Just get over it. Be happy. Why can’t you just snap out of it?
Trust me, I’ve heard it all. And trust me, I wish it were that simple.
Three years ago, as a freshman here at Sam Houston State University, I was first diagnosed with depression. And let me be the first to say, I was not the least bit happy with this diagnosis.
To an outsider, depression is depicted by wearing dark clothing, cutting one’s self and contemplating the ramifications of suicide. I, however, have never exhibited any of these symptoms.
For me, it was the “dreading getting out of bed every single morning.” It was the “not wanting to take the time to put on makeup, fix my hair or even eat a proper meal.” It was the “random mood swings and the constant questioning of why I was in tears for no reason at all.” And it was almost entirely the “pushing away of anyone who I felt got too close to me.”
It was also the anxiety that came with it. It was the constant state of irrational fears, unsettling nerves and unparalleled worrying which would almost always result in a panic attack which for me meant getting so worked up I’d almost always end up throwing up.
Although I use past tense, this battle with the chemical imbalance in my brain which alters the way I respond to certain situations is a battle which I fight every single day. And one I am almost certain to fight for the rest of my life.
But I’m okay with that.
Three years ago, I couldn’t even utter the words “I have depression” without feeling ashamed or embarrassed or like a crazy person. Three years ago, I didn’t want to admit that I needed help, that talking to a therapist on a weekly basis might actually do some good, or that taking the right medication might fix the synapses in my brain to fire at an appropriate speed. Three years ago, I wasn’t as strong as I am today.
I’m not saying that I’m some kind of mental illness pioneer or that I should be the poster child for sanity—there’s a little bit of crazy in all of us. I, however am testament to the power that therapy, medicine and a strong support system can hold.
Depression doesn’t have a face. But in writing this viewpoint without anonymity, I’m donating mine.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6.9 percent of the entire adult population of the United States suffered from depression in 2012. Women were almost twice as likely to have depression as men and the age group which most exhibited depression were 18 to 25-year-olds.
Depression is not always worn on the face of the loner who sits by himself at lunch or the quiet girl who silently observes others at the back of the class. Depression is everywhere. It’s in the honor student who graduates summa cum laude, in the star athlete on a full ride scholarship and in the talented musician bound for Julliard. It is hidden beneath the smiles which grace the faces of outgoing and bubbly personalities which mask their constant internal struggle.
Mental illness is nothing to feel ashamed of or embarrassed about. Rather, it is something we as millennials need to educate ourselves about, take measures to try to understand and address, and maybe even one day, beat.