My depression feels like a defeat before I swing my legs out of bed. I open my eyes, look around searching for a reason that makes getting out of bed worth it. I don’t want to quit. I don’t want to end things. I want to quietly slip into the void. So in the morning, I have to find a reason to get out of bed. I count them:

I am alive. My love changes lives. Tyson. Jaedyn. My father. My sisters. My family. My friends. I am Lou’s daughter. He loves me. She loves me. They love me. I am helping to build a valuable network. I can give encouragement to others. I have dope hair. My décolletage is a gift from The Divine. My smile parts clouds. My laughter commands thunder. I have a million books to write. I have a million books to read.

The list is an embarrassment of riches. Most days I can get out of bed after two. Most days I exist in happiness and joy. On tough days, I need four. On impossible days I make it to the middle of the list. When I make it to the end of the list and there’s still no dice, I spend the day feeling as though there is a scream trapped in my throat. I’m dying and no one knows. I created this monster.

Because I’m the strong girl and the funny girl. I’m the big sister. I’m resourceful. When the shit hits the fan I’m the Macguyver, give me five paper clips, a matchbook and some loose leaf, and we’re pushing through this shit. Everything is fine, and when everything isn’t fine, I make it fine. I’m known for this. And it’s a fraud. But how do you tell your boss, “I’m late because I spent 45 minutes in bed convincing myself not to lay in that spot forever?” How do you tell the people you love, “I text rather than talk because I don’t want you to hear me crying because the helplessness in your voice when I do will only make it worse?” I turned my depression into a castle protected by walls, moats, and great fell beasts.

The reason I do this is because though people tell me that I’m human and I’m allowed to fall apart, no one seems to know what to do when I do. I can’t stand to see the helplessness in those around me, so I pull myself together. Or i lie. Because if I lie – if I hide what I’m feeling – they don’t know, so when I feel alone or unprotected, that falls squarely on me. That’s more palatable than disappointment.

I cope through doctors and medicine when I need them; laughter and liquor when I don’t. At 39, I am still seeking out ways to deal with my anxiety and depression. This year I was on the verge of a breakdown because my doctor gave me a prescription that all but destroyed my shreds of sanity. Then when I went back, he told me I was depressed because I was fat and prescribed the same drug. He’s not my doctor anymore.

This isn’t a how-to. This is my honest disclosure of how behind the laughter and strength, I’m still a human being who hurts. I want you to know that if you struggled to get out of bed this morning, so did I. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to go through the same thing. I’m going to consider slipping into the void and find a reason to get out of bed anyway. You’re welcome to get out of bed with me.

There’s no shame in that.

I want to thank Bassey Ikpi for creating this space for me and other people to share our stories. Please visit The Siwe Project, to learn more how you can support #NoShameDay and removing the stigma associated with mental illnesses.

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