“We miss how happy you used to be.”
Before I become well versed and informed about mental health awareness and how it impacted my life, I’d hear that phrase on repeat from my parents.
I can remember a time when I was the happy go lucky child, talking to everyone in the room. I remember what my life was like before things began to change within myself. I remember what it was like to be happy all the time. Living through that before and after, even if it was at a young age was very difficult to accept. I thought I was to blame. I thought I was doing something wrong. I thought I was at fault and I wanted so badly to go back to who I used to be.
“We miss how much you used to smile.”
I missed it too.
Trust me, if depression were a choice no one would pick such a thing.
I’d run over details and experiences in my life pointing blame first at myself then at others. I changed from such an extrovert with no off button to an introvert who barely spoke and merely observed everyone in the room.
The home videos replayed and I watched with great sorrow, the little girl I used to be, wishing I were still that person. I thought back to who I was then and I remember thinking, I’m disappointing people with whom I’ve become now.
Maybe it was my own fault. Or maybe a history of depression in my family finally caught up to only me.
I don’t know why I was the chosen one. I don’t know why it had to me. But in the time it took to accept this dark lingering cloud in my life, I’ve come to realize I can’t go back to who I was, I can’t change the things that have happened to me. And depression and a chemical imbalance isn’t something I can get rid of even with medication.
It’s with me whether I like it or not.
I’ve learned all I can do is make the most of the person I am now and strive to be the best version of who I am today.
The game of comparing yourself to who you were before depression and who you became after is one that will emotionally destroy you.
I know it’s hard enough for you and it’s even harder when other people say things like that but if I can remind you of one thing, it’s how strong you are. People don’t see the battles you silently fight against yourself.
These people who saw you in your best light and judge you for who you are now, don’t see the internal battles you face.
They aren’t up with you at three am when you can’t sleep and every thought seems to bring you deeper into yourself. They aren’t holding you when you cry those tears that are unwelcome. They aren’t there fighting with you so don’t allow their opinions to make you feel inferior.
To those people who say things or notice a change in their loved one, instead of mourning the person they used to be and making them feel guilty for something they can’t control, try to accept them for who they are right now.
Mental health and depression aren’t easy for anyone. It’s not easy on parents and siblings but you have to understand, depression isn’t something someone wakes up and chooses one day. Depression chooses its victims randomly and it can impact anyone.
So if you want to help someone who is struggling the best thing you can say is just talk with them (even if you don’t understand) because the chances are, they’re still trying to understand it themselves. A lot of people struggle to clearly articulate why they feel the way they do.
I remember being on the phone with my mother and as the words rolled off my tongue, ‘Mom I’m depressed,’ I felt myself choke up a bit. As a perfectionist striving so hard to do well, I felt like I was letting myself down and letting others down. I was doing incredibly well in my career, I had a solid group of friends, I was very accomplished for someone so young. But even with all of that, I couldn’t deny that depression was with me. There were moments I couldn’t fight these feelings. There were days it took everything in me to get out of bed in the morning. And when my mom asked, ‘why?’ I couldn’t give her a proper answer.
There really is no logic to depression.
But if we can teach people that depression isn’t their fault and it can be beaten, that feeling of guilt will be replaced with hope.
Hope that maybe one day it’ll fade. But if that day never comes, may you hold onto hope that you can manage it. Because it is possible to live a happy life with depression right beside you. The key is not letting it beat you. To beat depression is waking up every single day and simply trying again.