Why People Are Surprised When I Say I Have Major Depressive Disorder

I am timid and shy at first. When you meet me, I softly say my name and introduce myself (and sometimes my dog too). After we start talking, I may loosen up or I may become tense, thanks to my anxiety disorder. But regardless of what may overtake me next, I put on a face and carry on the conversation. Often, I loosen up when we start talking about my work or about my hobbies running and taking care of my dog and snowboarding.

Yet what you don’t know and don’t see are the scars on my forearms, the scars on my thighs, and the intense thoughts that race through my mind. I’m able to take care of myself most days, I can walk the dog, and I can get to work every day. I am in a doctorate program at a prestigious university in America, yet I have mental illness.

Because mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

Because mental illness doesn’t care about race, ethnicity, age, or background.

Because mental illness affects one in five. And I am one in five.

People are surprised when they get to know me and find out I spend Saturday mornings at group therapy. People are surprised when I say I cannot drink because it interacts with my many medications I am on. People are surprised because I am able to run long distance and walk my dog.

Because how can somebody who has a bachelor’s degree from a top university, who is in a biological sciences doctorate program, who has a dog and runs long distance, be affected by mental illness? It just is.

I stopped asking questions and hiding from my truth after losing one too many coworkers and friends to suicide. I am tired of people thinking those with mental illness are “crazy” and “non-functional” in society. I want people to know you can have a mental illness and still be a productive member in society. We have so much to contribute if
only we have the chance.

Please, next time you talk to me, don’t be surprised by my mental illness. I am still productive and living my life. I just have an obstacle to overcome each day.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Thinkstock photo by ctktiger1018

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