To Someone Who’s Just Been Diagnosed With Depression
I’m so proud of you for your bravery and strength. Opening up to a professional about how you were doing wasn’t easy, and you did it. You took what could be the first step towards finding joy again.
I know your feet are still heavy (It’s like elephants are sitting on them, isn’t it?) but just keep taking one step at a time. Your feet will get lighter and lighter. For me they did, at least. One day, you might notice you’re speed walking, then jogging then finally running again.
When I was where you are I was scared, confused and exhausted. I remember going to sleep at night sobbing. I remember laying on the floor unable to move. I remember feeling like every full breathe I wanted to take was choked by fear. I never imagined things could turn around, which is how you might feel now.
Even though it’s difficult, there can be a lot of peace in knowing you have an illness. You know now why the “picture of life” you’d always cherished stopped looking beautiful. It was the same picture you’d always seen, but suddenly everything was tinted with pain. It was like someone mixed grey with all your favorite, vibrant colors. You tried looking from every possible angle, but nothing changed.
No matter how funny the joke was, you could’t laugh. No matter how much you love your friends and family, you couldn’t be present with them. You couldn’t get out of bed in the morning and make eggs.
You now know this had nothing to do with your strength or character. You can’t smile away an illness. And I know it seems impossible right now, but you can get better. You will see those beautiful colors again; they are still there.
The diagnosis helps professionals figure out the best treatment program for you. You may have to try different medications and treatments to find out what works best, but don’t give up. I remember the period of trial in error with medication. It was difficult, but finding the right one was worth every minute. I got my life back. I was able to be myself again. It takes tremendous bravery to get and stay with treatment.
Know there will be people who won’t “get” your depression. They will say ignorant things because they’re misinformed and uneducated about what mental illness really is. They might tell you about a time they were really sad, but got through it with berry smoothies or willpower. This is like someone saying, “Oh, I wear glasses so I know what it’s like to be legally blind. Just try harder to see.” It’s offensive and just plain wrong.
You can’t shut depression off because things are going right; depression isn’t a choice.
Don’t feel any shame or guilt for having depression. Would you shame a friend for having a broken leg? No, you would have compassion for her. Would you see her as worthless because her leg is broken? No, because she is so much more than a broken leg, just like you are so much more than your diagnosis. No one is depression or bipolar just like one is cancer or cystic fibrosis. Change your perception of yourself. You can live a great life regardless of a having a mental illness.
Don’t let the media and stigma tell you who you are, because they’re wrong. That’s for you to decide. Don’t see yourself as a monster, see yourself as the next Mozart or Lincoln. (Both had mental illness!) You are in good company.
It’s possible your care might not be excellent. A lot depends on where you live and your insurance. Know that so many people and organizations are fighting for your care to improve, but also learn to advocate for yourself. You deserve the best care possible. If you’d like, join a mental health organization to connect with caring, bright people like yourself. Find purpose in helping others.
Just because you are different doesn’t mean you are broken. And “different people” can change the world because they can imagine beyond what is.
Please hang on. The world needs people like you.
We need your voice. We need your story.
You are here for a reason.
Follow this journey on We Have Apples.