Mental illness

I have depression.

But so what? I didn’t choose this. I didn’t ask for this. I was born with it.

You don’t blame cancer on an individual who has it. You don’t tell them “just stop being sick.” Why do you think saying “just stop being sad” will fix all of my problems?

On that note, depression isn’t perpetual sadness. It’s having no motivation and always feeling tired. It’s feeling alone even when you’re surrounded by people. It’s doubting everything you do, everything you think.

To say that depression is simply a hormonal imbalance would invalidate every emotion, or lack there of, I have felt. It would overgeneralize the escalating frustration of being overly ambitious with only the desire to lay in my room alone with the lights off.

I’ve always prided myself on being able to be an advocate for people with mental illness, I want to show people how “normal” it is and I want people who have mental illnesses, who don’t necessarily know, that what they’re feeling can be explained. I went a majority of my life looking around at others and wondering why they seemed so happy. I always wondered how they hid it so well, that if we were all feeling the same way how they acted so differently from me.

I laugh to fill the silence and I write to empty the reservoir of things I want to say but never can.

I wrote this article several months ago and, with recent events, it came to mind. I also realized that I never shared the article with you, the audience that has stuck with me since the beginning of my public journey to discover myself and establish a legacy I can be proud of.

So without further ado, this is my life with mental illness:

Imagine waking up and laying in bed for 15… 30…. 60 minutes. You’re just staring at the ceiling, grasping at any sense of motivation that comes your way. You’re tired, but you shouldn’t be. You’re not sad, but you’re not happy either. It’s limbo.

Most people think depression is this overwhelming sense of sadness and despair, but it’s not. Not for me, at least. People expect blue-tinted vision and a life wrapped in itchy, wool, grey blankets. It’s not their fault, it’s what commercials and health classes have conditioned them to recognize. 

Depression is feeling constantly irritated and crying at anything and everything. Depression is this perpetual feeling of “something is wrong.” Depression is always reliving your failures and being anxious for no reason. 

When you Google search the words “depression is,” one of the first things that comes up is “depression is a choice.” It accurately reflects the opinion of a majority of people not only in America, but around the world. While learning about depression in my Psych 1010 class, a boy from the back corner shouted, “Why can’t they just make themselves be happy?” Unfortunately for the majority of people, they like to think that we, as a race, control every single aspect of ourselves. This is simply not true.

Depression, much like a lot of who we are, is shaped by the structure and hormone levels in our brains. On a basic level, depression is a hormonal imbalance, but as “Psychology Today” said in March 1999, “Regarding depression as ‘just’ a chemical imbalance wildly misconstrues the disorder.” People diagnosed with depression have low levels of serotonin, a neuro-chemical which is linked to long-term happiness and pleasure, and high levels of stress hormones. This mixture can cause weight fluctuations, emotional instability, and extreme fatigue. 

Despite the overwhelming evidence that depression is not as easy as simply “getting over it,” people will still try their best to streamline such a complicated disorder into such an easy “fix.” The same people also are more likely to think of this disorder as taboo. It becomes an even bigger “evil” when medication is involved. Just because someone has to take a hormone substitute to get the same amount of serotonin as another does not make them an evil person or a drug addict. 

The fact that I’m afraid to say three simple words because of how people will look at me is sad. It’s not like I chose to be the way I am, and it’s not like it hurts anyone else. I have supportive friends who are aware that sometimes I just need a day in and other times I need them to drag me out of the house. I don’t take antidepressants anymore, but I’m not “cured.” I’m going to have bad days and good days, but there are others who aren’t able to get the help that I was given, who don’t even know that something is wrong. They live life in this dark mindset thinking that everyone else lives like this too and they seem to be fine. They wonder why they aren’t.

The more open we are with ourselves and others, the more opportunity we have to save lives who would have been lost to suicide, drug overdoses, and so much more. I hope that me being so open and honest about my struggle will touch someone else and help them to reach out. Hopefully, one day, I won’t be hesitant to say I have depression, but I’m working on it.


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