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Why My Ex’s Response to My Depression and Anxiety Was So Wrong

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To the ex who disregarded my depression as “just the way I am,”

When I entered our relationship, I thought you were someone who truly cared about me. As our relationship grew in the early stages, I began to trust you and care about you and I decided to open up to you about something I was ashamed of and I’m struggling with — my depression and anxiety. 

Your reaction was not what I expected. You told me I was just “sensitive,” “dramatic” and “emotional.” You told me you’d be there for me but any time I came to you to talk, you would shrug me off by saying that was “just the way I am” and I was “making a big deal out of nothing.” You even went as far as to tell me that anxiety and depression were “white people problems” and they “weren’t real.“ 

I remember a specific anxiety attack I had about starting a new college semester and the thought of being around so many strangers was overwhelming — an anxiety attack in which I reached out to you for help and you told me “Can this wait? I’m at the gym.” When I tried to explain to you I really needed someone to talk to about this, you told me: “Go to bed, you’re being sensitive.”

That’s when I started to buy into what you were saying.

Suddenly, I felt like such a nuisance. How could I possibly interrupt someone’s workout just because I was being sensitive? I told you I was sorry and you responded yet again with: “It’s OK. It’s just how you are.”

That’s what you didn’t understand, though. That is not how I am. I am not the girl who hyperventilates, cries and feels like she can’t breathe just because she has to go into a room full of unfamiliar faces. I’m the girl who wants to talk to everyone in the room. I’m the girl who is dying to participate in lecture discussions because I have so much to say. It’s the anxiety that keeps me sitting in my chair, overanalyzing every word I might say and eventually convinces me it’s not worth saying. It’s the anxiety that makes me so worried about what people might think about me for voicing my strong opinions. It’s the anxiety keeps me quiet. 

I understand you have never felt the way I feel. I understand you think I’m overreacting and being sensitive but I’m not. To me these feels are real, overwhelmingly real. And for you to discount those feelings and make me feel like I was unstable, needy and dramatic for having them was so destructive to my self-worth. I opened up to you about something that made me feel so vulnerable. I trusted you and looked toward you for comfort and support and you made me feel so irrelevant and crazy.

I’m doing better now. I’ve found the right balance of medications. I found an incredible support group of family and friends who may not understand what I’m going through, but they do their best to lend an ear or an arm whenever I may need them to. 

If anyone you know or care about is living with a form of mental illness, please do not discount their feelings just because you’ve never felt them yourself. Do not tell them “that’s just how you are” or “you’re being dramatic”. Just because it is an illness you cannot see doesn’t make it any less validated. You would not tell a person with the flu to just get better, therefore you shouldn’t tell someone with anxiety to just calm down. Instead, tell them they matter. Tell them you don’t understand but you are willing to listen to them and try. Tell them you care about them and you will do everything you can to help.

So, to the ex who disregarded my depression as “just the way I am,” thank you for showing me not only exactly the type of person I don’t need in my life, but also making room for exactly the type of person I do.

Photo by Sergio Souza on Unsplash

Originally published: February 5, 2019
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