It was late August when I realized something had changed within me. I woke up one morning dreading the thought of getting out of bed because I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to feel, I didn’t want to be. These feelings weren’t an unfamiliar phenomenon, so I continued to ignore them in hopes that they would eventually go away like they had always done in the past.
But then they didn’t.
Fast-forward a month and a half later, and I’m sitting in a doctor’s office as she officially diagnoses me with depression. What was once something I considered a minor issue morphed into its own being, consuming my every thought until I stopped focusing on school, started calling in sick to work and cried in bed for endless hours hoping that it would all go away.
A psychiatrist prescribed me an anti-depressant, and I started seeing a therapist once a week. Both seem to help me deal with my anxiety and depression. Some days are really good and some days are really bad, and some days are a combination of the two, but as I continue to work through my problems, I find myself learning more about my past, more about my feelings and more about the people around me.
Some might call what I’m going through an eventual blessing in disguise, but I tend to see it as a crash course in understanding. Here are five things I’ve learned through suffering with depression.
You have to be open.
The minute I realized I could no longer handle the stress of hiding my depression and pretending like life was perfect in hopes that it would eventually just turn out as such, I approached everyone I was working with to inform them of what I was going through. I talked to professors and co-workers just so they were aware of what was going on. I had professors offer to help me with grading as well as offer extensions on papers if I ever needed them. I had my boss give me the rest of the year off to focus more on bettering my mental state and staying up-to-date in school.
You have to talk to people. What I found was that most people are receptive to your insecurities and issues as long as they are aware of them. You cannot expect a person to empathize with your condition if they are not aware of it just like you cannot expect yourself to get better if you do not address the issues at hand. You have to be open with your feelings if you ever plan on progressing forward in your journey.
Take care of yourself first.
I was sitting in my favorite bar with my best friend when I realized I just couldn’t talk to him. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to. It was because it took too much energy to try and maintain some sort of happy façade while I was dying on the inside, especially when he knew it too.
To make progress, you have to take care of yourself first. If you are aware of a problem, find ways to fix it. I immediately knew that I needed to talk to a stranger about what I was going through because I needed someone to understand my problems without knowing the people associated with those problems. However, we all deal with stress differently. Some people take care of themselves by splurging on new clothes or retail items, some take a day at the spa, and others may work out. Whatever it is that is going to help you, DO IT. You would take care of your leg if it were broken so you should take care of your head when it’s not 100 percent either. Mental health is physical health.
Your feelings are valid.
I was sitting in an old professor’s office when I started breaking down as I told her about everything I was going through. And as I cried over how much I miss seeing my best friend everyday, how I wish I didn’t depend on his love to get through a day, and how I wish I didn’t feel so alone, I looked up to see her short hair that came as a result of suffering with breast cancer. So I said, “My problems don’t even matter either. You just battled cancer. People are dying everyday, and I’m sitting over here crying over absolutely nothing.”
But to my surprise, my strong, cancer-free professor said, “This isn’t ‘nothing.’ It’s real.”
You have to recognize that even if your problems seem miniscule in the grand scheme of things, there are much larger, deep-seeded issues underneath that tear away at you. You’re never going to break out of depression if you continue to overlook something that clearly denigrates the way you feel about yourself and the people around you. Your feelings are valid, and the sooner you recognize that, the sooner you can reach a place of serenity.
It gets worse before it gets better.
My first therapy session went by, and I realized I was sitting down talking to a complete stranger about my problems. And just as our first meeting ended, I felt a sigh of relief that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was convinced that nothing would knock me off of the newfound high I was experiencing, and I convinced myself that I didn’t need to go back to therapy because everything had been solved. I no longer felt like there was something wrong with me.
What I hadn’t realized was that talking about the issues made me recognize what was dragging me down, and while releasing those truths freed up space in my mind and put me at rest for the time being, it didn’t stop that reality from divulging my soul in the ways it did beforehand. I was no longer held hostage by the lies consuming my thoughts, but in turn, I had to come face-to-face with the ideas in my head I forbade myself from addressing. Recognizing my issues was one thing; taking them on became a whole other task. And while I thought that seeking help would bring me closer to happiness each time, I was forced to face my issues, which was much more difficult than running from them. But it has to get worse so that it can get better.
Some people just can’t help you.
I was sobbing in bed one day as I went back and forth hoping that somehow I could die and all the pain would go away, and suddenly I got a text from a close friend. I immediately told her I couldn’t stop crying and that I wanted to die, and she called me. I couldn’t formulate sentences over the phone, and the only thing she did was tell me that there was no reason for me to be upset. In her own way, she was trying to calm me down, but that was exactly what I didn’t need to hear. I knew that my meltdown was unwarranted; I have great friends and am in a good place in life, but that didn’t change that what I was feeling consumed my core to a point where I wished I wasn’t alive anymore.
The reality is not everyone can help you through your issues because not everyone can understand them. Sometimes, your closest friends aren’t the ideal people to talk to if they don’t know how to react to these situations. Some people just can’t help you, and that’s okay. You have to find the people around you that empathize with what you’re going through, validate your feelings, and help you understand yourself further. These problems should only bring you closer to people who can help you; they shouldn’t change how you feel about people who can’t. It is as much their fault that they can’t help you as it is your fault for being depressed.
I wish I could say that I’ve got my life figured out, but every day continues to warrant some sort of depressing thought that I can’t manage to understand. However, the more I seek help and the more I talk about my issues with those around me, the more I come to new understandings of myself and the more I realize that I’m not as alone as I thought.
This goes out to all of the people who’ve been here and continue to be here for me even though I haven’t been myself recently. This goes out to everyone who gives me hugs when I ask for them. This goes out to the people who remind me that everything I’m going through right now is valid. As much as I don’t understand these feelings, that is no reason to doubt who I am, who I am loved by and what I am capable of doing.