I feel crushed under the weight of all these emotions. I have to force myself to do the simplest tasks, such as eating or brushing my teeth. I feel guilty avoiding the stuff on my to-do list, but I can’t bring myself to get out of bed. There doesn’t appear to be any point to anything.
I started experiencing situations like the above about three years ago. They scared me, but I blamed them on life circumstances.
The thought that I could have depression never entered my mind. I watched friends deal with depression, so I thought I knew the textbook symptoms. Some friends would experience depression for several consecutive days, to the point where I know at least one of them contemplated ending everything. I never considered ending my life, or went through repetitive days of darkness and hopelessness. Because of this, I thought it would belittle my friends’ situations to suggest I also experienced depression. That was the last thing I wanted to do.
So, I bottled up all the new feelings and ignored them, hoping they were circumstantial and temporary.
I was confused when I realized my normally extroverted self no longer “lived for” going places, and when I did get out of the house, it was much more mentally draining than in times past. I made light of the situation by joking with my friends that their “introvertedness” was rubbing off on me. In reality, I was terrified. It scared me how much time I spent in my head instead of living life with others. I felt like I could cry at any moment. I wanted to curl up on the couch for the entire day and not move, which was not normal for my personality. During this time, I found excuses for everything. I blamed my symptoms on many things, such as school, working for an emotionally abusive employer, and changing churches (which drastically impacted my social life).
Turns out, my depression was hiding in plain sight.
The first time I admitted to having depression occurred in an email between me and my best friend just over a year ago. Once I stated it as a fact, I realized how long I had shoved all the feelings down and ignored them. When I finally acknowledged my depression, I immediately felt a weight lift off me. I finally had an explanation for all the feelings and “abnormal” behavior.
Depression is still scary even when I have a reason for scenarios like that in the opening paragraph. Acknowledging the issue didn’t make it stop, but before I identified my depression, those moments were 10 times scarier. The couple of years before I recognized my depression were filled with moments of confusion, panic, and wondering if life would ever be “normal” again. Life is already not “normal” when you’re becoming an adult; take that stress, throw in depression, and everything triples in intensity.
The fact that I have depression is not something many people know. It’s something I’m still coming to terms with and working through years later. I’m realizing depression is not a specific lifestyle or set of continuous symptoms. It comes and goes, sometimes suddenly. For me, depression is a roller coaster. There are high points where everything is great and I’m enjoying life, and then suddenly I drop into the lowest points where simply breathing is a struggle. I continue learning how to navigate depression everyday, but that’s more than I knew a year ago.
I spent so long not knowing what depression truly meant that I misinterpreted the warning signs. I saw how seriously it affected people close to me, and mistakenly thought if my case wasn’t as intense, it couldn’t be true depression. This thinking resulted in so much guilt and fear as I struggled to make sense of what was happening to me. I wish I had talked with someone sooner so I could have known that depression can come in many forms. I wish I hadn’t suppressed all my feelings in an attempt to ignore them. I wish depression (and any other mental illness) wasn’t such a taboo subject. If I had known more about it, maybe things would have been different. Maybe it wouldn’t have stayed hidden for so long. I know wishing can’t change what happened, but maybe sharing my experiences can help keep someone else from having the same regrets.
“However bad life may seem… where there’s life, there’s hope.” – Stephen Hawking