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A World Without Color

Posted on October 05 2017

A World Without Color

I’m taking my 4th medical leave of absence from Ithaca College.

I’m depressed...again.

At times I can barely function.

 tYears ago I was told by a leading expert that I had one of the nastiest cases of bipolar disorder he’s ever seen, and he was happy I’m still alive.

However, I want to channel this challenge for good to be a vessel of love & hope.

The purpose for my pain is to help others who suffer in similar ways, and so I’ll do everything in my power to do just that.

Hope is like the sunshine.  Even on a torrentially rainy day you know the sun is still present despite not being visible. Sometimes hope is masked by clouds, but know there are always reasons to remember it’s still there. There are many circumstances where hope is hidden from us, and that’s why we need loved ones to remind us of the plentiful aspects of hope that should keep us determined to go on. As a society, we don’t engage in active conversation about this topic. All too often, such as in the recent suicide of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, the discussion only starts after an irreversible tragedy takes place and it is too late to help the person that was afflicted with a mental illness. We need to address mental illness for what it is; an illness that is prevalent across all races, societies, and cultures. 

This is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW: Oct. 1-7), and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to start a conversation. Let’s address and fight this stigma, which is only still prevalent because uninformed people fail to identify mental illnesses for what they are: legitimate disorders of the brain that should be treated.

My battle with bipolar disorder has been a critical experience for me to focus on hope. This article, photo challenge & video I’ll share provide a perfect opportunity start a necessary dialogue so our society doesn’t keep leaving the mentally ill feeling more alone and misunderstood.

I don’t let my illness define me, but my bouts with depression have had a big impact on my life. I’m thankful that my faith has given me a constant sense of hope and has been my anchor through the trials and tribulations.

Depression makes you wither like a green plant sprayed with a powerful poison. Depression makes you feel like there’s a relentless and constant winter in your heart. While enduring suffering, I’ve wanted to find a creative outlet to express myself.

Some people incorrectly view depression as just being sad. People will claim they’re depressed after having a single bad day, when the weather is gloomy, or as a result of something negative happening in their life such as a bad grade on an exam. Everyone has mood swings that are caused by emotions or situations that cannot nearly compare to the dark depths of depression. I sometimes like to think of depression as chemical warfare in your brain where a person is really sad when everything in their life seems to be going right.

I have always used the analogy when depressed the world seems to change from color to black and white. It gets better, and I know from experience. Don't say things like “suck it up” or “try to snap out of it.” If you’re depressed, your suffering is valid. Keep fighting the good fight and seek the professional help that you deserve. If you know people who are depressed, be there to offer your support, tell them they are loved, remind them that the pain is temporary, and help them find resources. I challenge everyone to post a black and white photo of yourself on all social media platforms, especially Instagram and Facebook.

My hope is that this movement will gather a following and people will post a black and white photo of themselves to social media between Oct. 1–7 with this caption:

Depression makes the world change from color to black and white. Tag 10 people to symbolize that about 1 in 10 Americans battle depression. #LLA

 LLA stands for a student-run campaign I started called Listen. Learn. Accept. We speak up for mental illness, and our main focus is to promote acceptance for mood disorders. Feel free to add onto the caption why you’re supporting this MIAW campaign. I encourage you to make your Instagram account public for MIAW so the world can see your support for this cause. Having a mental illness is a serious medical condition that should be understood. Depression alone impacts more people than cancer, AIDS, and diabetes combined. I guarantee that you know at least someone in your life that is or has been clinically depressed. What’s even sadder is they might be afraid to be open about their condition because of how much stigma there still is in society.

Let’s come together to promote awareness and acceptance for depression. Let’s make a powerful statement by posting black and white photos for MIAW so everyone can see you stand in solidarity with those who battle depression. Let’s unite to get people the professional help they need to be stable and see the world in color once more.

I decided to release a cover music video of the Twenty Øne Piløts song “Car Radio” to express a visual & artistic representation of depression. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKDUJPhmBLw 

To sugarcoat this video would've done this project a huge disservice. The band chose provocative & powerful lyrics for this song. It's dark, it's intense, but it's also authentic.

I've found “Car Radio” to be remarkably relatable at times like now when the storm within me rages on.

