We still have a long way to go to de-stigmatize mental health issues, even though an estimated 350,000,000 globally experience depression at some point in their lives, according to statistics from the World Health Organization. In fact, over 50 percent of people with depression don't seek treatment. One reason is that it's the nature of the disease to make you retreat from life. But another reason is that people don't discuss it as openly as they should.
A woman named Brittany Ernsperger shared her personal struggle with both anxiety and depression on Facebook, sparking a conversation about what these conditions can look like in the day to day. Ernsperger shared a picture of all her clean dishes on the kitchen rack, along with a message.
She captioned it:
This is what depression looks like.
No. Not the clean dishes.
But that there were that many dishes in the first place; that I’ve gone 2 weeks without doing them.
3 days ago I sat on the kitchen floor and stared at them while I cried. I knew they needed to be done. I wanted to do them so bad. But depression pulled me under. It sucked me in. Like a black hole. Rapidly, sinking quicksand.
I walked by them morning and night and all day long. And just looked at them. Telling myself that I could do them. Telling myself that I would. And feeling defeated every day that I didn’t. Making the depression only that much worse because not accomplishing something that needs to be done is failure.
Worthless. Failure. Piece of sh*t. Incompetent. Stupid. Lazy. All things that roll through the mind of someone with depression. All. Day. Long.
Throw anxiety on top of it, and you’ve got yourself a real treat. Being scared your husband will leave because he thinks you’re lazy. Being scared to let people into your home because they’ll think you’re nasty. Feeling like you’re failing your kids because for the 3rd night in a row you don’t have any clean dishes to cook dinner on.. so pizza it is. Again.
And the worst part of it all, it’s not just with the dishes. The laundry, cleaning, dressing yourself, taking a shower, dressing your kids, brushing your and their teeth, normal everyday tasks. It all becomes a nightmare. A very daunting task. Somedays it doesn’t get done at all.
Depression is something that “strong” people don’t talk about because they don’t want people to think they’re “weak”.
You’re not weak. You’ve been strong for so long and through so many things, that your body needs a break.
I don’t even care if the only thing you did today, was put deodorant on. I’m proud of you for it. Good job. I’m in your corner. I’m on your side.
I’m not looking for sympathy, not in the slightest. But I am letting everyone know that I’m here for you. I get it. If you need someone to talk to, I’m always here to help.
Ernsperger might not have been prepared for how much people would take that message to heart. Her post has been shared over 200 thousand times, and she had to update the post to say, "I wasn’t expecting this to get as much love as it has gotten.
"Ladies, if you’re feeling this way, send me a friend request. I’ll do my best to help you or get you the help you need. We’ll figure it out together. We can only help one another by lifting each other up. I’m here for you."
Many people responded in the comments, especially women who also feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they do on a daily basis to keep their homes together.
In an interview with Today, Ernsperger said that the response has filled her with gratitude.
“I was pretty sure I was alone,” she told Today. “I think people responded because it was such a vulnerable moment.”
She also shared some techniques that help her, which she says she learned in therapy.
“I locked myself in the bathroom. I sat in there for a half hour. I told myself, ‘I need to be kind to myself. I need to go easier on myself,’” she said. “I feel much better. I told myself I was doing a good job and my kids still love me and my husband still loves me.”
It's a lot to do everything you need to get back on track when you're in a depressive episode. Reach out to professionals if you can, and friends and family. There's nothing strange or rare about it, and the more people who are able to speak openly about what they're going through, the better is is for everyone.