Depression Isn't A Dirty Word & It's Time To Talk About It
I don't know why it's taken me so long to write about a topic that has surrounded me most of my life. I've really only ever touched on it and now, I feel it's necessary to speak on it.
Depression -- it comes in many forms. It doesn't always look like someone moping in a corner, wearing all black. Depression looks like your friend who seems like she has it all together. Depression looks like your coworker who is constantly bubbly and positive. Depression looks like your kid who is a straight A student. Depression looks like a cheery Chester Bennington, just days before he took his own life.
Depression can go undetectable. So much so, that in the darkest days of my depression is where I became the best at pretending I was okay. That's something people don't usually tell you -- you become a really good actor when you're depressed. You need to -- it's almost vital to your existence.
Only those closest to me knew what was going on and what I was deep-down dealing with -- and even then, I hid a lot of my darkest thoughts and moments. I would come home from school and either go to sleep or pour all of those feelings into poetry notebooks. I still have those old notebooks, and the words are heartbreaking.
In eighth grade, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. My mom noticed what was going on and I had my first appointment with a psychologist. I was scared. I didn't want to go. I didn't want any of my classmates to know. We lived in such a small town... what if someone saw me? The anxiety was my depression's best friend. The two things went hand in hand.
My mom explained it to me in a way that I've never forgotten. She drew the parallel between mental health and physical health. She brought up how when you break your arm, you go to a doctor and get help for it. Well, the same goes for your mental health and wellbeing. Just because you can't see an injury or have tangible evidence of something being wrong, doesn't mean everything is fine. If only everyone viewed mental health through this same lens.
She also explained chemical imbalances to me. Depression runs in our family. There are some things you can't quite escape. There are some things you can't quite shake off and some things you are born with.
Looking back, it seems as though all the "signs" were all there. We went to Disney World when I was in 4th grade and for most of our vacation, I was happy. But other times, I just couldn't shake the "mood" I was in. I mean, who is unhappy in the "happiest place on Earth"?! My mom said she had read that being unhappy at a place like Disney World might actually be a good indication that someone is depressed.
And, little did any of us know back then, it wasn't "just a mood" or a phase -- it was depression.
Today, I read how Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child was actually suicidal and depressed, at the height of her career, while in the girl group. I had no idea. I don't think anyone did. Her lines in "Survivor" had become my mantra in 7th grade, when I was really struggling internally.
"After all of the darkness and sadness/soon comes happiness/If I surround my self with positive things/I'll gain prosperity."
It stunned me, reading her story and how open she was being about her struggles. It reminded me that you never really know what someone is going through. It also reminded me of why I want to be vocal about what I've been through and continue to face.
I want to help break the stigma that surrounds mental health, and depression, especially. I continue to live with depression today, and I am not ashamed. It's something that is part of me, but it's not something that controls or defines me. It's something I've come to manage and there are so many different options for that.
Depression is much more common than you think, and while it's not always easy to deal with, know that you are anything but alone.