Would you believe me if I told you I have been depressed my whole life? While it sounds melodramatic and maybe even a little bit impossible, I remember having depressive episodes as early as preschool. During lesson breaks, I would walk the perimeter of the schoolyard alone, under the shadows of the infinitely tall pine trees, dragging a stick across the metal fence, and soaking up the feeling that I would later learn to identify as depression. I was 3 years old.
The melancholy I felt within those walls of my church’s preschool never fully went away, and it probably never will. Depression ebbs and flows, takes many forms, and creeps up unexpectedly. While I am highly functioning and have developed the skill set to live my life day-to-day during the colorful seasons of my depression, I’ve finally reached a point where I don’t want to have to suffer alone in this invisible illness that gives everything a cloudy filter. This week, I decided to seek out therapy. I’m now 29 years old.
I didn’t think I deserved it
I grew up in a safe, sunny suburb just north of Los Angeles. I have a supportive set of parents who are still married, an older sister who always included and protected me, and a network of ride-or-die friends that make me laugh until my guts fall out. Because of my traditionally positive upbringing, I never felt that my depression was validated, which prevented me from speaking up about my feelings and seeking help. If I’m being very honest, I still feel uneasy admitting that despite the wonderful things in my life, there is a steady stream of darkness that hovers overhead. What I’ve now learned is that depression doesn’t discriminate – it exists independently around your circumstances, and not necessarily because of them.
I wanted to cure it on my own
Part of my apprehension with finding help was my stubbornness to solve my mental illness by myself. While there is inherent value in learning to cope with depression, I found that I was submitting myself to a life of just getting by, when I needed to examine the cognitive reasoning for my sadness. “It’s simple,” I thought. “I’ll go to work, accomplish a few of my daily tasks, and go to bed as soon as I get home.” Absolving myself to a life planned around when I could go back to bed again wasn’t fixing anything, and may have even worsened the condition I’d grown so comfortable with. And depression becomes just that – comfortable. It was familiar, like an old, worn in sweatshirt I could wallow within. The very walls that I felt constrained by were the same walls that gave me great comfort.