When You Don't Have a 'Reason' to Be Depressed
I’ve always functioned “normally,” maybe even above average. I consider myself to be successful in most aspects of my life. I’ve always done well in school, my friendships have always been wonderful and I have a family that could not be more supportive. Externally, my life could not be better, but I still felt this overwhelming darkness inside of me. I was sad, but there was absolutely no reason or explanation. Because of that, I felt guilty and my inner voice and thoughts started to destroy me. I was fighting with myself. I felt I didn’t deserve to be sad. My feelings weren’t valid. I thought about all the people who had it worse and in my mind. I didn’t deserve help because my life was awesome. I wasn’t in danger of hurting myself and I was functioning fine for the most part. I wasn’t “sick enough” to get help, so I just blew it off.
Years later, I couldn’t handle this overwhelming sadness, so I scheduled and went to my first therapy appointment. I was terrified. How was I going to explain feelings I did not understand? I went in, filled out some paperwork and began explaining this exhausting depression I was dealing with. Then, my therapist flooded me with questions. Have you been abused in the past? How are your relationships? What is your family like? Are your parents together? What’s your home situation like? How are you doing in school? Are you feeling suicidal?
I answered question after question about my external life and there continued to be a disconnect. My answers were so positive, but I was feeling so negative. My therapist continued to pick my brain, but there was nothing that explained these emotions I was battling. The hour ended, she gave me a few exercises to try, I scheduled an appointment for the next week and I walked out of her office feeling completely defeated. The second I got back to my apartment, I started bawling. I still had no understanding of what was going on inside my brain. I replayed the questions my therapist had asked me and I felt guilty. Maybe if I was sicker or had experienced more external emotional pain in my past, I would feel like I deserved this help.
Throughout the next week, I began ruminating on my emotions more than ever. I began to punish myself. I stayed in bed all day. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat and I lost all my motivation. I purposefully made myself sicker, so I could go back to therapy the next week with what I considered a “real problem.” At this point, I was hopeless and suicidal. The next week came around and I walked in to therapy explaining this new low I was feeling and my therapist was perplexed. She did not understand what had happened in the last week and she got me to open up. I started explaining my fear of my feelings not being valid, of me not being sick enough, of my life being too good to be depressed and we began unpacking this. Throughout this process, I learned some of the most important things when it comes to my personal mental health journey.
We talked about me comparing my struggles and she did something so valuable. She validated me. She told me struggle is struggle. Hurt is hurt and pain is pain. Your life may be perfect, your life may be full of challenges or maybe you’re somewhere in between, but regardless, your feelings are always valid. You don’t need to be in danger of hurting yourself to get some extra support. There is not a threshold you have to pass to reach out for help. Me getting help for my depression won’t take away the help of someone in crisis. To this day, I still feel guilty about being depressed, but every day I try to remind myself my feelings are valid and that compassion and support in our world are not limited. Whether it is biological factors or an external life event that triggered your emotions, you and I deserve support.
Unsplash photo via Averie Woodard