Please welcome Huffington Post blogger and Stigma Fighters leader Sarah Fader to the blog today as she shares her story of battling depression.
When I was a teenager, I began struggling with anxiety and depression. I would wake up to my heart racing uncontrollably. My mental health issues were like an annoying person that insisted on tagging along with me everywhere I went. As much as I told the person to go away, she insisted on staying with me. So I learned to live with her, as irritating as she was. She was a nuisance at first, until I began to use her. I learned that the pain that depression caused made me a better artist.
As an adolescent I attended the “Fame” high school in New York City. I was studying theater there. During my sophomore year I played the role of Anne Frank. Also during this time, I was suffering a great deal with clinical depression. I was having trouble eating, showering and functioning. I was in a tremendous amount of emotional pain.
I knew the pain was going to be there no matter what. [share ]It was an unwelcome guest, a tagalong and an annoyance. So I used it[/share]. As I played the role of Anne Frank, I thought about my emotional agony and I used it to convey how Anne felt. She was trapped. She was in love with Peter, but there was no future for the two of them. [share ]Her death was imminent. Her pain was my pain. I became Anne.[/share]
I’ll never forget that day. I held my scene partner, Nick’s, hands and looked into his eyes searching for something. Earnestly I thought, maybe he has the answer to my pain.
It was the best scene I ever performed during my time at Performing Arts high school. My classmates came up after the scene and congratulated me on my work. Little did they know that the reason that scene was so poignant, the reason that it was emotionally cathartic was that I was experiencing emotional turmoil. I wasn’t myself. I was consumed by a black hole otherwise known as clinical depression.
After graduating high school, I stopped pursuing theater for some time. Unfortunately, that left me with no outlet to express my intense emotions, so I developed an ulcer. I knew that I needed to find an alternative outlet for my emotions that wouldn’t reap havoc on my body. I went in search of what that might be.
Since that time, There have been moments when I’ve felt hopeless, moments where I’ve felt my heart pounding so hard I thought my rib cage would explode. There have been times that my entire body was tingling because I’d forgotten to breathe for an indeterminate amount of time. During these moments I’ve found a way to release these intense emotions.
Instead of using them to create a theatrical performance, I’ve transmitted these overpowering emotions into writing. I refuse to let my emotions stay inside of myself. Instead they will pour out of my heart and onto a page where they belong.
Writing provides me with a much needed release from clinical depression. When I write my feelings on paper I see what they are. They are no longer overwhelming. They are tangible. I can touch the words. I can read them aloud. I can see that they are just a series of words forming together to become coherent thoughts.
When I feel: I write.
When I write: I release.
When I release: I heal.
About Sarah Fader:
Sarah Fader is the creator of the popular parent-life blog Old School /New School Mom. Her work can been found on The Huffington Post. Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Additionally, like about six million other American adults, Sarah lives with panic disorder. She writes a column for Psychology Today called Panic Life. She is currently leading the Stigma Fighters campaign, which gives individuals with mental illness a platform to share their personal stories. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to show the world that there is a diverse array of real everyday people behind mental illness labels.
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Kimmie saysOctober 13, 2014 at 12:23 am
Old School/New School Mom saysOctober 13, 2014 at 7:29 am
Thank you, Kimmie! I hope it helps people.
Taylor Fulks saysOctober 13, 2014 at 6:16 am
Thank you for sharing, Sarah! My oldest daughter (23) is battling anxiety, so this is a timely and very informative post for me. We’ve found her help, and the light in her eyes has miraculously returned. She too, is trying to find outlets for her feelings.
I wish you peace and healing…
Old School/New School Mom saysOctober 13, 2014 at 7:26 am
Thank you so much, Taylor! I’m glad that your daughter has found healing too.
J.C. Hannigan saysOctober 13, 2014 at 7:41 am
Writing is an incredible outlet for emotional turmoil. Amazing post Sarah! I can definitely relate to it, save the acting bit. 😉
Old School/New School Mom saysOctober 13, 2014 at 7:45 am
Yes Jess, you are an incredible writer. Writing is such a tremendous outlet.
