I have compassion for everyone struggling with depression — except me.

My earliest memories of stifling depression go back to the age of 7.

By stifling, I mean the kind of clinical depression that courses through your veins, colors every thought, and places such a metaphorical weight on you that you feel unable to move in both literal and figurative ways.

Depression is a disease of inaction, of paralysis. At least, that's how it manifests for me.


It's a part of myself I have hated, a part of myself I've hidden and combatted — with drugs, with sex, with working too much, talking too much, taking on more and more … and I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine.

Because the more I do, the more I can hide the depression that's lurking beneath it all.

When it comes to other people who are struggling with mental health issues, I am empathetic; I am patient and compassionate.

But when it comes to my own depression, I am none of those things. I am the opposite — impatient, angry, intolerant.

Getting a handle on my depression took a long damn time. Today, I am on the proper medication; I have tools and knowledge that I didn't have even 10 years ago. Because of that, I have this unrealistic expectation that it's solved, and when my depression crops up despite all my armor, I feel confused, angry, and anxious — but most of all, disappointed in myself.

I recognize intellectually that it's unreasonable to hold myself accountable for brain chemistry that I hardly understand, let alone control. But I do. I feel responsible for it.

I also recognize that making yourself culpable for something you have no control over is cruel.

If I had survived cancer and the cancer came back, would I blame myself? If I'm honest, I might. Which is so messed up.

Part of my (admittedly dysfunctional) coping mechanism is control. If I control the situation, the emotion, or the circumstance, then I won't hurt. If I take drugs to mask the emotional pain, I'm in control. If I cheat to prevent the heartache of being left or cheated on (because, of course, I'm unlovable), I'm in control. If I work, work, work, and push and don't stop, I won't have time for the anxiety.

It's all a lie. Because my need to control puts me out of control.

One of my biggest life lessons that has come up time and again for me is compassion for self.

And it's a lesson that I am learning over and over. Because I am stubborn. Because my expectations for myself are ridiculous.

I have written and spoken a lot about the Reiki healing I have done for the past 18 months. My Reiki healer has repeated this message to me during nearly every visit or conversation we've had: "You don't have to be Superwoman. Show yourself some compassion."

What stops me?

In my work as an advice columnist and general advice giver to my friends, I have said so many times that the most significant form of self-care is to say "This is how I feel." And I'm pretty good at doing that — except when it comes to saying "I feel depressed." Why?

Because when I say this, I feel like I have failed. I know that's not a fact, but it is what I feel.

I still have moments and sometimes days that I think about suicide.

Even with all I have in my life. Even with all the love around me. Even with how very much I have to be grateful for. And when it crops up, I hate myself for it. Because you don't have a right to feel this way. Because you have so much. Because you are a mother. Because you beat this thing.

If I were speaking to someone else who felt this way, I would say, "It's OK. You can be 100% grateful for your life and still feel depressed. Depression is not a choice. Depression is a chronic mental illness, and it doesn't make you bad or broken or selfish."

And still, I struggle to believe that for myself.

But I am working on it.

With Reiki and with meditation, I am doing active work — cognitive behavioral stuff — to rewire those brain pathways. I am making decisions to consciously, continuously handle my depression, and I remind myself repeatedly that it's a marathon, not a sprint.

My default for so many years was to jump to one crystalized thought: I want to kill myself. Today, I am working on a new one: I want to have compassion for myself, even when I'm depressed.

And it's working.

This article originally appeared on Ravishly and is printed here with permission. More from Ravishly:

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

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The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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