You are not good enough. You failed. You are the worst mother ever. What a horrible wife. Why do you even try. No one even cares. No one understands. It’s never going to get better. The darkness will always consume me. I can’t do this. You need to do more. It’s your fault. Your not trying hard enough. You deserve this pain. You never do anything right. You are only a burden. You have nothing to offer anyone.
Lies. Lies. Lies. They are always circling around my head. It’s messy trying to sort out the lies. My mind is battling itself. A lot of the time I don’t know what I actually feel and think. The truth and lies are intertwined. Untangling is a rigorous task.
Late last year I made a promise to myself to be completely honest. That is what drove me to start writing this blog and sharing it. I want to first be honest with myself. And then be able to share this honesty with my loved ones and others.
Truth: being honest is scary
Truth: being honest has positive and negative consequences
Truth: being honest is beyond hard
Truth: being honest becomes a habit and grows into your character
Truth: being honest heals
My truth: My name is Lela Belus. I am a wife. I am a mother of two. I struggle with mental illness. I suffer from clinical depression.
Picture a warm summer day. Close your eyes. Feel the warmth of the sun. See the light poking through your eyelids. Pure bliss. These are perfect moments. Even in winter months it’s possible to have glimpses of these pockets of sunshine. As part of my journey through the darkness I want to always search for the pockets of sunshine through all seasons of my life.
Picture a bleak winter day. A sky covered in clouds. After the storm breaks the sun shows its face again. The glitter in the snow shines ever so brightly. Against the gloomy gray days the sun feels even more glorious. Throughout my experiences with darkness I have been able to find pockets of sunshine. The dark gloomy days at times have given way to glorious light. Experiencing the darkness has given me a bigger love for any light that is trying to creep into my life. Like a flower growing in a plant maze, I am always stretching and reaching towards the light. Allowing myself to embrace its warmth has been a huge blessing. It truly is something you have to allow yourself to do. Allow yourself those moments of sunshine to peak in. Love them for all that they are.
Right now I am learning not to hate my darkness. I want to accept it. Say hello knowing that it will lift. After the dreary storm comes marvelous rays of sunshine. I’m learning to appreciate the darkness because it allows me to feel a deeper and greater light.
Recently I took a metaphorical New Years plunge into icy water. Despite the fear of jumping, it was refreshing and healing. Since starting my blog I haven’t shared it with anyone I know. Well as part of my newly made commitment to be completely honest, I shared my blog with some friends that I felt safe with. I wasn’t really expecting any responses from anyone- well maybe a hey you can always call or something like that. Getting a response was not my goal. I wanted to be honest and in doing so maybe helping someone e else who is struggling. My friends opened up and shared some amazing experiences!! Because they are so amazing I wanted to share them with all of you! Thank you again to everyone who has reached out and opened up.