Mike from MEN HEAL saysOctober 13, 2014 at 7:51 am
This is one of those articles that you read and it just hits you ‘Pow!’. I resonated with what you said to a very high degree, this doesn’t happen that often, maybe only once a year.
I used to be accused of talking a lot (my poor friend’s ears). I didn’t realise that at the time this was my release. The problem with talking though is that it can tire others out if it’s all the time. Of course I realised years ago that I could talk to a therapist, this helped a lot but of course I can’t afford to do that all the time, or even a little of the time.
I discovered blogging only a few months ago. The advantages of blogging are:
1. You don’t overburden those close to you (their ears and brains are saved!)
2. You tend to mutually connect with people with similar stories or narratives (this is amazingly supportive)
3. Other people might learn from you, and you might learn from them when they comment on your posts, or when you follow them back
4. You clarify your thoughts and where you are now, this can lead to greater understanding, which also leads to healing
You sum up writing / blogging perfectly:
“When I feel: I write.
When I write: I release.
When I release: I heal.”
I encouraged a friend with mental health issues to start blogging recently, and he is finding it very healing too.
Mike from MEN HEAL
Old School/New School Mom saysOctober 13, 2014 at 10:03 am
Thank you so much! I feel the same way about talking. For years I stayed silent, because I didn’t think others would “get” me. But then I went through a period where I talked my friends ears off with problems. Some of that should be saved for therapy.
Gabe Howard saysOctober 13, 2014 at 7:57 am
Wow. 🙂 You are an amazing writer and so open. I am astonished by you. Keep going! We want more! ~Gabe
Old School/New School Mom saysOctober 13, 2014 at 10:04 am
Thank you so much! That means a lot coming from you, Gabe. I admire your writing and ability to convey emotion.
Cary Vaughn saysOctober 13, 2014 at 8:03 am
I can relate to this SO much. I hate to admit it, but when I started up on a medicinal regimen for my depression, I began to have second thoughts because I did not want to stifle my creativity. Isn’t that strange? I absolutely loathed the experience of depression, but at the same time, did not want my emotions to be muted because as an actor and writer, I needed them. I ended up on the medicine anyway. 🙂
Great article, Sarah.
Old School/New School Mom saysOctober 13, 2014 at 10:06 am
That’s so funny that you say that about creativity stifling. That’s exactly how I felt. In the end it wasn’t worth feeling miserable and I could find words in a different way.
Beth Caplin saysOctober 13, 2014 at 11:24 am
Wow Sarah, I clicked this thinking becoming like Anne Frank was a metaphor or something…but you actually kinda were! Funny thing about those first impressions 🙂 I still struggle heavily with depression and I appreciate all your hard work in removing the stigma. I saw this great tweet recently: “If you felt bad about Robin Williams but laughed at Amanda Bynes, you need to check yourself. Mental illness is no joke.”
Old School/New School Mom saysOctober 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm
Thank you, Beth! I love that quote. That sums it up perfectly.
Liz Barnett (@womanlywoman) saysOctober 16, 2014 at 2:04 pm
Sarah, as always, thank you for sharing. I also had a physical manifestation of unresolved issues. When I was a senior in college, I had a gall stone removed. They told me that it was the largest gall stone they had seen in anyone under the age of 60 in the entire State of Ohio (or some odd grouping). I believed it because I had been in such pain. Because my family didn’t have health insurance and the dynamics of the family left me without an option, I suffered physically (and simultaneously mentally) for a long time. That gall stone just kept getting bigger and bigger. When I finally went to the doctor on campus, they told me that I could have come all along and my tuition covered it for students without health insurance. If only I had known! Regardless – it’s important to note that REALLY what it comes down to is stigma. If both of us could have shared our mental health struggles more openly, we probably would have gotten help both mentally and physically much sooner!
Old School/New School Mom saysOctober 20, 2014 at 11:55 am
I’m so glad I’m not alone, Liz. physical health comes along with mental health.