Living with mental illness: What we need to be reminded of when we’re falling apart

“I’m so, so sorry.”

I look at my partner through tear-blurred eyes, choking out my sincerest, guilt-ridden apology.

My fingers are tangled in with his as I clutch his hand, in a halfway attempt to ground myself with something real and remind myself of one of the many reasons I can’t give up.

I really am sorry. I don’t say this to pacify him or try to make him feel better; I truly, deeply with every aching piece of me is in agony to put him through this. All I know to do is apologize.

I’m sorry that in a few days, I won’t be the person he knows.

I’m sorry that I won’t be able to show him support and affection in the way he deserves to be loved.

I’m sorry that I won’t have the energy to do almost everything we enjoy doing together.

I have Depression.

I am slipping into a depressive episode and I am dragging someone else into it.

I’ve been doing Depression for long enough to know what is ahead. It is going to be Hell for me, but it is also going to be really challenging for my partner.

He will watch me fall apart knowing he won’t be able to put me back together.

He will take care of me and I won’t be able to take care of him.

I will be taking without the capacity to give back.

He will listen to me talk about pain, hopelessness, and wanting to die.

He will get me out of bed when I can’t do it myself and he will make sure I eat when my appetite goes away.

I know what is ahead and it doesn’t look good, for either of us.

He looks at me, green eyes filled equal parts Fear & Love.

“Do you think it’s your fault that you have Depression?”

“No,” I whisper, with my gaze now suddenly fixed to the floor.

“Would you be apologizing to me if you had a physical illness, like Cancer?”

This is too much love for me to handle. It comes pouring out my eyes.

“You have a chronic illness. You didn’t choose this. So you don’t need to be sorry.”

I begin to wonder how many times i’ve said these exact sentiments to my clients.

This is what I do for a living. This is what I have devoted my life to sharing with the world. And even still, I need to be reminded.

No matter how long we’ve been on our journey of recovery, we need to be rehearsing this same testament over and over because any time we let up on our process, shame tries to work its way back in again.

So we say the same sentences like a mantra to keep us on track. We surround ourselves with people who will speak those words over us when we lose sight of them in our times of weakness.

Whether you have heard this countless times or if it is for the first time, please understand this:

You are not to blame for what is going on in your head. You have nothing to feel guilty for or sorry about. It is not your job to protect the world from your mental disorder. You didn’t put this on yourself. This is happening to you and you will survive it. Your mental illness does not define you, it is simply a part of you. The shame you may feel can be lifted and hope can be found. The battles in your mind can be just as real, serious and debilitating as a physical illness. The only difference is that your illness is invisible.

If you ever need someone to remind you of this, pick up the phone.

Crisis Text Line

Text HOME to 741741

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

(800) 273-TALK (8255)

National Youth Crisis Hotline

(800) 442-HOPE (4673)