This article contains symptoms of depression and the events following diagnoses, which could be triggering to some.
Have you ever been so depressed that you’ve actually peed the bed because you couldn’t bring yourself to get up? Have you ever let your hair get so matted after months of not brushing or washing it – to the point that you have no choice but to cut it off? Have you laid in bed for days and days at a time, staring at the million things you need to do – not even hard things, just basic human tasks – and felt like something was physically strapping you down to your mattress, leaving you unable to move? Because I have. And I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t feel this way. Depression hit me at a very young age and didn’t loosen its grip on me until very, very recently. And you’d think, someone this depressed for this long would try to kill themselves or at least think about it. Not me… I didn’t even have enough energy to do that.
But I feel better now. And I know the meds help a bit and therapy is great too, but the biggest change happened when I received my diagnosis. It was something that I always knew deep down but never wanted to think or talk about. Hell, I went through four years of college majoring in and tutoring Psychology so I knew the symptoms. But no! I’m not crazy like the people in my textbooks! Everyone feels low sometimes. It’s fatigue left over from when I had mono in the 7th grade. I’m just bored and need a change in my life. It’s my boyfriend’s fault, he doesn’t pay enough attention to me. I’m not eating often enough so my energy is low. Everyone takes 3 hour naps in the middle of the day. Right?
No. Clinical depression is an ILLNESS. That’s it. There’s no one to blame, nothing to be ashamed of, and no reason not to seek MEDICAL help. The day that I went through hours of tests with my doctor and was told that I have something called “dysthymia,” everything changed for me. I was able to put a name to the darkness that was over my head for what seemed like my entire life. I was able to look on WebMD and all over the internet and read symptom lists that described exactly what I was feeling. This gave me validation that I’d never even imagined. As someone who finds it difficult to express my emotions (even to myself), having them all written out for me was incredibly freeing. This illness has been the most crippling, debilitating, isolating thing that I can imagine. And guess what – millions of people are dealing with this every day. Mental health is still seen as taboo. Which is absolutely ridiculous because almost every human on earth deals with mental illness at some point in their lives, whether it’s themselves or someone close to them. I know that we’re easing our way toward de-stigmatizing mental health issues but I still see the shock on peoples’ faces and how uncomfortable they get when I speak openly about my depressive episodes and remembering to take my Prozac daily. Fortunately, I was blessed with the not-giving-much-of-a-fuck gene, so I do speak openly about it, to anyone that will listen. I know that the people who really matter won’t judge me or see me any differently and that people worth knowing are always willing to learn more about my condition and the ways to help and support someone with mental illness.
What I’m saying is that I wish more than anything that someone would have told me about this years ago. I am incredibly grateful to have been diagnosed and to have started receiving help at a young age (23) but I know that my childhood and adolescence would have been so much easier if I had known more about mental health. I spent so much time blaming myself for being irritable and moody and lazy and anti-social. This led to really low self-worth and near hermit-like behavior. Which I know now, only makes depression worse. I know the 12-year-old version of me could have REALLY used someone in her life willing to have an open, honest, unashamed conversation about depression. So please, please, please talk about mental health! We have nothing to lose by being transparent and everything to gain. You can drastically change someone’s life – or even just your own!