I kept up my pattern of not admitting when I was feeling depressed, of hiding my illness, of not disclosing my symptoms even when asked directly. I kept saying, “I’m okay,” even when I was not okay because I did not trust that doctors would respond to my mental health concerns with empathy. I felt ashamed of admitting when I was not coping with stress and emotions effectively and I was afraid they would judge me or push me to try another medication. In church I did not trust that my pastors would respond with belief in the validity of my illness. I was afraid they would blame me.
It never seems to be my fault no matter what. At least that is the lie I tell myself. I either blame the disorder, or too often, the other person. So I have been trying to really recognize whether my behavior is simply a flawed, but unique, personality trait. Or whether I need to find more direct ways to master my illness’s distinct idiosyncrasies.
Learning about stigma, and how a person’s perceptions and attitudes toward someone with a mental illness is the biggest barrier towards them receiving proper treatment, deeply concerned me and lead me to seriously question how I could help make a change. I believe that my years of daily experience of what it is like to live with someone suffering from a mental illness and my passion for helping others obtain proper care have put me in a unique position to show compassion and make a lasting impact for those suffering from and indirectly effected by this issue.
I knew my confession was motivated by the hope that I could change the trajectory of my life. I wanted to find a way out of depression more than I wanted to keep hiding my compulsive self-injury. I wanted an end to secrets, an end to shame. I wanted my classmates to look me in the eye and accept me for who I was, not for girl who I pretended to be.
Stigma exists. Two out of three people who are affected by mental illness don’t seek help or treatment. The day I received treatment was the day I took my first step towards recovery. Although some days I tend to take a step back, I know I will wake up the next morning and take two steps forward.
For example, while I was feeling extreme joy for my family’s experience that day and words like depression could not have been further from my mind, it did not change the fact that it was still a part of me. Sometimes it’s present, sometimes it’s dormant, but it’s always there and I am learning to take ownership over it equal to all the other parts of me.
I am independent and free. If you could take anything from this story let it be this, be proactive about what you want and how you feel when it comes to a mental illness. Depression is real and although others may mock you or say its not don’t let that bring you down even more. Find the strength within to fight.
Most of us, or possibly all of us with depression are not looking to hear any advice, the million reasons why we shouldn’t be depressed, or opinion about how to snap out of it. What I want when I’m depressed is to sit next to me, put your arms around me and say “I’m sorry, this sucks. But you are not alone.”
I can’t miss a single day of medication, or else I spiral into darkness. Is it worth it? Definitely. Life is so beautifully complex, and without the darkness I would not appreciate the sunlight. Sometimes I feel like my emotional dial is turned all the way up. I feel things so much more powerfully, my world is a prismatic collage of sharply vibrant colors, some intensely dark, some pulsating with life and light, and everyday is a new challenge, learning how to navigate through a sea of torrid emotions. I am grateful for my life.
It is normal to be sad, we are human. A little sadness is what keeps us balanced. The thing is I was sad most of the time. I was sad starting at such a young age. You’re not supposed to feel that way from your earliest memories. I stopped speaking up about it because I was constantly told it was the way I was supposed to feel.