Editor’s note: This is an edited social media post the author wrote after the tragic loss of dear friends. Illness, both mental and physical, can devastate even the best of lives, especially when those suffering feel alone, isolated, ashamed. There are plenty of resources available to everyone who needs it. See more at the end of the article.
by Amanda Bolles-Hendren
I’ve given a lot of thought to writing this—years. But I never want to be the person who seeks attention. I don’t want attention, period. I feel private when posting things on social media. I’m guilty of glossing my life over for fear of appearing one way or another.
Then in another way this post is crazy impulsive. I’m not sure what I’m going to say at all. Because, who is comfortable with vulnerability?
Recently my group of friends and I experienced a tragedy. I’m not going to go into details, and frankly I don’t know all the details; that’s not what this is about.
It’s about mental illness. About despair. About hiding. About not reaching out when you need to. About the shame that goes along with not being the perfect ideal of everything. About years upon years of heart hurt.
On and off for the majority of my life I have battled some serious anxiety and depression. There have been spurts—years even—where I’m doing great. Then, a tragedy hits and I experience the depths once again.
I remember being so incredibly sad as a child—for my entire childhood. I didn’t have a happy childhood. Most days it was scary. I was very alone. Then there’s genetics. Depression runs deep in my genetic makeup and has for generations.
I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when I was 19, and for the first time, I had a deep desire to fight and to live fully. I conquered a lot! I did a ton! I made goals; I fulfilled them! I was happy, amidst the losses, the surgeries, the trauma.
Now… my latest bout. I’m 44 years old. My newly diagnosed PTSD has completely laid me out. I hide. My habits suck. My favorite thing in the world is to be safe in my house with my husband and kids.
I rarely go to bars, parties, exhibits, the zoo—anywhere. I hide in an unexplainable sadness and anxiety. I hide away from people who aren’t my closest, safest friends. I make plans and cancel them, unable to breathe into the pain, the anxiety, the sadness. Some days I can’t even go to the grocery store.... Who is this woman?
Now. This tragedy happened. Friends who I cared for deeply didn’t let us know they were in pain. And now they’re gone.
I am guilty to a certain degree of this, except I do see my friends. I do have amazing women friends that I talk to. I go to a counselor. I breathe in these precious essential oils. I hug and kiss and cuddle my kids. I laugh with my husband.
I sit on my back porch and get dirty and deep with my friends. I’ve enrolled in school. I try!
But my sadness, my anxiety, my grief is always there. Always. Lurking, threatening me with complete despair. I have horrible thoughts. And I feel those thoughts with every cell of my body. But I know they will pass, and I work my hardest to crawl out of that old comfortable, dark, home-like hole.
My point: find your footholds. Find your friends, somehow. Somehow, ask for help. I’ve answered calls from friends who have asked for help. If I am able, I will always help. I just need to know there’s helping to be done.
However you need to do it, with whomever you feel comfortable, do it. Don’t go too deeply into that hole where no one can find you. Find your people. Reach out, even when it feels too heavy, impossible. Someone needs you. We may need you. We really, really might.
Help is available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
If you are a trans person in need of help, call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.
Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 for 24/7 support.
About the author: She’s a soldier of love, an orphan, a mom of twins, a cancer survivor, a wife, a sister, a friend—and most recently, a grieving friend. Amanda loves laughter and deep conversation, but loathes trite banter. She’s crazy about Bowie, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, crystals, essential oils and astrology.
Dedicated in loving memory to Jeanne Marie Przekurat, April 8, 1958 – October 27, 2017. Thank you for sharing your creative fire, your warm heart, your twisted sense of humor, and your generosity. Rest in peace.