“I also was suicidal at 10. I stood in front of my mirror with the different pocket knives I had to my neck. Wishing I knew how to end it all. This was ongoing for probably 8 to 10 years. You know when I met you I was new in sobriety. My biggest fear is still suicide. I know drinking doesn’t work and suicide was always my back up plan. I am grateful I haven’t been severely low in a very long time. But I am well aware of where I come from. These different things we go through seem to never be totally cured. The best we can do is just live for today and be the best we can be today. Because life is heavy and beautiful. This is my experience at least.” – Ashton
“One- I had no idea- which tells you how well people can look and act while having these demons inside. And two- so sorry you have to deal with this. I know a lot of family that deal with anxiety and depression and I wish the stigma wasn’t still there, but I totally understand your metaphor of wishing this was black spots you could cure instead of something happening inside the brain. All the love and know I’m here whenever you need someone else to talk to. ❤️❤️”- Emilie
“My sweet friend. I am deeply touched that you have shared this. I read it with tears streaming down my face…relating to so much of it. So much! I knew I always had a bit of the same darkness. But one managed to show it’s full face/form after having my last baby. It amplified everything. It showed itself to my children and husband. I tried everything. Exercise. Cleaner eating. Supplements. More sleep. More meditation. Minimalizing. More spiritual reading. Nothing worked. Only temporarily masked it. You call it darkness. I call it spiraling. Hulking out. An episode. Drowning. But darkness is the closest description. I had a camping trip with very close friends 2 summers ago with our families. And a major episode happened. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I could see myself deteriorating. Being volatile. Harmful. Wanting to stop but could not. Everyone else saw too. As mortifying as it was….it also pushed me to get the help I needed. To admit what I was living with and that it may never go away. One of the grandpas there was visiting in town and happened to be a very respected obgyn in Utah and after spending thr weekend with us, recognized what I was living with. He saw it. He believed me. He understood. He encouraged me to see someone . He educated myself and my husband. I made the decision that next week to get professional help. I also made the decision to start taking lexapro (anti anxiety and antidepressant). It is not for everyone and I fully understand and respect it. It has its pros and cons. I’ve gained 35 lbs . But I myself decided to be chunky and a bit more sane than skinny and crazy. Lol. I’ve been on it for a year and 5 months. It didnt fix everytbing . I still have episodes. But they are fewer between and not near as deep or dark . I am still working tirelessly to mend the relationships with my husband and children. They still expect me to react like I had. Time is truly healing things slowly. It will never go away. I have found that I am not alone. I can talk with my friends and family about it. I can share my story and let others know they are not alone too. They are not a failure. They are seen. They are real. Each story is different. Each remedy to how to live with it is different for each person. What helps me may not help you or the next person. But know you are not alone. I see you. Again, I am so thankful for you sharing and being vulnerable and strong. Xoxoxo” -Andrea
“So thank you for sharing this. See, a lot of the issues that caused my divorce were rooted in mental health challenges. I stopped my ex wife 4 or so times from harming herself, taking the pills out of her mouth and sharp objects out of her hands. I’m so thankful that you were / are getting the help that you need. Unfortunately, in my case, after repeated counsel from our bishop for her to go to an inpatient unit, I continued to feel like I could do it on my own. I didnt involve a lot of people, and it ended up in an extreme situation. I ended up being seen in the ER for suicidal ideation, and the next day, I ended up getting arrested, and spent two days in jail. Fortunately, the misdemeanor charges were eventually dropped, but it was a wake up call to me. The results for getting help (in your case),and not getting help (in my case and my ex wife’s) can be quite stark sometimes. It’s okay to ask for help, and, like I said, I’m really grateful that you’re opening up this part of your life to help erase the stigma of depression / suicidal ideation. I’ve been through a lot the past two years, and one thing I’ve learned in all of the crap of mental health struggles, divorce, and suicidality that I’ve waded through is that there is hope, and that there are people out there that care for you and love you and see you Heavenly Father sees you—His precious child.”
November 2019. One of the worst days. A turning point.
Some of the details are muddled but others have yet to be erased in my mind. Crying in the hospital parking lot pleading to go home. Crying “I won’t do it. I’m not going in there.” Being driven back home only to curl up and cry on the bathroom floor. The desperation in my being as I told my husband to take the kids away, that this was an emergency. The hole in the bedroom door is a reminder of the intensity of those moments.
After dropping off the kids my husband drove me into the big town and took me to the emergency room. They asked me why I was there and I had to say it- right in the open. Suicidal thoughts. It still stings. From there I was told to go over to a different building for mental health. I had to undress in front of two nurses. They gave me a hospital gown and the same panties they give you in the hospital after having your babies. No bra. Next I was being taken to my room. Only I didn’t know that my room would have a roommate and that I would be in a sort of dorms with other people- men and women. I could not have felt more naked. With nothing to do I sat at a table in the common area. After forever someone talked to me. The other patients were so kind and it felt so good to be completely understood.
The next five days were restorative. Sleep. Uninterrupted showers-except for the safety checks. Puzzles. Therapy sessions. So many people asking and genuinely wanting to know how I was doing. Food. Coloring. Conversations.
