For the past three years, I have been struggling with depression. My entire universe began to cave in around me and I stopped sleeping, eating, playing guitar – everything that I needed and enjoyed. I was confused and seemingly alone and scared for my life. When I tell people this, they always expect that I will then go into how I found God and I now value and am aware of my place in the world. That’s not what I’m going to say. I’m going to talk about my illness and share some things I know now that I wish I knew three years ago.
1. Depression can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Many people view depression as sadness or as a reaction to a traumatic event—that is a common misconception. Depression is not a straightforward response to a tragic situation. It can affect a 6-year-old just as easily as it can affect a 90-year-old. It just, sort of, happens. When I first began battling with this illness, I had no idea what was going on. I stopped writing, I stopped singing and I stopped loving myself and others. I had no idea what I was going through and I was scared that my life would always be like this. I often found myself asking why. Why do I feel this way? Why am I sad? What do I have to be sad about? I was mad at myself for feeling like this because I was so blessed to have so many amazing things in my life, so why was I sad? I didn’t understand that I was suffering from a mental illness and that none of this was my fault.
2. It is okay to not be okay.
It is very hard for someone who is depressed to ask for help, and when they do, they feel guilty for bothering others with their problems. Someone who is depressed might feel the need to put a smile on every morning.
Over the past three years, I’ve spent so much time crying in my bedroom in the middle of the night so no one would hear; answering every “How are you?” with a forced smile and a “I’m fine” because I was worried that I would be bothering someone if I ever told them the truth. For the longest time, I didn’t let anyone in because I was concerned that if they knew who I actually was, they wouldn’t want me anymore.
3. Your friends in crisis are your true friends.
When you’re falling apart, surround yourself with the people who will help put you back together. No one needs a friend who is only around for sunny skies; everyone needs a friend with which to wait out the storm.
Last year, when I had finally came to grips with my problem and wanted to find help, I reached out to one close friend. I was terrified of being that vulnerable. However, one afternoon I summoned the courage and told my friend what I was going through. When I told him, he got angry. He yelled at me for not getting help earlier, and he told me that I had no reason to be so sad. At first, I was broken. My worst fears were realized and the one person I reached out to had reacted in the exact way I hoped he wouldn’t. But I moved on, I distanced myself from that friend and found a friend that not only stood by my side, but helped me day after day, and that is the kind of friend everyone needs. Someone who will not only listen when you just need to talk, but will also give you your space when you need that as well.
4. You can’t save the world unless you save yourself first.
The saddest people are the people who work so hard to make everyone else happy first. They hate to see other people in pain because they know what it feels like. I bent over backwards last year for everyone who asked for my help, and even those who didn’t ask. If I saw someone struggling, I would put aside my needs to satisfy theirs. I worked so hard to make other people happy that I let my own happiness slip through the cracks. But it wasn’t my job to save the world. As amazing as it was to help others and give your time to other people, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you will never be able to give people 100% of your help. Worry about yourself first, they will forgive you.
5. Your life, as you know it, will never be the same.
Depression affects every morsel of your body, every fiber of your being. It is hard to get out of bed every morning and hard to motivate yourself to do anything. Depression does take over your entire life while you are suffering from it, but it also helps you to realize and change the aspects of your life that aren’t working. Suffering from your depression can open your eyes to things you would have never seen otherwise. It really helped me see the things and people I no longer wanted in my life. My depression helped me turn my life around.
6. You are not too sensitive.
And you are not selfish. You are not a freak. You are human and that is okay.
Even now, I have my days—more like my nights—where I feel completely and utterly alone, and I feel like there is no one out there who feels the same way as me. I am wrong. There are millions of people that feel the same way I do.
There is a huge stigma surrounding depression and suicide and a lot of people are afraid to talk about it, because a lot of people don’t understand it. Many people who have survived a hardship in their lives believe they know how it feels to be depressed and therefore they think they have the right to cast judgments on those who are actually suffering.
This mental illness is so easily brushed off that a lot of teens who suffer from it don’t know what to do to find help because no one will educate them. If it weren’t for the fact that I have no social life and spend all of my time on the Internet, I would have never found help or a community to which I could relate. If it weren’t for another girl like me living in Australia, I might not be alive right now.
7. Don’t give up.
Find something/someone to hold onto and hold on as tight as you can. I understand that is much easier said than done, but it is possible. It is perfectly fine to have bad days. It is perfectly fine to break down. But never, ever give up. I did, and I have never regretted anything more. As much as I hate the stereotype that suicide is selfish, it has some truth to it. When you’re in that dark place and you just want all of the pain to stop, all you can think of is your situation and how much better it would be for you if it all ended. It is selfish, but it is completely understandable. Trust me, I’ve been there.
On May 2nd last year, I tried to take my own life. I stayed home from school for a week because I didn’t want anyone to change my mind. I don’t remember if anything triggered it. All I remember is that I was in so much pain and I knew how much better it would be if it just all ended. Right after I tried, I got a text from my stepdad. It was a video of my little brother singing one of my favorite songs. That is my rock. If I am ever feeling low, if I am ever in that dark place again, I think about my brothers, all three of them. I think about my three little brothers having to grow up without their older sister, and it changes my mind 10 times out of 10. If I would have had this process three years ago, it would have changed everything.
This is the best piece of advice I can give you. Find something worth living for. There is always something if you look hard enough.
8. It gets better.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Every single time someone said this to me I hated it. I hated hearing that it would get better when I couldn’t see that it would. When you’re in that place where all you know is your depression and you don’t even remember not being depressed, hearing that it will get better is a slap in the face. But I am finally in a place where I can tell you that it does get better. I’m not a stable human being by any means, and I’m not through with my depression, but I am better.
If someone would have told me last year that I would be doing this, speaking openly about my depression, I would have laughed in their face. You will make it through this, and you will come out stronger on the other side.