Parallel, and at times, intersecting, but to all those save a close few – totally distinct. One hidden from the other; one nonexistent except for the shadow it cast on my life.
When I could get out from under it, it was much easier for even me to pretend that shadow life didn’t exist. I wasn’t suffering. I wasn’t having trouble coping. I didn’t need help. Certainly, no one needed to know about it.
And then I was reduced down to nothing. The two paths merged. There was but one way to walk and it was a miserable path. It would either stay that way forever or I would accept this was my path to take and get the help I needed to make it a better one.
Postpartum depression became my crossroads. In coming to terms with that, I began to take stock of my entire life, trying to pinpoint moments where my anxiety and/or depression had been there all along. Looking back, I did see moments colored by anxiety. But what good did it do? Besides make me feel like my life was a sham. The modus operandi I thought I had been operating under had been a false pretense. The “normal” wool had been pulled off my eyes. One of the only positives I found was that what I thought had been a wimpy lack of self-confidence was most likely crippling bouts of anxiety.
A major tool in bringing my two lives together in a cohesive way was my blog, though it took me awhile to build up the courage to begin writing it. In discussing the venture with a writing mentor, he asked whether I would be more comfortable writing anonymously. I responded immediately with an emphatic NO. He jumped back in surprise. I explained that if I was going to do this, I had to own it. I wanted women to see that there is no shame in postpartum depression and that they didn’t have to hide like I did. Though it still scared the bejeezus out of me.
As I began to heal, the tenor of the blog sometimes shifted to the hilarity of motherhood and my own journey of selfhood. As other problems cropped up, I would allude to my anxiety and depression, but the blog always encompassed a lot more than just mental health. Still, I didn’t want to lose that focus, so in May 2013, I pledged to celebrate Mental Health Month in a more overt way, with my first daily post a shout-out to A Canvas of the Minds. If I couldn’t join them in dedicating my blog to mental health, I could at least celebrate them. By the end of that month though, at times during which I found myself struggling to write posts only about mental health and not inclusive of the rest of my life, I realized there is no separation for people who struggle with mental illness. As I wrote in my final post, “although I started the month of May thinking these posts would be a departure from my usual in that they directly addressed mental health and illness, there really is no separating out depression from everyday life. It’s the constant mantle on our shoulders, sometimes blowing lightly in the wind, sometimes soaking wet with rain.”
Anyone who blogs about mental health or who blogs with a mental illness is sharing his or her experiences, struggles, and triumphs. These things define us and shape us, they make us empathetic and compassionate. They create in us a desire to be better, do better – if not for ourselves, then others like us.
We may struggle to keep mental illness on a separate track in our lives, but whether we like it or not, it never can be. Better to channel our energy into making it work for us, subverting it to the life we want to live. We don’t have to take the high road; there is only one road. And we all walk it together.
© Jennifer Butler Basile and A Canvas Of The Minds 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Butler Basile and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.