I am forever grateful for that experience. The people I met. The progress I made. It was a huge leap forward. The blunt honesty. Without accepting the reality of my illness- severe depression- there is little room for healing. I’m starting by writing it here and hopefully one day I will be able to say it out loud. I have to believe that I can Survive all this and be able to live a fulfilling life with this illness. I have to believe that there is a purpose for this suffering. Maybe one purpose to it all will be helping someone else. So if your reading this now and your that someone…Know that you are not alone. The darkness does not have to win. You can prevail.
Some days are really dark and I feel trapped in my own mind with no one to hear my cries. Today I want to share a few of those thoughts in the form of a letter to the one who loves me.
I know your frustrated and so am I. I hate that I hate myself and that I hate my life. I’m trying so hard to get better. It feels like it’s not working and I’m just defeated. I don’t know what else to do or try. It’s isolating. Every time I ask for your help or take you away from school I feel guilty. It’s my fault if the school doesn’t work out and my fault if you don’t pass because I couldn’t give you more. I’m barely surviving each day. I often want to sleep and not wake up. But that wouldn’t even make things stop. I would still be trapped with my mind. Only completely erasing my existence would make it stop. But that’s not possible. So I’m trapped. I’ve been trying so hard to get out and sometimes I’m slightly successful. But now I’m so defeated I just want it to take me. But it won’t and it can’t. I wish this was something you could more easily see- like if it showed up as black spots covering my body instead of inside my mind. Maybe then you would believe me and just be able to help me bandage the black wounds and help them heal. I’m sorry you have to deal with this. I’m sorry that I’m plaguing you with my blackness. I wish I could take it away and keep it from you. I’m sorry for the damage I cause. If I could take it away I would.
For a little over two months I have been in job hunt mode. Iv’e filled out a least one job application everyday. I’m not trying to be too picky but I mean- there is a lot to consider. The hours, the job, if I need to find day care, how much is daycare, is there even good daycare, will the job be in the way of getting the health care my son needs, um I need any job so we can pay the bills, and the list goes on and on.
Yesterday as I was filling out yet another application there was one question that caught me offgaurd. Do you have a mental illness? As I read through the list of illness, there it was. DEPRESSION.
Click. No click. Truth. Hide? How do you disclose the darkest part of you- the part that brings shame- to complete strangers that you are trying to impress. I mean nothing says reliable like hey I might have a huge breakdown and not be able to get out of bed for days and there is no warning when it may happen or for how long or how bad it will be and um no garentees that I will be able to hold everything together at work…But I’m trying to be more honest in life. So. I. clicked. it.
It took a few days to process what that made me feel. But, today while I was attempting to discuss the woos of no job with my husband, it finally came out. DEFECTIVE. Checking that box made me feel defective. It made me feel like a smashed up box that they sell at discount stores. Something that you are trying to get rid of. Something that doesn’t really function.
Those are some BIG feelings! Depression is full of such big fellings that are sometimes impossible to understand and take in.
But I’m slowly getting there. I’ve always thought that depression caused by some tragic event would be way easier. I mean I would just have to work through the issue right? I’ve learned that even though I don’t have some tragic event to process I DO have things I need to work through. I have skills that I need to learn to have better mental health. But that does not make me a less than! Yes there are aspects that I can control but there are still things that are Not my fault and Not under my control. I think accepting this is a huge step on my journey through the darkness.
Point is- just keep taking those tiny steps through the darkness and let a little more light in.
We are all icebergs floating along in the sea of life. Only part of us is visible. My visible iceberg: wife, mother of 2, daughter, sister, aunt, granddaughter, niece, runner, teacher, friend. But what about the me that is under the water? Hidden far below the surface is an entirely different world. A world that can be filled with darkness that I dare not let escape. Now is the time. The time to let it escape. Time to drain the sea and allow my iceberg to come into full view. This is me.