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I was diagnosed with depression a few years back and it has not been easy. But me being diagnosed was not the beginning.
I can remember times as early as the second grade when people would ask me what was wrong or why I looked upset. And I simply couldn’t answer because I had no clue why I felt the way I did, or even what it was that I was feeling.
I learned throughout the years that my family has a history of mental health issues, and that my depression does not stem from one specific event or issue. Depression is different for everyone, and only people who’ve experienced it or have it can truly understand what it’s like.
I’ve had my fair share of therapy and counseling and doctors appointments. It kind of gets repetitive after a while. But it does help. That side of the story though isn’t why I’m writing this. I’m writing to talk about what it’s actually like to live with depression.
The way I see it, depression is cancer of the mind. You either beat it, or you die trying. I’ve heard many people also describe it that way, and to me I find it the most accurate.
Depression is like trying to get someone’s attention but nothing you do works. It’s like you’re yelling at someone’s face and yet they still can’t hear you. It’s sort of like a treadmill; you keep walking but it seems like you’re not moving forward.
There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed or talk to anyone. But there are also days when I need to be surrounded by people I love in order to stay afloat. It's like there is literally no escape from how you feel; it eats at you until you can’t take it anymore. And some days are just so damn hard. You can be brushing your hair and a tiny little knot gets in the way and your head jerks just a tad and it feels like it’s the end of the world to you because there’s a tangle in your hair. Or you could be putting on a shirt and your arm gets struck because you put it in the neck hole instead of the arm hole and you get so frustrated and think to yourself that you can’t even put on clothes properly. Every mistake you make feels like everything around you is falling apart.
My family and friends don’t understand what it’s like, and they most likely never will. It’s hard to explain because sometimes I hope nothing more than to stop breathing, but I’d also do anything to get married and have kids of my own someday. I think about giving up on everything, but I also think about getting into med school and starting my career. It’s so difficult to explain depression to someone because it’s not simply a illness; it’s so much more than that. Most of the time I feel like I want to give up, but I also know that I can’t—I don’t want to. I know what I want and that’s to get into med school and become a psychiatrist and get married and have kids and travel the world. That is what I want. I don’t want to die, although my mind can’t help but think that sometimes. That’s why it’s frustrating. Think about it this way. You’re allergic to pistachios and you want ice cream. The only options are pistachio and strawberry. You know you can’t have the pistachio, and you really really want the strawberry. But your mind tells you no and to eat the pistachio anyway. You know you want what’s better for you, but your mind won’t let you.
I don’t think there’s ever one specific moment when you “recover” from having depression. I think it’s always a recovering period. There’s medicine and therapy and all that, but none of that will help until you accept the fact that you need help in the first place. And the most important thing is, only you can help yourself.
My mind is cold and empty some days. But it’s also full of wonder and mystery. Depression does not define who I am. I am not my illness. I am a human being who’d love to be treated normally and not tiptoed around. I want to make it clear that acting like you have to walk on eggshells around me makes things so much worse. I can tell when people are uncomfortable with the fact that I have depression. But they really shouldn’t be. I’m handling it and learning from it all.
Another thing about having depression is that people assume that you can just get over it and stop feeling how you feel. But you can’t. It’s not a paper cut that will heal in a few days. It’s not a broken bone that will heal in a few weeks or so. It’s not a sore throat that your parents tell you to stop complaining about. It’s all of that, but all inside your head. It’s delicate like paper, but one little slip up can cause a painful cut. It feels like your mind is surrounded by a cast because it’s broken and needs a while to heal. It’s sore and painful. It’s every horrible thing that can happen to you physically, but it’s all trapped in your head.
Having depression sucks, and I’d never wish it upon anyone. But I’m dealing with it and I know all of my struggles will help me in the end. I know I’ll be able to look back at this and tell my kids about it and how not to ever give up on yourself. Depression isn’t something you heal from or get over. It’s something you have to learn to live with in order to survive it.
**Sometime in the near future I’ll write about how I cope with depression, so stay tuned if you’d like to read about it. **