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I'm Tired of Pretending I'm Just 'Tired'

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High school: a moment with depression.

I am sitting in history class. It is 9:23 a.m. on a Tuesday and the temperature has already reached 75, which is a lot considering it is December. My hair covers my face as I absentmindedly rip a piece of paper into confetti — the closest thing to snow I will get on this 75-degree Tuesday morning in December.

I am sitting in history class, which is usually the class I am the most energetic in. But not today. Today, I am gloomy, quiet, reserved. Today, I do not feel like talking. Someone leans over and says, “Did you sleep last night? You look so tired.” They are not the first to ask. It is 9:23 a.m. on a Tuesday in December and I have already been asked by three different people if I am tired. Yes, I want to say, I am tired. I slept for 10 hours last night, but I am tired. In fact, all I have been doing the past few weeks is lay in bed. But yes, I am tired…

I am tired of pretending I’m tired.

I am sitting in history class, and I want nothing more than to tell the truth — that I’m slipping back to rock bottom, that my medicine isn’t working, that “tired” is not the same thing as “depressed.” I want to tell people I am not tired from lack of sleep, I am tired of battling depression, the dark fog that has been clouding my brain for months. Yes, I am tired. But not in the way you think…

I am tired of pretending I’m tired.

I am sitting in history class and it is now 9:29 a.m. but it is still a Tuesday in December. There are still 36 minutes to go in this period. Still 36 minutes of pretending I am tired. And then, off to the next class, when the cycle begins again. And again. And again. Why do I have to pretend? Because there are unspoken rules. When someone passing by says, “How are you today?” you don’t reply with, “Oh, I’m feeling pretty depressed at the moment and I think I might cry.” No — you are expected to give the automatic reply: “I’m good, how are you?” or “Very well thank you.” Those are “socially acceptable” responses. Lucky for me though, another universal response is, “Quite tired, actually…”

I am tired of pretending I’m tired.

I am sitting in history class and I can’t help but wish that people saw depression the same way they see physical illness. If it was a physical illness, then when I tell them I am battling depression, people will say, “I hope you recover quickly,” or “Feel better soon.” When I do open up about my struggles, I wish that they would say those things instead of giving me a wary look that does nothing more than reinforce the harmful stigma behind my sickness — stigma that tells me “it could be worse” or that I should “just snap out of it” or that I “must be crazy.” So, instead of telling the truth, I tell them I’m tired…

But I am tired of pretending that I’m tired.

I am sitting in history class and I stare at the blackboard and think about how stigma can’t be eliminated by taking a single eraser and rubbing it away like chalk — too much residue would be left behind. But what if I started small — in my own little corner of the blackboard with my own little eraser. What would happen if I removed the word “tired” from my vocabulary and stopped hiding behind false synonyms?

I’ve spent too long pretending to be tired.

I wasn’t quite ready for action on that Tuesday in December, but a small spark had been lit deep within the embers of my mind. Two years later, that spark worked its way out of the embers and ignited into confidence. I was done pretending to be tired. I was ready to fight back against the stigma I had absorbed for too many years. So I opened up. I didn’t hide. And I began to write about my struggles. I didn’t have a magic eraser to rub away all the stigma behind mental illness, but I thought that maybe if I joined the people raising their voices, then we could take our own chalk and write our own stories across the blackboard, covering up the chalk letters of stigma little by little until all that shows is truth. And maybe someday, a girl like me, sitting in a high school history class and struggling with depression, won’t feel like she has to pretend to be tired. And then maybe she will receive the support she needs.

No one should have to pretend to be tired.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Unsplash photo via Caju Gomes

Originally published: January 2, 2018
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