The mask in the video is a parallel to the mask Tyler Joseph (the band's singer) wore in the original music video, and to me it symbolizes the numbness of living with dark mood swings, the question of personal identity in the episode, and just a profound statement about how often times depressed people have to wear a metaphorical mask to blend in & act in ways that hide the agony they're feeling inside. I want to promote honesty, vulnerability, empathy, and being genuine. Throw away all of your masks and put on your soul. There’s other symbolism that you can find in the YouTube description.

It’s true that not everyone has mental illness, but everyone has mental health. Our own mental health is as crucial as our physical health. Mental health should be one of everyone’s top priorities.

For those that currently feel like you’re facing a mental health trial, listen to me: it gets better. There are so many medications and treatments out there that have helped me. Therapy can also do wonders. The suffering is temporary. You have a chemical imbalance in your brain that can and will be treated. Remember there are so many people who love you. There are always amazing things to look forward to. Some of you will get to travel and see the world, experiencing beautiful places that take your breath away and fill you with awe. You’ll witness different cultures and have your mind opened in the best possible ways. Some of you will fall in love, and calling that feeling magical will be the understatement of a lifetime. Just imagine how special your wedding day will be! You will build new friendships with those that genuinely care about you and want to walk with you through joy and sorrow. You’ll be mesmerized by sunsets, appreciate fine food, and listen to music that perfectly captures your mood. Think of watching July 4th fireworks or witnessing a shooting star streak across the sky on a perfect clear night. Looking forward to things doesn’t have to be as momentous as a big celebration, it can be as simple as a well-timed hug or hearty laugh. Life is too beautiful to just pass up, yet it is complicated and there will indeed be significant struggles. Sometimes it can be a battle getting through this life, but love alone is worth the fight.

I guarantee this post resonates with you or someone you love, so I encourage you to share it. Don't be silent with your struggles. Instead, cast them out in the open to a support system where you can unpack the challenges together. Persevere. When you face challenges, you’ve got to equip yourself for the journey and rise up. The storms will come. The obstacles may seem insurmountable. The pain will rip right through. But trust that the pain is temporary. Know that light and goodness will prevail. Cling to the anchor of hope as your driving force. Be brave & fight on, friends.

Special thanks to Sam Mitchell (cutbysam.myportfolio.com) for doing an incredible job creating this video.   

4 comments

  • Bernadette: October 23, 2017

    You are a beautiful soul, never give up fighting for the rest of us who haven’t got the strength yet, but have not stopped fighting yet eaither yet God bless!!

  • Gillie Waddington: October 07, 2017

    I live in Ithaca, and I sing in a community chorus that is directed by a professor from Ithaca College. It’s that “six degrees of separation” thing; I want to reach out and tell you all of the things that you know, but that you may need to hear again and again.

    I have battled depression all of my life, almost entirely in secret. Wonderful things have happened to me. Wonderful people are in my life giving me support, including my wife. It is only since knowing her that I have stopped seeing death as the only path to peace. For the first time since I was nine years old, I do not think about suicide daily. But it is still a struggle—depression knows no logic, and doesn’t need a reason to be. So I sing, songs of faith and civil rights, songs of pain, songs of good times in a land of love. It’s how I cope.

    You are obviously brave, facing your life with courage, trying to make the world a better place for all of us whose lives are touched with mental illness. Thank you. You are brave and you are smart and you are powerful. It will get better again; you will get better again. Come listen to us—the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers— sing the songs of people who had nothing but hope and faith to see them through a world of hurt. We have a concert on October 15, 2017 at the Presbyterian church in downtown Ithaca. I’ll be the fat, old-ish white woman with a pick splotch in my hair. And I’ll probably be smiling, at least part of the time.

  • Jennifer: October 06, 2017

    Outstanding Article!
    I personally know many people that suffer from Clinical Depression, Anxiety, Agoraphobia, & other mental illnesses. Personally I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety, …
    Thank You for Sharing and I Wish You Well !

  • Teri Davis: October 05, 2017

    Thank you for sharing your story. Depression is extremely hard to explain to someone who has never felt it. Please don’t give up expressing how you feel, that depression can literally cripple a sufferer and people need to know this. I have had my illness for 25 years, unfortunately things have not improved in the mental health fields, but the sufferers have increased at alarming rates. God Bless You for lending a voice for your generation.

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