What You Cannot See
One of the really cool things that has happened as a result of starting this business has been being immersed into the world of national (fill in the blank) days/weeks/months. I know – it seems an odd thing to appreciate but hear me out.
We are an online business, and we do the vast majority of our movement/community work via social media. We have, thus, made a point to be aware of these national (or international) holidays, because they’re each, in their own way, their own little movements. They’re a really lovely way for people, all around the country, and in some cases all around the world, to come together over shared interests, hobbies, passions, pain points, and so on. One of the missions of Goddessté has always been to form a community of women who do exactly that – we come together over our shared loves, interests, and passions.
Similarly, we come together over our shared struggles, and I feel like this is where the real magic happens. This is where we are able to extend a hand to women whom we didn’t know before, and whom we will likely never have the pleasure of meeting in person, and say, “I didn’t know you before this, but I know your story. I know your story because it’s also my story. I hear you, and I see you. I care about you. I care about your happiness. I care about your wellbeing. I get it. What’s more: I get YOU, and you’re not alone.” And, well, this is kind of our thing. It’s where we thrive.
So, this month is National Depression Awareness Month, and J and I made the decision to center our blogs around things that are related to this theme because mental health is something with which we’ve both struggled. We know the “beast,” as J said in her last blog, that is Depression (you can find that blog here: https://www.goddesste.com/post/the-beast-within-me). We also know its tribe members, its posse: Anxiety, PTSD, Grief, Panic, and the like. Naturally, this is a subject that is near to both our hearts.
It’s funny the way things have happened with Goddessté – the answer is just never too far away when we need it. Today was much the same. It’s my week to write the blog – tomorrow is Tuesday, which means blog day. I have had such an ongoing, vast experience with depression throughout my life, and I was having a difficult time deciding exactly what I wanted to write about, where I wanted to start. As I searched my brain trying to find the answer, the answer found me.
Earlier today, a friend of mine, Shannon, made an IG post, and, man, was it beautiful (go follow her page on IG @shandalton to see the post, and she also has a really lovely page for inspiring women through the dark times – that page is @wearevirago – virago means “female warrior” in Latin).
You see, Shannon was raped – she, too, knows the Depression Squad, and she knows them well. In making this particular post, she was participating in a challenge that @findmywellbeing (that is their Instagram handle, for any of the non-tech savvy among you) is running this week in honor of Mental Health Awareness Week. The challenge asks that people share their stories concerning their mental health battles, and that they start with, “What you cannot see…”
The idea is that one of the best ways to quell the stigma around mental health is to start talking about it, together, as a society. It’s a challenge to tell our stories. Shannon did so in a beautifully vulnerable and authentic way, and then she tagged me to continue the challenge. And, boom, I had my answer. Perfect timing, once again.
With that being said, I suppose I’ll jump right in.
What you cannot see, when it comes to depression, is . . . everything, really. The easier thing would be naming what you CAN see.
What you cannot see is: the thousands of pills I put into my body in a desperate attempt to feel better, or maybe it was to stop feeling, or maybe it was to feel just a little less, or maybe it was to feel more “normal.” Then again, maybe it was all of these things, sometimes all at once.
What you cannot see is: the disease that lives inside of my head, begging me to fall down to my knees, just one more time, in pursuit of the sweet promise of relief by oblivion. You can’t see that, when I feed it, this disease, this mental demon, takes over, making me a prisoner in my own mind and a slave to my own body. You can’t see that that monster wants me dead, or at least living a life of death, and that’s all it wants. And it wants this more than anyone has ever wanted anything.
What you cannot see is: the days I had to force myself to get out of bed because I had children to feed, to bathe, to clothe, to LOVE, to mold, and to guide. You can’t see that just getting out of bed was physically painful for no particular reason. You can’t see that any smile felt forced and any laughter felt like a betrayal to my reality – being “happy” was a full-time job, and it dealt me imposter-syndrome servings the size of Texas.
What you cannot see is: when I had my second child, a beautiful, healthy baby boy, when I appeared to have every reason in the world to be happy and joyous (because I did), all I wanted to do was lie in bed and cry because I was just . . . sad. You can’t see that the very fact that I was sad made me feel fundamentally broken, flawed, and unworthy of grace and the blessing that is motherhood. You can’t see that I hated myself because I was convinced I was already failing my children before my second-born was even old enough to sit up without assistance.
What you cannot see is: my fear robbed me, for a period of time, of my love for the night sky and all its comforts and wonders. Fear took my favorite example of natural beauty and made it a warning, grotesque and daunting at its core. You can’t see that the act of metaphorical dreaming, one of my soul’s greatest innate purposes, made me feel delicate, fragile, and even naive. You can’t see the danger I began to associate with literal dreams. Nighttime equaled sleep, and sleep equaled recurring PTSD nightmares.
