The Mighty Logo

It’s OK to Be Embarrassed About Depression

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

There’s still a lot of stigma and shame surrounding mental illness, and that leads some people to say things like, “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” in an effort to comfort those of us who were embarrassed about our mental health battles.

I appreciate that. It’s a kind statement full of compassion and understanding. But, no matter how many times people told me not to be embarrassed, I still felt deeply ashamed of my struggle with mental illness. And you know what I’ve learned? It’s OK to be embarrassed.

I silently battled my depression for years with no idea I was fighting an actual illness. I just thought there was something wrong with me, and I didn’t know how to reach out for help. I didn’t want to reach out either. I’m a prideful guy. Asking for help showed weakness, in my mind. Besides, I didn’t think I had any reason to feel such despair. I had a great life (and still do), and never in a million years would I have imagined I’d struggle with depression. But I do. And it was the most humiliating experience of my life when I finally admitted something was wrong and I needed help, and that’s OK. I was embarrassed, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s OK if you’re embarrassed too.

I’m not particularly interested in the reasons why I was ashamed. I don’t blame society or unrealistic expectations or the pressures of being a guy and believing we have to handle everything on our own. That’s a whole other can of worms I don’t want to get into right now (and besides, plenty of women also struggle with shame about their mental health). All I’m saying is no matter how many people told me not to be embarrassed, I was. I had to deal with that shame or I was never going to get better. I couldn’t just pretend it didn’t exist the same way I pretended my depression didn’t exist for years. I had to admit how I felt and deal with it. I wasn’t used to doing that kind of thing, and I’ll be honest; it was mortifying. But that’s OK. Embarrassment passes. It doesn’t last forever! Sure, it doesn’t feel good when you’re going through it, but then it’s out of your system and you can move on. You can move past the shame.

As I talked with others about my fight against depression, I noticed they expressed relief when I told them how humiliated I was when I first opened up about my struggles. They took comfort in our shared emotion as if I lessened the pressure they felt to not be embarrassed because people say all the time that we shouldn’t be. It’s great there are people with that level of compassion, and I tell others who struggle with their mental health that they don’t have to be embarrassed as well. I also tell them if they are embarrassed that it’s totally fine, because I was. Embarrassment passes, and it’s replaced with hope and a zest for life.

Whatever you’re feeling, and wherever you are in your mental health journey, I want you to know it’s OK to feel the way you do. Don’t let anyone try to tell you how you should feel. Just be honest with yourself so you can deal with what you’ve gotta deal with. And please, as someone who’s been there, trust me: All the bad stuff passes, and all the good stuff stays.

Photo by Akshar Dave on Unsplash

Originally published: October 13, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home