication just to get straight, recover, but then get hit with lingering, chronic anxiety because you basically have PTSD from the whole deal.
I have to drug myself to sleep every night but don’t worry, I keep it as non-toxic and non-addictive as I can: melatonin, Calm drink, GABA, CBD, L-tryptophan. These all help me get to sleep…staying asleep is a different matter. It’s hard to rest through the night when your brain is always racing, trying to solve the problems we all suffer from: financial instability, lack of community, worry about my child, worry about our country, worry about the future.
Know what helps? Talking to people, reaching out. Telling my husband when I feel like I’m spinning out on anxiety and it’s making me irrational. Actually calling old friends on the phone, because being truly seen and loved by people that really know you is such a basic need we all have. Getting over my natural introversion and actually attempting to connect with people in my community…whether this means fellow parents of toddlers, fellow entrepreneurs, or yogis and other fitness buffs because group classes help keep me sane and motivated. Accountability groups for my work. Facebook Groups I either run or belong to that serve as masterminds for my most pressing business challenges.
All of these things, my friends, are golden. They help keep the demons at bay. The demons are still there, but I feel like I control them when I have goals, structure and some sense of community, not the other way around. I hope for the same for each and every person who happens to find this article. Stay connected…not to sound clichéd, but at the end of the day, all we have is each other.
Don’t be afraid to reach out — if there’s some way I can help, I want to. Leave me a comment, or find me on social media.
Also, do me a favor. Call someone you love tonight. An old friend or a family member or someone you want to mend a bridge with, it doesn’t matter. I did this last week with a friend I’d had a falling out with years before. We’d reconnected through social media, but I hadn’t actually heard her voice in 7 years. She said “Thanks so much for calling me, it really means a lot. No one ever calls me!” Word, sister. Me neither.
Originally published at medium.com