And I mean, NIGHTMARES. You can’t see the nights I would wake in bed, my heart responding to my brain’s signals that something was very wrong and that I was not safe – danger was at large, lurking. You can’t see the middle-of-the-night outfit changes I’d have to perform on my still-shaking body because my clothes were stuck to my body, soaked with the sort of sweat that only comes from the panic that ensues when your body enters fight or flight mode.
You can’t see how I would lie there, stuck in those nightmares, reliving a reality that I spent the days trying to deny or forget, stuck and frantically trying to wake myself. You can’t see my body as it jolted back into its consciousness, shaking from the pain of remembering. You can’t see that I’d wake up screaming, “No!” and “Stop! Please, stop!” And you can’t see that, as a grown woman, I had to sleep with a light on because I knew I’d wake up thinking I was somewhere else, the place where my specters lived, and I NEEDED an immediate visual reminder that I was no longer trapped.
What you cannot see is: the endless ache in my soul or the emptiness that turned me inside out. You cannot see the walls I built because I feared men on an instinctual level. You can’t see that when I finally learned love from my husband, that his arms felt like home, his presence like safety. You can’t see that letting him love me allowed me to stop holding my breath, to finally breathe.
What you cannot see is: the way I couldn’t look people in the eye when I first began to talk about my years of brutality, of being a victim. You can’t see that it was the same song and dance all over again when I had the ownership of my body taken from me again, in a different way that felt exactly the same, by a different man who felt exactly the same. You cannot see the anger, the pure rage, that blinded me some days, when I finally realized it wasn’t ever my fault and that they never had any right to my body.
You can’t see the uphill climb that was reclaiming my body as my own, learning to love it again for all of its curvy feminine beauty. You can’t see the enormous release that came bursting into my soul, like a thousand beams of the brightest light, when I was finally able to smile upon my reflection in the mirror again.
What you cannot see is: the friendships I lost when Depression and his posse inducted me into their clique. I looked up and I was suddenly at their slumber party, playing their twisted version of Truth or Dare.
What you cannot see is: the conversations I avoided, uncomfortably squirming in my own anxiety and silenced dread. You can’t see the energy-suck that is pretending to be the happy, unscarred version of myself in order to keep others comfortable and blissfully ignorant to my burden and its insurmountable weight.
What you cannot see is: that sudden loud noises or even sudden quick movements sometimes still send my pulse jumping off the ledge of the tallest building around.
What you cannot see is: sometimes just the sun shining, or the wind blowing just so, can still create within me a sadness that knows no language.
What you cannot see is: the grief that takes me hostage and breaks off little pieces of my heart to bury in the earth alongside my countless love-targets who have come and gone before me. You can’t see that grief taught me loss on a level I’d never requested of it.
You can’t see that, although I never invited her, grief moved in when I didn’t have a room to spare, and she never paid me a penny’s rent. You can’t see the laundry list of unanswered questions that were asked in the form of my broken heart, shattered beyond recognition.
What you cannot see is: the fire that burned me to broken pieces of ash, which sifted through the crooked fingers of pain. You can’t see the spontaneous attacks that could send my head spinning and take the breath from my lungs, leaving me desperately gasping, hoping it’d find its way back somehow (and fast). You can’t see me there, in fetal position, just waiting for "it" to pass and unable to remind myself of WHO THE F I AM.
What you cannot see is: the voice that told me I was failing my children, that they would always deserve better than me – that they were good and happy and pure, and that everything I touched was tainted with ugly, consuming, wasteful darkness. You can’t see that this voice never needed an explanation – it never needed its fire to be ignited. It was just there – it just was.
What you cannot see is: the work, the soul-searching, the grueling introspection it has taken to finally set these heavy things down. You can’t see the patience I’ve had to discover so that I could share it with myself. You can’t see the promises I’ve made myself, nor the lies I fed myself and subsequently swallowed. You can’t see the shame that taunts me for the unmet potential and the fancied expectations I could never live up to. You can’t see that my heart used to weigh more than my entire physical being.
What you can't see is: the armor I’ve crafted for myself with the hard-won knowledge of self-awareness. You can’t see the muscle of my spirit, and my soul, that I’ve trained and toned for maximum strength and endurance.
You can’t see the goddess within who holds the blueprint of my worth, guarding it and revealing it to me when it’s time to grow another lesson.
You can’t see the pride I have in that girl, that version of me so many years ago, who decided to plant her feet, refuse to budge, armor up, and fight. You can’t see how strong, and sure of her worth, she is today. You can’t see her beauty is derived from her scars.
What you cannot see is: the insane, awe-inspiring, miracle-level, gut-wrenching work it’s taken for me to become that girl. And you sure as hell can’t see what I’ve got in store for her in the future, my gazed fixed forward, never backward. My shoulders back, my head held high, standing tall.
Finally, you can’t see the emptiness in my eyes anymore – now, there is only sparkle, there, because, now, I know their names, the Depression Tribe. I know their faces. I know their moves, their strategies, and I’m now in possession of my very own counter-attack plan.
Yes, I know their faces. And, now, I can see them coming.
What you cannot see is: I’ve taken the power back.
What you cannot see is: everything.
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