I’m depressed. I have been for a while, but have done my best to deny that. At first, I denied it by saying my unhappiness was typical and circumstantial, that it was simply post-grad stress or seasonal sadness that would pass with time. When it didn’t pass, I denied it by saying it was something stemming from situational factors, something I could rid myself of by addressing the personal and professional problems I had. When that failed, I told myself I was being whiny and pessimistic. I had a supportive family, close friends, a great job, and was in good health. How could I say I was depressed? I wasn’t entitled to feel that way.
For seven months, I’ve denied my depression and left it untreated. Now I find my consumed by it. I can no longer block the negative and intrusive thoughts that pop into my head. The thoughts that tell me I’m useless, that everything I do is meaningless, and that I deserve to feel nothing but miserable. I can no longer distract myself with friends and family because the thoughts are now strong enough to pull me out of social interactions and trap me inside my head. They used to pop up only when I was alone, but now they can get to me anywhere and at any time. As someone who has always been emotionally stoic and level-headed, I find myself emotionally fragile and exhausted. I used to hardly cry, and now I often cry on my way home from work because I’m so tired and frustrated with what’s going on in my head. And the worst part is that I know the thoughts aren’t rational or real—I know they are just projections of my depression. But that doesn’t matter. The voices are so loud and powerful that I have no choice but to believe they’re real. I have no choice but to give into them with the hopes that they’ll leave me alone if I accept what they have to say.
I’ve kept this struggle a secret for many reasons. I kept it a secret because I didn’t want to worry my friends or make them feel uncomfortable. I know firsthand how alienating depression can be, and how awkward it is for people who can’t relate to it. I didn’t want to tell them because I didn’t want their perception of me to change, and I didn’t want them to fear that my depression may rub off on them. I didn’t tell my family members because they already have so much going on in their own lives. I didn’t want to burden them with my struggle, or reveal to them that I wasn’t the well-adjusted person I’ve appeared to be. I kept this struggle a secret from myself because I didn’t want to deal with the reality that this is something I can’t just overcome. I didn’t want to recognize my own unhappiness because I was afraid that once I did I’d forget how to be the goofy and chipper persona I’ve always been. And I didn’t tell others because my depression convinced me to keep it a secret. It told me that I didn’t deserve to get better, and that I was obligated to let it destroy me. It tried to convince me that if I let it break me that I could get thrown out and start over as someone else. But I know that isn’t possible, and I have just enough strength left to know that there’s still a chance for me to get better.
If you’re someone who thinks they may have depression, I want you to be brave enough to recognize it. I want you to know that depression isn’t some kind of head cold that will come and go without treatment. I want you to know that you shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed by something you have no control over. I want you to tell other people and hold them accountable for helping you get better. You are not obligated to suffer in silence because you are afraid of alienating yourself or others. If you have loved ones, know that is their duty to be there for you.
If you don’t have depression, I want you to know that it’s not something that can be explained away. If someone feels worthless, you telling them they’re crazy or wrong won’t help them. In fact, you telling them that will only make them feel worse. I want you to know that we can’t control which days are good and which ones are bad, and that we aren’t always in a constant state of misery. There will be times when we feel happy and optimistic, and times when we’ll just want to curl up into a ball and cry. And just because we have a good day doesn’t mean we’re better. It just means we’re having a good day. Your job is to be there for us when we can’t be there for ourselves. Your job is to remind us that you love
Your job is to be there for us when we can’t be there for ourselves. Your job is to remind us our your love and to help us find our path to recovery. Because people with depression know we need to get better, but often lack the stability or energy to take the proactive steps toward recovery. Your job is to make that process as easy and painless as possible for us. Sometimes helping can be as easy as picking up the phone and calling a therapist’s office on their behalf.
If I’m being honest, I haven’t reached out to talk to someone yet. I am still in the process of fully wrapping my head around this new reality, and struggling to get past the mental barriers my depression has created. But I know I need to start being brave on my own behalf. I know I need to show myself compassion and recognize that I truly deserve to get better. I’m sharing this information because I don’t want to feel ashamed or embarrassed of my depression. I’m sharing this information because I want to hold myself accountable for my own recovery. I’m sharing it because I need help and compassion from friends and family more than ever.
I hope anyone else who feels like me is compelled to do the same.