For years, I have been searching for the right words to share this story with you all. I try to string together sentences depicting the message I am trying to get across, but it never comes out just quite right. I am extremely terrified to post this, but I feel called to speak up for the person that I used to be and the people who are still suffering the way that I did. Here goes nothing, I guess.
I share with you this story not in the hopes of attracting attention to myself, but in sincere hope that anyone who may stumble across this post, needing somebody to let them know that they are not alone, will find the reassurance that they need.
For the majority of my life, I have fought mental illness. This is the kind of thing that I am supposed to keep under wraps, as if it’s a sin that I have the moral obligation to hide. But I am tired of being told to be ashamed of my circumstances, and I am tired of keeping a story to myself that I think could potentially help someone out.
I started showing signs of depression from an age as young as 8. I was always the kid that you’d find crying in the bathroom at school. I can’t fully put this in past tense. When I was 14, I was formally diagnosed with severe depression and mild to moderate anxiety. It’s about as much of a party as it sounds. It took a long time to finally reach that diagnosis, but I don’t remember a time in my life when I did not exhibit traits that matched it.
It felt crazy to me that my struggle could suddenly be labeled with a type and severity, as if I were a sauce at Buffalo Wild Wings. But, the fact of the matter is that I have depression and anxiety and I will have to live with these illnesses for the rest of my life. It sucks, for lack of a more sophisticated way of putting it, but I am doing the best that I can to move forward every day.
The story of my battle is a long one that spans over many years; a story for another day. But what I will tell you right now is that living with a mental illness is very, very hard. Some days I wake up feeling like I can conquer the world, I know exactly what I want, and I feel wrapped in love and support from the people around me. Quite possibly the next day, I may wake up feeling lost and blue, like there is a storm cloud over my head just waiting to pour on me. Sometimes these storms last a few hours, but I had one when I was 16 that lasted about a year.
This beast that is depression is a very strange breed, as it looks different in everyone and it can be very difficult to pinpoint. For me, among other things, it caused a very turbulent and unhealthy relationship with food, a perfectionistic personality that often drives me to a breaking point, and overwhelming spells of loneliness, even when there is no diligent reason to be. Despite having this extra obstacle on my plate, I have always pushed forward and done everything in my ability to achieve what I had to and what I wanted to. Everybody has their downfalls, but I’m proud of myself for getting to where I am now and accomplishing the things that I set my mind to.
The nature of this illness is brutal and painful, not just for me, but for the people around me who love me. I grew up in a nice house with hardworking parents who loved each other and a big family full of people who absolutely adored me and always offered to push me on the swings. I always did well in school, got to travel around the world to see my family, and never seemed to be missing anything that I needed. What reason did I have to be depressed?
While it may have seemed like none, chemicals in the brain don’t discriminate on a basis of age, financial situation, or family dynamic. I am both biracial, and an only child, which happen to be traits that increase your likelihood of suffering from a depressive disorder. It isn’t my fault that my grandmother has depression and has had to take an antidepressant for 50 years of her life. It isn’t my fault that my brain does not produce enough serotonin and that its hippocampus is simply too small. I didn’t choose to have this illness, contrary to the belief of many people who I have encountered, because I highly doubt that anyone would choose to endure this pain. I tried so hard to ignore the fact that I had something wrong with me for such a long time because I was raised in a society in which it was considered an attitude issue, not a legitimate disorder. That is both disgusting and heartbreaking.
I work hard every single day of my life to feel better, but sometimes it isn’t a question of that. I’ve been to multiple doctors and tried every possible “cure” that I’ve read about, but this isn’t how it works. I know that sometimes I am going to wake up and feel as though the world can’t continue spinning that day. As I get older and continue to work towards finding the best management techniques for my situation, these days are fewer and farther apart. But I will never not have to deal with mental illness, and I will, unfortunately, never be able to avoid being told that my illness is my choice and my fault. This is another topic that is large enough for its own post, but I just want to tell you that I didn’t choose this for myself, don’t let anyone convince you that you did this to yourself.
I am so proud of myself because, despite the fact that I have an extra obstacle in my way that affects every single aspect of my life, I make it through. I have to do certain things in different ways than most, and sometimes I have days in which the world feels impossible. I pull through those days with the strength that I have built up from having to walk an extra mile to get where everyone else is. This post is much more vague than I’d like it to be in many of the things that I would like to say, but if I were to tell you everything that I have to say about this topic in one blog post, it would be the length of a Harry Potter book.
I want to make sure that you, the person reading this, knows that you’re not alone. If you’re here looking for a little bit of strength to help you get through whatever it is that you’re struggling with, I’m going to try to give it to you. Many people may look at me and see a smiley, laugh-a-lot, talkative girl who tells lame jokes and relentlessly defends their hilarity. While this is an adequate description of me on many days, there is much, much more to that description for the rest of the days, both pleasant and not. People may look at me and see someone who is undeniably happy, I’ve been told that my happiness and demeanor are infectious. I told the person who paid me that compliment that I have my days during which I am a deeply sad person, and he didn’t believe me.
Just because your struggle is not fully visible to other people, like that of other illnesses may be, it does not mean that your experience is invalid or easy. It takes a lot of strength to truck through the hard days, and you deserve to feel proud of yourself for making it through them.
Many more blog posts and videos are to come with this topic. Wishing you all the best and hoping that you were able to find any reassurance that you needed in this post.