For the longest time, I couldn’t talk about my mental health. I wasn’t allowed to. People around me dismissed any “negative” thoughts I had to share, preferring instead to call me ungrateful, ungodly, or just a downright brat.
Even some of the psychiatrists I saw in the past told me to get closer to God, and my troubled mind would be at ease. And unfortunately, for the longest time, I believed them. They must be right, I thought. There must be something sinister about me for sure. Why else do I feel this way if I appear to have everything I ever wished for?
But now I know I have depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD.
Growing up, mental health issues were taboo. I was not able to show any sign of struggle. I went to my first psychiatrist behind my parents’ backs. I was scared to death that they would find out. My fear was so great I eventually stopped going.
In time, I started to share my thoughts and feelings through writing, which was more acceptable. I kept on writing diaries, poems, and short stories. People thought they were just the fruits of my imagination and that they weren’t true. They didn’t know it was all me.
When I’m depressed, it’s much more than just being sad; it’s debilitating with an overwhelming feeling of disinterest. Every episode is different, and some are milder than others. I can function some days, and other days I cannot get out of bed. I can mask some episodes, but not all of them.
Depression is unpredictable, I could be watching a movie or out on a date with my husband or at the park with my daughter, or even on vacation, and it hits seemingly out of nowhere.
I never know when and why it creeps in. Very wickedly, it sneaks up on me, and the next thing I know, I put my book down, turn off my favorite show, or start crying for no reason. And I know it’s here in the center of my chest, that dreadful sad pit. I don’t even realize it is growing and deepening. By the time I know it is already deep enough, and all I can do is wait.
I have my ups and downs. I have happy sunny days and stormy cloudy ones. But when those clouds trap me in, I’m a different person. I lose interest in everything I ever loved. I become passive, emotionless, drained, and exhausted. A deep, dreadful sad pit drills in the center of my chest and grows roots in there, pressing hard until I feel I can’t breathe and that my heart will stop. Depression blurs my sight and numbs my senses.
When depression has me tight in its grip, I feel like I will never get out alive. I feel like it’s the end. Everything and everyone doesn’t matter anymore. When I keep “counting my blessings,” I try to find a reason to fight. I see them in front of me and keep reminding myself they are the reason, but I’m already deep in the quicksand of depression, and I can’t get out despite knowing that I should and that there are people who depend on me.
I learned to wait the storm out. Eventually, it passes no matter how long it lasts. Eventually, a month, a week, a few hours, or a year later, it will pass. I will survive, and I will be myself again.
I had to learn how to deal with depression on my own; although I’ve had some great therapists, I still had to figure out how to slay my demons, knowing they would keep coming back and that they would never be gone for good.
The only difference is that now I acknowledge it. I tell the people around me how I feel. I let them know what to expect of me. I’m not ashamed, I’m not in denial, and I don’t pretend I’m ok anymore.
From my personal experience, if you know someone who struggles with depression, please don’t tell them to:
- Cheer up. They are not just grumpy. Don’t you think they would if they could?
- Watch something funny. They are not interested in any of that. They want to be happy, but they can’t; there’s no switch.
- Pray. They are not faithless, just depressed.
- Change scenery. They are not bored.
- You have all reasons to be happy and grateful.
- Nothing is worth being upset about. They know that they can’t get out of this pit.
- You are not the only one. Yes, but in their unique way they are, everyone’s experience is different.
Instead, show your support by doing any of the following:
- Acknowledge and validate how they feel.
- Offer to listen to what they have to say, sometimes getting it all out and sharing (therapy style) makes a difference.
- Offer to help with their daily chores if they can’t leave their bed or cannot get dressed or brush their teeth.
- Assure them you are always there for them. They might not show it, but they still love you and care about you, and they don’t want to lose you.