I almost didn’t write it.
I have a tendency to over-share in the spirit of openness, especially on Facebook. The introvert in me doesn’t always filter my posts and because I don’t have to look anyone in the face to gauge their reaction, I often post first, think later. And sometimes, if I’m honest, I’m looking for people to back me up in my opinions.
“Oh, yeah?” I think when I’m trying to defend a position. “Let’s see what Facebook has to say about that.”
But I don’t want to talk to you today about social media etiquette or common sense rules for online relationships.
I want to talk to you today about what happened when I started talking about depression. Specifically, what happened when I started talking about my depression.
First, a disclaimer: I’ve only recently started accepting my diagnosis. And there are people who have had longer, more brutal struggles with mental illness than me and they are far more qualified to talk about it. And I am not advocating a one-size-fits-all solution for depression or any other mental illness. This is not a debate about medication or the spiritual side of depression and anxiety. This is simply one story from one person.
Late last year, I decided it was time to focus on my well-being. I’ve been a wife and a mom for seven years and our family has ridden the roller-coaster of major stress events almost that entire time. The stress and anxiety were beginning to take a toll on my physical health to the point that I couldn’t ignore them any longer. I’m a little slow when it comes to making changes, so even though my doctor diagnosed me with anxiety and depression in October, it took me until February to make the call about a prescription for anti-depressants. (I did start seeing a therapist in December, which was one step in the right direction.)
I told only a few people about this decision because I didn’t want to broadcast my problems for the world to criticize and dissect. I took the medicine for two days and then had a reaction to it that caused me to pass out twice in the middle of the night. I let some family and friends know what had happened and since I’ve been on blood pressure medication most people assumed it was related to that.
Being a truth-teller, for the most part, I corrected people and told them the real reason. Surprisingly, it got easier.
After consulting a doctor, I was given a new prescription for a different medication. I started it on Monday and didn’t like how it made me feel. So, hoping to make myself feel better or that Facebook would somehow let me off the hook (actually I have no real idea what my motivation was), I came clean and posted about needing an antidepressant and what I had tried and how it had affected me. I asked people to private message me if they had any insights or experiences they were willing to share.
And I spent the rest of the day reading people’s responses. Some posted publicly with their stories, people I never would have guessed struggled with depression or were taking medication for it.
What surprised me the most, though, was that 16 people sent me private messages about their experiences with depression. Some had taken medication for a season. Others were still struggling through it. Most had found a medication that worked for them and encouraged me to keep trying. They offered solutions and encouragement. And most of the people I heard from were not people I’m in regular contact with. Some I haven’t seen in person for more than a decade. Others I would have thought I had little in common with.
And now I would like to give each one of them a hug.
I almost didn’t write the post, but now I can’t imagine having not written it.
Go first today. When you have the chance to hide, and you will, choose to go first with your story & give others the gift of going second.
— Jon Acuff (@JonAcuff) November 9, 2014
It’s crazy advice, but I’ve seen it work on more than one occasion. The bravery it takes to go first (confession: I am not brave) makes it easier for other people to go next.
Being the first one to step into the light feels like standing naked on a stage. But somebody has to make the first move out of the darkness.
Why not let it be you?
How willing are you to “go first” with something you’re struggling with?
What makes it easier to go second?
How could you give someone “the gift of going second”?