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The Hard Reality of Having Depression in a World That Equates It to Sadness

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There is no Oscar for acting like nothing is wrong when you’re torn up inside. I remember the way my heart pounded in my chest and my throat closed up as I prepared to tell those I loved I have depression. The stigma. The connotations. Not an illness, but a weakness.

My voice cracks. The words flow off my tongue. But the gripping panic in my chest doesn’t let go. I can see the pain in my parents’ eyes. I know what they’re thinking: “What did I do wrong” “Why isn’t she happy?” It’s those questions, a natural response, that makes this so difficult. The confusion of the words “depressed” and “sad.”

The last thing I ever want to do is hurt my loved ones. It’s probably why I kept my emotional turmoil bottled up for so long. But it was all a front. Not depressed, but focused. Not anxious, but driven to achieve. Full ride to school, job lined up for the end. But I wasn’t fulfilled. Surrounded with great friends, but completely alone. When I found myself crying out, “I quit!” I realized my act wasn’t sustainable. Time to face a tough reality: sharing my struggle may hurt those around me. But the initial self-blame my loved ones felt pails in comparison to the pain they’d feel if I had “just quit.”

After the shock and confusion came the inevitable need to help. “You shouldn’t go on medication, it’ll leave you as a shell of a person.” Or “you need to try meditation, my colleague cured herself that way.” And the ever so popular, “Why don’t you focus on the happy things in your life rather than focusing on the negative so much?”

I wanted to scream. They all meant well. And it’s not their fault they don’t know what to say. There is no manual for this. But that’s the hard reality of having depression in a world that equates it to sadness and pessimism. The onus was on me not only to stand up for what I needed, medication and therapy, but to educate those around me on the illness.

Six months have passed. I’ve never been happier. I still have depression. But I am not depressed. I won’t lie, it got worse before it got better. But the better is worth it. To anyone out there on the edge, wanting to just quit — quit the act, not the show!

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

Thinkstock image by Ansy Ageeva

Originally published: March 24, 2017
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